At the end of March I was asked to create a woven installation within the oldest dwelling in the market town of Bakewell in the heart of the Derbyshire Peak District, the Old House Museum.
The room I was to use is around 500 years old and features wattle and daube walls and beamed low ceilings. I wanted to make reference to the many types of hand weaving that the occupants of the house may have used over the half century, and take inspiration from the the use of loom weights in textile weaving.
Local textile weaving mill John Smedley who’s historic mill is situated near Matlock, Derbyshire generously invited me to visit their archives prior to the live installation. John Smedley are known for high quality knitwear and a rich manufacturing heritage, a luxury brand with roots in the Derbyshire countryside and garments regularly featured in some of the world’s most prestigious fashion magazines. They kindly donated three large spools of antique threads from their archive for me to weave with.
Using a simple wooden frame attached to the ceiling, I began with a single chain stitch on the frame and began adding more stitches, each stitch working their way down towards the floor forming drops.
About the Museum
The building was built In the time of Henry VIII the southern four rooms were built as a tax collector’s house. Ralph Gell of Hopton, near Wirksworth, had taken over the collection of tithes, the tenth of all produce due to the church, and needed a house for his steward, Christopher Plant. The produce, such as oats and wool, was stored in nearby barns before being sold.
In the time of Elizabeth I the house was made much bigger as a gentleman’s residence, with the luxury of an internal toilet or garderobe. The central room has a big fireplace where the cooking was done.
In 1777 Richard Arkwright, the founder of the factory system, built his third cotton mill at Bakewell and divided this house into 5 cottages for workers at the mill. Another was built on.
They were good for their time but by the 1950s the cottages were condemned as unfit for human habitation. They would have been demolished but the Bakewell & District Historical Society was formed to protect the Old House and to use it as a museum.
Within the museum visitors can explore their fascinating social history collection which offers a wealth of learning opportunities and reflects the impact of pivotal events on Bakewell and the surrounding area from Anglo-Saxons onwards. Stepping into the past you can experience how we used to live by exploring the rooms of this original Tudor building.