Silk collection returns to Essex

A NATIONALLY important collection of silks will be returning to its Essex home thanks to a £2million cash boost from the National Lottery.Braintree District Museum has been awarded £1,908,500 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to acquire and display the Warner Archive, a comprehensive record of high quality British weaving, dating from the early 19th century, which is key to the nation's textile heritage.

A NATIONALLY important collection of silks will be returning to its Essex home thanks to a £2million cash boost from the National Lottery.

Braintree District Museum has been awarded £1,908,500 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to acquire and display the Warner Archive, a comprehensive record of high quality British weaving, dating from the early 19th century, which is key to the nation's textile heritage.

The project will make this collection, which includes more than 80,000 fabrics and designs, available to the public for the first time.

The Warner Archive is the only comprehensive record of British Jacquard hand weaving dating from 1821, with a companion collection of printed textiles, designs, point papers, documents and power-woven cloths.


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The majority of these were manufactured in Braintree, and the fabrics feature in many Royal palaces, National Trust properties and No 10 Downing Street.

Robyn Greenblatt, regional manager for Heritage Lottery Fund in the East of England, said: "The Warner Archive is a fascinating reflection of the history of design taste in the 19th and 20th centuries, and represents a significant part of Essex's industrial history.

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"We are thrilled to help secure the future of this great collection and look forward to working closely with Braintree District Museum to open it up for everyone to enjoy."

Lynette Flint, chairman of the trustees of Braintree District Museum, added: "It is an irreplaceable record of people who lived and worked here and the legacy of national importance, which they have created."

Braintree District Council leader David Finch said: "This is a truly unique opportunity to bring part of the nation's heritage back home to Braintree and Essex, where the scale and variety of the collection will show the full story of silk weaving in the town in the original mill building already saved by the council."

Funding will enable the adaptation of the Grade II listed Warner's Mill in South Street, Braintree – home of the original collection - to store and display the archive, creating a study space, display areas and additional storage facilities.

The museum will now buy the archive back from Walker Greenbank plc, a company in Milton Keynes which acquired it in the 1990s and is now looking for a safe permanent home, where it can be properly maintained, developed and displayed to a wider audience.

The total cost of the project is estimated at £2.5million and last year museum trustees received £250,000 from the Clothworkers' Foundation enabling the archives to be saved from sale on the open market. Major funders have now pledged £500,000 to date.

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