Our Galleries

Textile Gallery

This gallery has the curved wall with information on the importance of textiles to Nottingham. Within the gallery are a collection of machines that stand like dinosaurs redundant from a bygone age.

Nottingham had a long established reputation as a textile producer in general and lace maker in particular. Lace had been imported since Elizabethan times but it was not until mass produced cotton lace started to be made towards the end of the 18th century that lace became more affordable. There are three examples of hand knitting frames for producing woollen, knitted goods, to the left of the stairs into the Communications gallery.

There are many names associated with the city that were significant inventors and improvers of textile machinery. As you entered the museum there is a model in a case that is a miniature version of John Heathcote’s 1816 invention. This model given to the Castle Museum in the 1880’s by an Alderman started the move away from pillow lace. Soon after, John Leavers produced a machine similar to the large one on the back wall. This allowed very wide pieces of lace to be produced and is similar to the machines used by the few remaining manufacturers today. Probably the most famous of which is the Cluny Lace Co of Ilkeston.

On close inspection of many of the machines in the gallery you will notice that they use a punched card system for delivering the instructions. This is the jacquard card system. A French invention of the early 19th century, it is the equivalent of the computer program used to instruct machines today. It is a series of punched cards joined together to allow semi automated use of textile machines. Some complex designs use many jacquard cards. Machines take days, sometimes weeks to set up and so were used for long production runs of patterns. In the centre of the gallery is a card punching machine and the pattern instructions for a piece of lace.

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