<div style="display:inline;"> <img height="1" width="1" style="border-style:none;" alt="" src="//googleads.g.doubleclick.net/pagead/viewthroughconversion/1028731116/?value=0&amp;guid=ON&amp;script=0">
6 ISSUES FOR £6 Subscribe to Cheshire Life today click here

How Macclesfield has silk woven through its history

PUBLISHED: 15:36 12 April 2012 | UPDATED: 22:02 23 October 2015

How Macclesfield has silk woven through its history

How Macclesfield has silk woven through its history

We meet experts of the silk trail, as well as people making things happen in other avenues of Macclesfield life<br/>WORDS BY MIKE SMITH PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN COCKS

St. Michael’s Parish Church dominates the skyline St. Michael’s Parish Church dominates the skyline

Everyone knows that the Silk Road begins in China, but how many people know where it ends? According to a recent ruling by the UN World Tourism Organisation, this famous route begins in Xi’an, the ancient capital of China, and ends in the ancient Cheshire town of Macclesfield.

To discover why Macclesfield has merited this accolade, I visited the Silk Industry Museum, where curator Annabel Wills showed me exhibits that spin a fascinating historical yarn through the use of archive material, original machinery and hands-on displays.

Annabel said: ‘Production of silk fabrics began in China in 3,500BC, but did not spread to England until the 18th century. In 1773, London weavers won fixed prices for their work, causing the silk merchants to seek lower prices in provincial centres like Macclesfield, where hand-loom weaving in ‘garret houses’ was gradually replaced by weaving in multi-storey mills. Our town became the biggest producer of finished silk goods in the world.’

Annabel’s enthusiasm is matched by the dedication of trustees Val Lloyd and Eric Rogers, who have designed and fitted out the new Jacquard Tea Room. Named after the inventor of the loom that revolutionised silk-weaving, the room is decorated with antique advertisements for Hovis, a product that originated in Macclesfield. Val’s grandmother was one of the child labourers employed in the mills and her commitment to the museum reflects her belief that ‘silk is still the soul of the town’.

Display at the Heritage Centre Display at the Heritage Centre

Eric is the proud owner of a silk map that was produced in Macclesfield and used by his father, who was a navigator in the Second World War. The room that illustrates the town’s war effort, which included the production of silk parachutes and airmen’s suits, is labelled ‘Top Secret’. Because the work was cocooned in secrecy, Macclesfield was the only mill town in Britain to escape bombing.

The ability of the local people to keep a secret seems to have spilled over into modern times, with the result that Macclesfield has hidden its light under a bushel for far too long. Apart from its silk heritage, the town has a wealth of creative, cultural, entrepreneurial and sporting talent, which a new group called ‘Make It Macclesfield’ is determined to tap into and make known to the wider world.

The group, comprising volunteers representing business, culture and sport, grew out of business breakfasts organised by the local Member of Parliament, David Rutley. It is now chaired by Clare Hayward, a dynamic entrepreneur with a profound belief in Macclesfield’s potential. Clare told me: ‘Our vision is to make the town a warmly regarded destination, both nationally and internationally, and one that is recognised as the national centre for silk, a cultural hub for the North West and an economically affluent town.’

Clare talks enthusiastically about the prospect of new retail and leisure facilities, including a cinema, a hotel and a new theatre and entertainment venue, the Cocoon, which will appropriately, be shaped like a cocoon. Her group is promoting the creation of bars and function facilities in the splendid Town Hall, which is currently undergoing refurbishment, and its members are keen to bring the market place alive with al fresco dining, festivals and events.

Heritage Centre Heritage Centre

Make It Macclesfield is hoping to build on the success of the Barnaby Festival, a popular arts event held in June, and the Treacle Market, an antiques, craft, food and drinks fair organised by Jane Munro and Debbie Quinn. The market is held on the last Sunday of every month and is often accompanied by fun events, from dog shows to conker contests.

Explaining that the market is named after an incident when a horse-drawn wagon overturned and spilt its cargo of treacle, Jane says: ‘We’re giving people the chance to find gorgeous things on Macclesfield’s streets once again. But less sticky things.’

Clare Hayward recognises that Make It Macclesfield is trying to revitalise the town in difficult economic times, but she is encouraged by support from Cheshire East Council’s Local Area Partnership, whose manager, Fiona Seddon, makes every effort to attract sponsorship and grants for the various projects and to harness the energy of people in the voluntary and community sectors.

The contribution made to the community by volunteers is evident in the achievements of Macclesfield Boys’ Boxing Club, where all the coaches give their services for free. The club has over 70 members and three of its female boxers, 14-year-old Courtney Hughes, 15-year-old Beth Campbell and 17-year-old Carys Artingstall, have all become national ABA champions.

Bryony Wills, Alan Hayward and Edward Potts discover a skein winder (which prepares silk thread for weaving) at the Silk Museum Bryony Wills, Alan Hayward and Edward Potts discover a skein winder (which prepares silk thread for weaving) at the Silk Museum

Head coach Kevin Bradbury said: ‘Boxing is a great means of turning around troubled lives and giving youngsters confidence. These girls were introduced to the sport by Donna Shaw and what they’ve achieved is fantastic.’

Members of Macclesfield and District Round Table are also on a high after raising £25,000 for a breast-scanner appeal. They are now planning a beer festival, which will be held on the second weekend in May at Macclesfield Rugby Club and should raise a large sum for the Seashell Trust, which supports people with sensory impairment. Round Table’s Nick Thompson said: ‘Our organisation is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. We’re a group who aim to do some good in the community, while establishing a network of friends who can be called on for help at any time.’

Clare Hayward is about to lead a delegation of volunteers from the Make It Macclesfield group to Xi’an, where discussions will take place on business, travel, educational and cultural exchanges. She talks of encouraging tourists to make the 5,088 mile journey from Xi’an to Macclesfield, where they will be able to experience the silk heritage of the town and the beauty of the countryside and stately homes on its doorstep. Clare is clearly determined to convert the town’s new status as the end of the Silk Road into the beginning of the road to a revitalised Macclesfield.


Macclesfield’s Secret Silk Misson display at the Silk Museum with curator Annabel Wills (foreground) and trustees Val Lloyd and Eric Rogers Macclesfield’s Secret Silk Misson display at the Silk Museum with curator Annabel Wills (foreground) and trustees Val Lloyd and Eric Rogers

 


 


The print version of this article appeared in the April 2012  issue of Cheshire Life 


We can deliver a copy direct to your door – order online here  

0 comments

More from Out & About

Rebekka O’Grady looks at businesses in Frodsham that have stood the test of time, and meets those hoping to have a bright future

Read more
Frodsham
Mon, 00:00

In 2018, Wales celebrates its outstanding coastline and invites visitors to discover epic experiences all around its shores. This is the Year of the Sea, writes Penny Lloyd

Read more
Thursday, January 11, 2018

There are several major canals that run through Cheshire, these walks run alongside or cross over sections of at least of these waterways.

Read more
Canals
Wednesday, January 10, 2018

We head for Styal for a walk which combines river and woodland with the din of international air travel, writes Howard Bradbury.

Read more
Styal Quarry Bank
Monday, January 8, 2018

What is it that makes Macclesfield a magnet for the art crowd? Janet Reeder heads over there to find out

Read more
Macclesfield
Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Whether you’re horse crazy or just along for the ride, equine events are an important part of the Cheshire social calendar.

Read more
Equestrian
Sunday, December 31, 2017

Eight great, and easy, resolutions that will help make 2018 your greenest year yet. Words by Katie Piercy from Cheshire Wildlife Trust

Read more
 
Great British Holidays advert link

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today

Cheshire Life Application Link

Local Business Directory

Cheshire's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area



Property Search