A Trip to Sunny Bank Mills Archive by artists Elise Liversedge and Mary Hooper

March 24th, 2017

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Great to make a visit to Sunny Bank Mills Archive that has such an inspiring archive of the working

life of a family owned Mill founded in 1829 – from tiny weights and measures to an amazing

collection of thousands of exquisitely woven Merino wool and Cashmere suit fabrics made

predominantly for the upwardly mobile man. Small and large swatches of material samples from

the 19th Century to the 1980’s, alongside peg card books/ dye testing record books/ thread sample

books and accounts, ledgers, tools for testing cloth, magnifiers for invisible mending and of course

the account books.

We were introduced to two new words – (of which the woollen industry have many) –

Twaddell and Fuddle – see below for explanation

Sunny Bank Mills is a treasure trove for those interested in the development of fine fabrics and the

intricacies and physicality of making it.

In November we visited Armley Mills just outside the centre

of Leeds which has a wonderful collection of machinery and museum displays about the history of

the weaving industry (amongst many other ‘Made in Leeds’ industries).

After this visit we began searching for an archive of local fabrics for a woollen industry inspired

project at Leeds Station, we contacted all the apparent Leeds collections and they directed us to

Sunny Bank Mills as the place to go for our research.

Rachel Moaby the curator of the Sunny Bank Archive spent the morning showing us the breadth of

the Archive, and her passion and commitment to developing and opening up the collection for the

community and for posterity, was infectious and contagious. There is so much else in the archive

which gives insight into the the working lives of people with different trades and skills. The mill

buildings are in the process of restoration housing creative industries & preserving the integrity of

the original buildings, whilst Rachel scoops up any of the traces of the history of the working Mills

including ephemeral pieces of personal property.

A great example of this are 3 lockers with the traces of the last occupants cuttings of news stories

and pictures of film and pop idols, notebooks, tins of needles – the menders had to buy their own!

and many more. We learned about the choir formed in 1906 who went to Paris to perform, many of the

members would have never travelled beyond their county, and 2 new words ‘Fuddle’ and

‘Twaddell’. A Fuddle is a bit of a ‘do’ at the works where everyone brings food and beverage and a

song to sing, a Twaddell is a measure used in the the wool scouring process – pictured below

  

We are planning to return for some more in depth research to develop our designs for Leeds

Station celebrating the skill and work of the people who designed and produced cloth in and

around Leeds as part of our Last Station LOCATED:LEEDS STATION Artwork.

Want more info on us and our touring arts project

Visit us at https://m.facebook.com/Last-Station-locateddislocated-107472156092970/

or our website http://eliseandmary.co.uk

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