|Paradise Mill, Macclesfield|
Yesterday, Shirley had a day off work and was keen to do something with it. Weatherwise, it was a lovely day. We set off at half past nine, heading westwards. West to Buxton and then over The Cat and Fiddle Pass to a town we had never visited before - Macclesfield in Cheshire.
It is a town of some 70,000 inhabitants which boasts a professional football team with an uncommon nickname - The Silkmen. Why The Silkmen? Well, for two hundred years Macclesfield was the centre of silk weaving in The British Isles. It is a long and proud story of endeavour and ingenuity. What began as a cottage industry saw Macclesfield grow into an important and prosperous manufacturing centre.
|View from Paradise Mill to St Paul's Church|
I had heard there was a museum devoted to silk in the town. We discovered that right next to it there's a silk mill that closed as recently as 1981. Fortunately, somebody had the foresight to ensure that Paradise Mill's looms and associated machinery were saved for posterity.
We joined the 11.45 tour led by a knowledgeable fellow called Mike who told us things we never knew about silk. It began with him passing around mulberry silkworm cocoons from China. It was the Chinese who first "discovered" silk and began to produce it over five thousand years ago. Gradually silk made its way to Europe along a trading route that we now call The Silk Road.
Mike operated some of the old machines and explained some of the clever intricacies of silk weaving. I mean, how do you create a pattern in a piece of silk cloth? Mike showed us. It confirmed how creative Victorian silk weavers were in finding solutions to production problems. Too ingenious for me to explain in this blogpost.
We had a late lunch in The Society Rooms run by The Weatherspoon pub-restaurant group before strolling around the centre of Macclesfield in August sunshine. It is a nicely located place, nestling on the western edge of The Peak District. It seemed prosperous and lively with lots of independent shops.
On the way home we stopped off for refreshing drinks at "The Angler's Rest" in the Derbyshire village of Bamford. All in all a great day out.