I love an old mill building. When I go to visit my family in Yorkshire I never need an excuse to go and have a nose around one. The open brickwork, large windows and curved steps worn down from years of footsteps appeals to my heritage geekiness. I am not sure what my Yorkshire family think of this, but in my defence growing up in Brighton has given me a huge amount of love for Regency architecture, but we have very few buildings that were built for industry and so that is (perhaps) why I am so interested in them. Oh, and of course, the textile link.
Last week we travelled up north for half term, and on the Friday decided to head over to Saltaire (one of my favourite old mill buildings) for lunch. We usually get the train but I had decided to drive and so travelling in the car meant we could stop somewhere on route. I suggested that we pop into Bradford Industrial Museum on the way, which was met with indifference by the kids. I had heard there were interior settings from different era’s, and it was situated in an old mill, so that was it, we were going.
We were given a warm welcome by the steward, who gave us a map and off we went wandering around. The collection is based in a mill and outbuildings so spacious, and the perfect setting for the old cars and trams. The site was originally built around 1875 as Moorside Mills, a small worsted spinning company, and in 1970 Bradford City Council acquired it as a museum.
Downstairs the galleries focused on industry and transport, and as a font fan I loved the printworks. There were beautiful presses and machines, and I would love to visit again when volunteers are in there working. They must feel like they are playing in a type sweetshop.
We then went outside and headed over to see the blacksmith. For the kids, this was the highlight of the visit. Hot, messy and noisy they loved seeing the process of taking a piece of metal and making it into something beautiful and functional. He made us personalised nails (mine, below, now a paperweight) while chatting about the historical process abd putting it into context of how blacksmiths can make a living and keep the skills alive in today’s world. I felt there were lots of parallels with quilting – how do you competitively price something that takes a long time to make, and where, as a specialist craftsperson, can you find work.
One of my highlights were the three back-to-backs that had been decorated in the style of different eras; 1875, 1942 and 1975. If you follow my Instagram feed you will see I have been embroidering room layouts, and I plan to design some of older rooms, so took lots of photos here. They aren’t great as the rooms were protected by Perspex, but you get the idea. I was pleased to see quilts featured in the interiors, and whoever had chosen them got the eras spot-on. I would be interested to know if they are originals or reproductions.
On the subject of textiles, the last gallery we visited was the spinning and weaving gallery on the first floor. The vast collection is a testament to the history of the textile industry in the area, and the machines take visitors through the processes used to manufacture cloth. As with the printworks the machines are demonstrated on certain days of the week and it would be good to go back when they are working.
We didn't get a chance to look at everything, so would like to go back again when we are next in the area. It had a lovely warm and local feel to it, and there is so much to look at, and the wide range of exhibits and themes kept the kids interested. If you enjoy sketching or experimenting with a camera there's oodles of inspiration here, and if history, textiles, machinery or just old mill buildings are your thing you will love it.
More details about the museum can be found here - Bradford Industrial Museum.