The Clothmakers’ Wings

Did you know that Hertfordshire played a huge part in the emergence of the textile industry?

Thanks to funding from The Heritage Lottery Fund and our partnerships with the Lowewood Museum and a team of local artists and facilitators, we were able to shine a light on the county’s almost unknown contribution, as well as the forgotten women who worked to make this possible.

Focusing on the era of 1790-1890, The Clothmakers’ Wings project brought together a group of girls aged 12-18 from East Hertfordshire to explore the different aspects of the textile industry, through taking part in different types of craft and exploring engineering, factory life, archives and lost stories of the women from that time.

Over a year, the group not only learned textiles crafts and skills including straw plaiting, linen, lace making and embroidery but the stories of those forgotten women who mastered the skills originally and created a strong economy here in Hertfordshire, until the industry shifted to the north east of England.

The girls’ work – created alongside textile artists of different genres – culminated in an exhibition at the Lowewood Museum, as well as a film; bringing to life the torrid conditions of the women, and recognising their contributions to the industry, strength and female empowerment.

  • 48 girls from East Hertfordshire participated
  • 40% of participants were SEN or considered vulnerable and hard to reach
  • A four-month exhibition was produced, with a private launch night opened by the Broxbourne Mayor – who presented The Gifted with an endorsement cheque from Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce to continue the work
  • A short film entitled “Remember Me” was created, involving the participants, as a lasting tribute to all they had learned and the women who had come before them
  • A learning resource was also compiled to distribute and tour around local primary schools

The project aimed not only to educate, but to inspire a new generation of girls to carry forward the many valuable skills they learned, so that they could upcycle and enterprise their work in the future, while always remembering the women who made this possible.