Saturday, 23 June 2012

Needlemakers learning about making needles!

June was definitely the month for learning more about our industrial heritage.  Only just back from Ironbridge we set off for a visit with fellow Needlemakers to the Forge Hill Needle Museum in Redditch. This is the only opportunity in the UK to learn how needles were made. It is presented in a clear and narrative way and the only opportunity to see the only water driven scouring mill in the world.

We stayed in Stratford-on-Avon and the weekend started officially on Saturday evening with a glass of wine at our hotel, hosted by the Master and Wardens, before walking a few yards to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre for dinner in the rooftop restaurant.  Holidays and excursions like this are such a good way for us to get to know each other better – and to prove to ourselves what a convivial group we are!

Sunday morning we went for our visit to the Museum where we were given some background information in the Visitors’ Centre and then taken through the needlemaking process in the museum – what an unhealthy and dangerous trade it was right through until modern times. 

If you visit Needle Industries in India (as we did several years ago) you will see that this is no longer the case in this very modern and highly mechanised factory, but it certainly was in Victorian and earlier times. The visit to India was led by the then Master, Henry Milward, who joined us on Sunday as well. Henry is a descendent of the founder of Henry Milward & Sons (registered in 1730 in Redditch) and which was known as a maker of good quality needles and at one point was the largest manufacturer in the world.  Clearly it is very rewarding to have such a direct link with the the most successful time of our trade in this country.

We then spent some time looking at the displays where we saw a video about the process sponsored by the Needlemakers – and also saw the wonderful display case of needles, which was restored with our sponsorship.  There are needles old and new and some packaging that will be familiar to some of us. If you visit the museum you will see the black and white cat that has his own cushion amongst the displays.  His name is of course, Henry Milward!

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