Looming Large at the Museum of Carpet

(above image: Jacquard Weaving, Carpet Trades 1923)

The staff, volunteers and trustees of the Museum of Carpet in Kidderminster are thrilled to have been recently awarded the Kenneth Yeomans Award by the Newcomen Society. As an independent Museum, the Society’s generous support through the Award scheme is vital in enabling it to achieve all its aspirations with funds from the Award being used to identify, digitise and reproduce photographic images for use in an upcoming exhibition.

The tremendous noise of power looms weaving, fills the Museum of Carpet each time the volunteer weavers run the giant machines. Their’s is not an easy job and requires many years of training. At the same time as operating these oily machines, the weavers create beautiful clean and bright carpets from a variety of materials, which are both soft and pliable. They are not simply weaving a flat cloth, but are creating a three-dimensional product which is velvety and luxurious.

Two working power looms: an Axminster Spool Loom and an early 20th century Wilton Jacquard Loom are the centre piece of the Museum of Carpet. Kidderminster is recognised as the ‘Woven Carpet Capital of the World’ and the town has been the centre of the carpet industry since the early 1700s.

Wilton Jacquard Loom on display at the Museum of Carpet

The year 2020 marks the 150th birthday of the town’s local newspaper, the Kidderminster Shuttle, whose name was inspired by the ‘shuttles’ used to carry the weft back and forth when weaving on the looms. The Museum of Carpet Archive holds original copies of the Kidderminster Shuttle newspaper, founded in 1870. Bound into enormous volumes, these newspapers provide detailed insights into Kidderminster life and the carpet industry.

Plans for the exhibition mentioned earlier, to celebrate this milestone by exhibiting 150 photographs from the museum’s archive this summer, are unfortunately now on hold due to the Covid-19 lockdown and temporary closure of the museum. We had planned to showcase those parts of the museum’s collection which are not on permanent display, choosing photographs selected for their artistic merit and the story they tell of developments in the carpet industry. Advances in engineering, industrial working practices and production techniques will all be evident in the photographs. A series of talks, workshops and events were also planned to run in association with the exhibition. Please visit  www.museumofcarpet.org to discover more about the museum, as well as information about our plans to reschedule the exhibition after the Covid-19 temporary closure.

When the museum reopens people will also be able to book group visits with a volunteer guide, who will give insights into the creation of the carpet industry in Kidderminster and the engineering behind the product.

The museum is located in the refurbished Grade II listed Woodward Grosvenor Carpet Factory.

Sue Hetherington

The Museum of Carpet
Stour Vale Mill
Green Street
DY10 1AZ.

“A true gem, lovingly appointed . . . and the working machines are a delight. Contemporary history well told with wonderful and most helpful staff. We were delighted!”

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The Museum of Carpet - Kidderminster

About the Author: Phil Legg

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