Thursday, 9 January 2014


NOTTINGHAM  LACE TABLECLOTHS  - The  Inevitable Antique ?


ANTIQUE  - Object of an earlier period- valued for its beauty, workmanship  - old fashioned

NOTTINGHAM LACE MARKET - Once the heart of the world's lace industry during the days of the British Empire, full of impressive examples of 19th century industrial architecture and thus a protected heritage area.
It was never a market in the sense of having stalls, but there were salesrooms and warehouses for storing, displaying and selling the lace. Most of the area is typical Victorian, with densely packed 4-7 story red brick building lined streets. Iron railings, old gas lamps and red phone boxes a plenty also help give the through walker a sense of going back in time to Victorian England
The Adams Building (now part of the City campus of New College Nottingham) was designed by Thomas Chambers Hine and was built for Thomas Adams, a notable Quaker who did much to improve the typical Victorian working conditions in his factories.
The area is sited on the area of the original Saxon settlement that became Nottingham, and also boasts the oldest Christian Foundation in the city, predating the Norman conquestSt. Mary's Church, on Low Pavement is believed to be the third church to have stood there but was itself completed in 1474 and is an excellent example of early English Perpendicular architecture.
Another fine piece of architecture in the Lace Market area is a warehouse designed by Watson Fothergill, a prolific local architect responsible for some 100 buildings in the area between 1870 to 1906. His work in the Gothic revival and Old English vernacular styles was very popular in Victorian times, and means that many shops, banks, houses and even churches are enlivened by turretsgargoylesmock Tudor beams and other distinctive features.   Accreditation
The Nottinghamshire hosiery industry was never so concentrated as Nottingham Lace. About 6ooo hands were employed by it in the city, and over 5000 in the neighbouring towns and villages, such as Mansfield, Arnold, Beeston, Hucknall Torkard, Ruddington, etc.
Until the sixteenth century every family made its own hosery.  In 1589 the Rev. William Lee of Calverton, near to Nottingham, invented a machine for making stockings.
 This machine came to be called the “stocking-frame” and could be driven and worked by one man. NOTTINGHAM  LACE TABLECLOTHS  - The  Inevitable Antique 

In 1851 there were about 8,000 men employed in the lace trade in the East Midlands and the southwest of England. At the height of the trade at the beginning of the 1900s, when machines were also worked in Scotland, more than 16,000 males were employed in the industry, the majority making lace. 

Female workers were in the minority in lace factories, and while men's hours were controlled by their shifts, those of women and children were controlled by the auxiliary tasks required. Until 1861 hours were completely irregular, for both women and children could be required to work at any time that the machines were running, although apparently the work only amounted to about 10 hours in every 24. 

Lace left the factories in the large webs of unfinished cotton or silk up to 420 inches wide and 50 yards long. From these the black lead needed to be removed, and they needed to be bleached, dyed, dressed and be subjected to a number of other processes to convert them into finished lace acceptable to the public, whether it was a one inch breadth or edging, curtain or tablecloth, or hat veiling, mittens or shawl. All finishing processes were centred in and around Nottingham and all were labour intensive. 

By far the largest majority of workers employed in lace finishing were female. Conditions in the many dyeing, dressing rooms and warehouses of Nottingham were frequently singled out for criticism by the Employment Commissions of the 1800s, even though the strongest strictures were reserved for conditions among the outworkers. Tuberculosis and poor eyesight were just two of many occupational hazards. Dyeing employed mostly males, the dressing rooms mostly female. Particular attention in the 1800s was focussed on the poor conditions in the dressing rooms which often had low ceilings and were heated to temperatures frequently above 100 degrees so that diseases incidental to those exposed to high temperatures were common. 
Many warehouses in the Nottingham Lace Market were conversions of dwelling houses of the 1700s and working conditions were usually poor. However, even the purpose-built warehouses in the Lace Market, such as those of Thomas Adams, were criticised as being ill-ventilated and overheated. Although Adams did provide daily chapel services and he and others were praised for the dining halls and adequate toilet and washing facilities for their mostly female employees. 
From 1800 normal warehouse hours were 8am to 8pm, six days a week, although these often extended to midnight in busy periods, and by 1860s a half day on Saturday was more frequent. Fortunately for warehouse employees at the beginning of the 1860s the time of the last luggage train to London was changed so that parcels had to be at the station by 7pm, previously it had been four the following morning. In addition the few male employees were expected to protect the warehouse, to the extent of sleeping there one week in every three. 

However the worst conditions occurred in the workshops and private houses used in outworking and in this poorly-paid section of lace finishing women, children and young persons continued to work long, irregular hours in unhealthy and overcrowded positions into the 1900s. 
The lace Bagman or outworker mistress would collect work from a warehouse at an agreed price and then would either distribute it out to other women - the second and third-hand mistresses - or assemble a group in her own home. In 1842 children as young as two or three did outwork, although by 1862 the average starting age had risen to about eight years old. 

Before the advent of patterning by the machine more than 20,000 women and children embroidered the net, those who ran in the pattern being called the lace runners. Later mending, separating the lace, (drawing), and cutting out surplus threads, (scalloping or clipping and cropping), became more usual. 

Work was seasonal, and during a 'rush job' finishers would work through the night; prams filled with lace could be seen going to and from the warehouses at all hours. The number engaged in lace outwork was given as 5,016 in 1907 but the true number will never be known because from oral evidence it would seem that often all members of a family, from grandparents to schoolchildren, would contribute to the family income with lace outwork. 
However horrifying the hours and conditions of work in the lace industry may seem from a 21st Century point of view in the 19th Century machine-made lace work was considered better than other industries. 

Males had a definable career structure and training and a comparatively high level of remuneration compared to many occupations. And, even though for females there was little scope for advancement and their low remuneration and poor working conditions attracted unfavourable comment, yet in 1833 the hours of seven and eight year old warehouse girls were considered better than those of factory children as they were more regular, usually from 8am to 1pm and 2pm until 6pm, with an hour off for lunch. 
Attributation of much text to : Sheila A. Mason, BA (Hons), FRSA

There is little doubt that all things being equal there is little or no chance that the techniques and demands within the 1800 to mid 1900 “cannot/will not” be tolerated nor used in the present nor future centuries.  Therefore it is MORE PROBABLE than POSSIBLE in my opinion that eventually present day and older “Genuine World Renowned Nottingham Lace” products will actually become accepted as a genuine ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..
Brian Alvey 09/01/2014

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