Lancaster textiles, from the past to the future
Lancaster - UK
The history of textiles is deeply embedded into the Lancashire County. A Roman drop spindle and the remains of a woollen shroud were found during the excavation of parking space at Quernmore in 1973. This is evidence that textiles and crafting have been important to the town of Lancaster for centuries.
Woollen shroud - Lancaster Museum
The manufacture of cotton and silk became more extensive when in 1775, Richard Arkwright patented a carding machine that produced a strong yarn and required less physical labour.
Manchester and other Lancashire towns became the most popular cotton textile centres in the world, with an astonishing 32% cotton production on a global level in 1871.
The abundance of water could power the cotton mills, so much so, for instance, in Galgate in 1792, a corn mill was converted in to a silk spinning factory. Lancaster was part of this textile success.
In the 1840s, James Williamson established a successful coated fabric business in town. But the fortune of the Lancastrian textile business is attributed to his son, James Junior, who specialised in Linoleum production, such as floor tiles, leather cloth and other coated fabrics.
By 1894, Williamson's were employing 2,500 staff members, and by 1911, the firm employed around 25% of Lancaster's working men and women.
Lancaster Linoleum had a large export trade to Europe, Scandinavia and South America. The company Lancaster Linoleum was the empire created by “The Lino King” of England, Lord Ashton (James Williamson Jr., 1842-1930).
Factory workers had to work day and night for miserable pay checks in hazardous conditions with no safety guarantee until the establishment of the first Trade Unions which were also born in the 19th century with the purpose to stop worker abuse.
Williamson claimed his skilled staff were paid Union rates, while his unskilled labourers received £1. 0. 3d (£1.01p) a week.
It is in this context, that Slow Fashion Lancaster takes its roots. From the ‘ecofriedly' use of waste silk spun at Galgate Mill, to the concerns of Lord Ashton for workers and their wellbeing, Slow Fashion Lancaster aims to reignite the passion for crafting and making, around a rich Lancashire textile industry.
Our mission is to promote creativity and fashion, without affecting the ecosystem, making fashion a sustainable aspect of modern living.
Ashton Hall, Lancaster Town Hall
Shaun Corkerry, Dipl EH,BA (Hons), MA, Regional Assessor
Lancaster City Museum