17 August 2016

Macclesfield

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.
Silk bobbins
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. 

24 comments:

  1. Sounds interesting! I'm not sure I would think to stop in and see a silk-weaving museum, but now that you describe it I think skipping it would be a mistake. A good museum can make us interested in something we didn't know to be interested in, right?

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    1. Right! I learnt a lot but please don't ask me to sit a written exam on the history of silk production!

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  2. I agree with Steve! I probably would not have stopped there, but how interesting after all!

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    1. I think you would have enjoyed this visit Jennifer.

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  3. An interesting post, Yorkie.

    You've a tendency lately to remind me of the past. When we were kids we used to keep silk worms. All the mulberry trees around our neighbourhood generously donated their leaves to feed our stock! A few months ago I mentioned our childhood hobby...and wondered if children of today collect silk worms like we did back then.

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    1. No, they collect "Transformers" and extra costumes for their Barbie dolls etcetera. I didn't know you had mulberry trees in Queensland.

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    2. Mulberry trees grow wild here, Yorkie. When we were kids a backyard wasn't a real backyard without a mulberry tree growing in it. Friends who live just around the corner from me here on the mountain have a large, productive tree growing in their backyard. I love mulberries.

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  4. It's a bittersweet story. It's sad to see such and industry disappear from a city but pleasant to visit a museum and have a great tour.

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  5. You certainly get around YP!

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  6. Interesting post YP - thank you for the information on silk. One of my hobbies is silk painting, so it's interesting to know a little of the background on the fabric I use. I can vaguely remember having read, or learned about silk production at school, but that was oh, so long ago !

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    1. With your interest in silk I suspect you would love The Silk Museum and Paradise Mill CG.

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  7. How lovely that you and Shirley had a nice day together discovering new places and learning new things. I would call that just about as perfect of a day as it gets!

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    1. Oh and I forget to mention running naked together through the heather on Shining Tor!

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  8. How very nice, my son was born in Macclesfield, we lived in Congleton at the time. I hardly know Macclesfield so it is nice to read about it.
    Pam in TX

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  9. That looks like a neat place to visit. I enjoy tours like that - it's nice to learn about various places and practices. Until this post, the only thing I knew about Macclesfield is that Ian Curtis was from there.

    The Silkmen is a unique name for a team - I wonder if their uniforms are made from silk?

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    1. I applaud your tangential question Chris. It made me chuckle.

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  10. Silk is a wonderful material; I love to feel it on my skin and own two silk shirts, a skirt and one or two dresses. The museum looks the kind of place I like visiting; so interesting to learn something about "behind the scenes" of what we take for granted (such has having clothes made of silk)!
    The picture of the window view towards the church is my favourite of the three.

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    1. Pure silk is a wonderful material but not many people consider the mulberry caterpillars that create it. It's mind boggling to think that in WWII parachutes were made from silk. How many cocoons is that?

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  11. I am always interested in any museums relating the history of weaving. Any weaving: silk, cotton, wool, whatever. I am amazed the mill was still open as recently as 1981.

    Alphie

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    1. It was open because its bigger, more modern sister mill supported its existence. It specialised in producing the silk for men's ties.

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  12. Your post was quite nostalgic for me: the Cat and Fiddle Pass (travelled so many times in years long gone) and silk parachutes (my Mum had silk from them she used for I know not what). Macclesfield is a town I've travelled to and through so often I've never given a thought to 'things of interest' so I didn't even know there had been a silk museum there.

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