Textile heritage could return to Essex

PART of Britain's textile heritage could be returning to Essex.Braintree District Museum has been fighting to save the Warner Archive collection, which is the only complete record of British high quality Jacquard hand weaving dating from 1821.

PART of Britain's textile heritage could be returning to Essex.

Braintree District Museum has been fighting to save the Warner Archive collection, which is the only complete record of British high quality Jacquard hand weaving dating from 1821.

Now the Heritage Lottery Fund has announced it could offer the museum nearly £2 million after it passed the first stage in its grant process – an official indication the campaign is likely to receive support.

The silks can be found in many royal palaces as well as Number 10 Downing Street and the archive also includes a companion collection of printed textiles, designs, point papers, documents and power-woven clothes.


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The majority were manufactured in Braintree so the museum wants the items to be displayed at Warner's Mill in South Street, their original home. The grant would enable the mill to be converted to accommodate the collection.

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."

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The museum attracts around 40,000 visitors each year and it is thought many would be interested in seeing and using the collection, from the general public, the National Trust and English Heritage to the BBC and film companies who use the archive as a valuable historic resource.

Last year, the museum trustees received £250,000 from the Clothworker's Foundation enabling the archives to be saved from sale on the open market.

If Stage Two were successful, this would allow the museum to buy the archive back from Walker Greenbank plc, a company in Milton Keynes, which has had part of the collection in storage since they acquired it in the 1990s.

David Medcalf, chief executive of Walker Greenbank, said: "The sale has arisen because we were looking for a safe permanent home for the collection, where it can be properly maintained, developed and displayed to a wider audience of interested visitors."

Chairman of the trustees Lynette Flint, said: "The support of the major funders who have pledged £500,000 to date and the support of the scheme from the district council and county council show the importance of the textile collection to the region."

Robyn Greenblatt, Heritage Lottery Fund's manager for the East of England, added: "We are thrilled to support Braintree District Museum in securing the future of this collection."

The total cost of the project is estimated at £2.5 million and the final decision of the Heritage Lottery Fund is expected to be given at the end of this year.

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