Sunny Bank Mills Heritage Day
SDC and Bulmer and Lumb worked closely with Sunny Bank Mills recently on providing an experience to people attending their heritage days. Artefacts were supplied from the SDC archive along with fibre and yarn from the last working dyehouse in Bradford to educate about the history as well as the future of textiles in Yorkshire.
Built in 1829, Sunny Bank Mills is based in Yorkshire between Leeds and Bradford. It was founded by a group of local clothiers who invested together to purchase land and to build a woollen scribbling and fulling mill, known as The Farsley Club Mill. Whilst the production of textiles at the mill ended in 2008, the magnificent buildings have been restored to an exceptionally high standard and are now a ‘creative space for business’, with numerous small businesses based there. The Gaunt family has been involved with Sunny Bank for six generations, and are still as active today.
The looms and the dyehouse may have gone but Sunny Bank Mills, once a thriving textile manufacturer, can still inform and educate people about the history and the future of the textile industry. Since the closure of the works and the trading name Edwin Woodhouse being sold on, the family have been keen to ensure that the mill continues to provide employment for the local community. The development of the mill into business units is linked to the archive of artefacts that the mill still holds.
The archive represents a unique look at 180 years of cloth produced at the mill, and is an incredible historic textile mill collection.
Established over the last two years, the archive houses more than 60,000 lengths of fabric, 8,000 original designs and 5,000 wool-dyeing recipe cards. There are also shelves of leather-bound ledgers and cash books, each detailing the rise and fall of this once great industry and dozens of letters, photographs and personal documents relating to the men and women whose hard work and dedication built the company, but who ultimately couldn’t save it from closure.
As part of making this archive work for the future the SDC together with Bulmer and Lumb worked with archive curator Rachel Moaby and the volunteers at Sunny Bank Mills to use the opportunity of heritage days not only to look at the heritage but also to inform about the industry that still survives (and thrives!) in Yorkshire and other parts of the UK. Based in Bradford, Bulmer and Lumb have been ‘experts in colour for almost a century’ and continue today as one of the UK’s leading textile manufacturers.
The SDC provided samples of natural dyes such as logwood which was used extensively by the dyehouse to dye their fabrics and early examples of synthetic dyes from its own archive.
There is evidence that Sunny Bank Mills had its own loose stock dyehouse as well as using commission dyers and then appeared to use top dyeing probably as a way of improving the quality of the yarn produced. They were one of the first dyehouses in the UK to use yarn dyeing for worsted yarns. Bulmer and Lumb kindly supplied examples of wool going through the process from raw wool through to tops and illustrated both top dyeing and yarn dyeing as still carried out at their factory in Bradford.
The archive is open to visitors on the first Wednesday of every month and the recent Heritage Day was part of a regular series of events. Over 500 people attended over three days and while marvelling at the history and tales of days gone past were fascinated by the current industry still remaining in West Yorkshire and especially the fact that the SDC with its long history and Bulmer and Lumb continue to thrive and work together.
And the name Sunny Bank? This comes from a piece of land at the back of the buildings where the sun always shines.
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