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/
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