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Marlow - Once a Centre for Lace
Bobbin lace: On a loom the warp threads are held taut and fixed, but if these ends are released and wound onto bobbins they have the freedom to create lace, which unlike embroidery, is independent of a fabric base.
Introduced into England during the sixteenth century, bobbin lace became much in demand and Marlow was a centre known across Europe.
Farm labourers earned a pittance and to augment their meagre income, the wives and children became lace makers. They worked long hours and remained poor. In 1609 John Brinkhurst established alms houses in Oxford Road to provide accommodation. On April 8th 1623 a petition was sent to the High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire concerning the plight of the lace makers - 'much distressed as bone lacing has much decayed'. In 1624, in memory of his son William, Henry Borlase founded a school in West Street to teach twenty four boys 'to read and cast accounts' and twenty four girls to 'knit, spin and make bone lace'.
Bobbin lace was at a peak throughout the eighteenth century, but by 1827 girls were no longer at (Sir William) Borlase School as lace was considered an inferior occupation with little return. Girls preferred household work with a small, but fixed wage. There was opportunity for dressmakers and seamstresses. Mothers with small children remained at home and older women did not seek employment.
The cottage industry was no longer feasible, but today bobbin lace has reappeared again as a leisure pastime. The Marlow Museum has a cabinet showing the cottage industry - old lace of the type made in Marlow, bobbins fashioned in the Chiltern Hills, prickings and a pillow in use two hundred years ago. Lace demonstrations often occur on Sunday afternoons.
... This is a small part of an article by Pam Nottingham. If you would like the extended version please email firstname.lastname@example.org
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