Those of you who also follow our Facebook and Twitter accounts might have noticed we got a little bit excited a couple of weeks ago when a rather large loom arrived at the Bradford Industrial Museum. Lizzie, our Curator for Social History and Technology agreed to write a blog for us to talk a little bit more about how it came to be with us.
It’s taken nearly 10 years for Bradford Industrial Museum to acquire a Hattersley Standard loom, but in October of this year, Bradford Museums and Galleries (BMG) were the grateful recipients of one. The Hattersley Standard was the only relevant loom missing from our collections. Hattersley began manufacturing the Standard model in 1921. It was probably one of their most popular looms and many of our visitors, who worked in the mills in Bradford, will recognise it.
Hattersley was a heavy engineering firm based in Keighley. The company was established by George Hattersley in 1789 and made their first power loom in 1834. It was this loom that was destroyed by luddites on its way to a mill. The company quickly rebuilt the loom and it was installed in the mill the same year. The company grew into one of the world’s largest textile machine manufacturers. By the 1980’s the business had severely declined, closing in 1983. Many textile mills around the world still use Hattersley textile machines.
Many years ago, the service was offered a Hattersley Standard loom for display, by William Gaunt of Sunnybank Mills. There were many factors that affected the offer. Firstly, the re-development of the site the loom was housed in and secondly, our ability to accept the donation and get the large object to Bradford Industrial Museum. Greg, a member of our museum team and weaving technician, was in contact with William over the years and it was through this connection that the loom finally found its way to Bradford Industrial Museum.
In 2018, William rang me and informed me that the building was being developed and the loom would be removed from the space in the coming months. Myself, the Collections Officer and Greg arranged a visit to view the loom. It was on a sunny day when we visited the site and examined the loom. Although it was very dirty, having never been cleaned after its last use, the loom appeared in good condition and Greg was confident he could get it running again. The dirt and oil from its last use has actually serves as a protective layer, protecting the mechanism from being damaged by rust over the years.
The next thing to do was to propose the loom to the collections development panel. The panel ensures that members of the Curatorial team are following the museums collections policies and guidelines and using Bradford Museum and Galleries resources appropriately. It also works as peer review, ensuring that all ethical and legal requirements regarding objects being collected are met.
All museums and galleries have a collections policy. The policy outlines what the museum collects and why and identifies gaps in the collections and priority collecting areas. The policy ensures that we are able to manage, care for and maintain our existing collections and ensures we are not collecting material that would be more suitably held in another local, regional or national museum or gallery.
The worsted collection (material relating to the industrial heritage of the worsted industry in Bradford) holds designated status. This means that it has been identified as being of national and international significance. Bradford Museums and Galleries hold the most comprehensive and complete collection of objects and material relating to the worsted industry and are the only museum in the UK that now collects worsted related material.
The Hattersley Standard loom is a significant part of the story of the woollen and worsted industry in the district. It fits our collections policies and would immediately be put on display, so the panel approved the acquisition.
The plan was for on gallery conservation and restoration work to be carried out; bringing the loom back into working condition. Maintaining and running machinery in our galleries has been an aim of Bradford Industrial Museum since it opened in 1974. Running our machines enables our visitors to see them and hear them in action, giving visitors a greater understanding of how the machines worked.
After the acquisition was approved, a surveyor was sent out to examine the Museum site and how the loom would be brought into the Museum. The loom would have to be craned up and onto the Spinning Gallery via the existing loading bay doors. A plan was drawn up and the gallery was prepared for the loom. All that was left was for the loom to be removed from its current location. This proved a little bit tricky. Old entrances to the building had been blocked up over the years, essentially walling the loom into the building. This meant that walls would have to be knocked down to get the loom out.
After many months of waiting, an email was sent announcing the planned arrival of the loom. Unfortunately the first planned date had to be cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances and bad weather, but the loom was brought the following day, Wednesday 25th October.
When the loom arrived at the Museum, there was some concern that it wouldn’t fit through the loading bay doors. After some discussion and lots of measurements being taken, the decision was made to remove one of the loading bay doors, to lift the loom and hook it round the wall and in to the Spinning Gallery.
Once inside, the loom was then placed onto industrial skates and pushed further into the Spinning Gallery. It is currently undergoing restoration work in the Spinning Gallery before it will be pushed into the Weaving Gallery and displayed next to the other looms already on display. Over the next months, Greg will work with our Collections team and volunteers to restore the loom and eventually begin weaving cloth on it again; Greg worked on this loom during its life at Sunnybank Mill.
We are very pleased to have this loom not only on display but potentially up and running so its weaving capabilities can be demonstrated to visitors of Bradford Industrial Museum for years to come. We would like to thank visitors for their understanding and patience during the installation and restoration of the Hattersley Standard loom.