Macclesfield Silk Mills




Photos by John Moss

Macclesfield Silk Mills

A Working Victorian Mill

Paradise Mill & the Macclesfield Silk Museum Heritage Centre are within a few minutes walk of each other and complement each other. It is therefore advised that you visit both. Macclesfield can be fairly said to be the "silk town" of the United Kingdom. In fact, the main road from Stockport and Manchester to Macclesfield is still called 'The Silk Road'.

Paradise Silk Mill, Macclesfield Macclesfield Silk Museum 1 Silk Museum and heritage Centre, Macclesfield
Paradise Mill, Park Lane and The Silk Museum Heritage Centre

Paradise Mill

Park Lane, Macclesfield. Tel: 01625-618228.
The Mill is open for guided tours briefly during early afternoons from Monday to Saturday. Please check actual times and current opening before setting off as these may be liable to change.
This mill was home to Macclesfield's last working handloom silk-weaving until its closure in 1981, when cheaper imported silks and high quality new synthetic materials made the production of silk in England an uneconomic prospect. It is a large mill and still houses over 20 original fully working Jacquard looms - each still capable of producing the kind of intricate and delicate woven patternwork that made the loom, and Macclesfield, famous throughout Britain for the production of fine silks.
Jacquard, a Frenchman, had invented his loom in 1804, and it was the first truly automated (and some say even "computerised") system for mass produced continuous weaving of complex and intricate multicoloured patterns by using punched cards. Jacquard looms often took many days to thread and set up, but that done, they could produce continually 24 hours a day thereafter, and revolutionised much of the weaving process in terms of the sheer quantity and intricacy of material produced.
These looms have been lovingly restored to their original working condition, and can be seen in operation during the guided tours offered at the Mill. Most of the silk-covered buttons in Britain, (and over much of the civilised world for that matter), in the late 18th century would have been made in Macclesfield, as would most of the silk ties worn in Britain until quite recent times.
The mill opened in 1862, (though silk weaving had been in Macclesfield since the 1750s) and originally housed both hand and powered looms.
As early as 1743, Charles Roe had built his first water-powered mill in Macclesfield, and within a decade, the town had become the nation's main centre for silk production.
From 1912 the factory was owned by Messrs Cartwright & Sheldon, and concentrated solely on hand-weaving, despite the advance of power looms all around them. Several ex-employees show their traditional experience and expertise in demonstrations of the silk-weaving process. The final death blow to Macclesfield silk came from China, from whence cheap imported silks began to appear in the 1960s. Nowadays, the mill produces only silk ties and ribbons.

Silk Museum Heritage Centre

Roe Street, Macclesfield, Cheshire. Tel: 01625-613210.
The Silk Museum is open Monday to Saturday from 11am - 4.30pm and on Sundays and Bank Holidays
from 1.00 - 4.30pm. Closes 4pm in winter. Please check times in case they have changed.
The first museum in the country to be devoted entirely to the manufacture of silk. It is housed in the old four-storey Macclesfield Sunday School building of 1813, and has many interactive exhibits telling the story of silk production in the town. There is a film theatre, audio-visual displays and guided tours. A restaurant/café is located in the basement. The museum also has on display an exhibition of luxurious silk period costumes of the 17th and 18th centuries.

Sources: See Bibliography - Books about Manchester

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This page last updated 5 Feb 13.