Ringing the Changes

As part of the Textile Treasure project a series of engagement workshops at Queen Street Mill were carried out. In one of these sessions, Philip Butler, the curator at Queen Street brought out a selection of objects for participants to explore and study.

In this digital exhibition, Anne Cochrane, one of the participants in that workshop, shares the research she carried out after being inspired by one of the objects she saw. You can read her introduction below, then make sure to click the button to view the full write up of her research. The research is also accompanied by a selection of objects from the Gawthorpe Textiles Collection that link to her findings which can be viewed further down this page.

At a group session of the Textile Treasures project, the curator at Queen Street Mill selected a range of objects from the museum’s collection and asked us each to pick one and react immediately to it.

I chose this old A-Z desk telephone index, an advertising gift from Thomas and John Walton Ltd. of Todmorden, (telephone Todmorden 28, so they were only the 28th people in Todmorden to get a phone) containing:

  • Hand-written contact names
  • Telephone exchanges
  • Telephone numbers

A brief and careful look at some of the very brittle pages revealed names which I recognised as being local Burnley companies, as well as many others which weren’t.  I thought that it probably dated from the 1950s.  I found the object fascinating, possibly as I date from around that time too, and also spent years working in offices. 

Some time later, wondering how to contribute personally to the project, I decided to:

  • Photograph the directory
  • Transcribe the entries
  • Research the contacts
  • See what, if anything, it told me about Queen Street Mill and its world.

I was hoping for some exciting international numbers, and I also hoped I would find my Dad’s name in there, as he did building repairs for the mill.

Date: 1935
Origin: Lancashire, United Kingdom
Dimensions: H 33 x W 87cm

This fabric sample is one of a large set that were designed and produced in Lancashire specifcally to be shipped out to West Africa for the export market and is now part of the Gawthorpe Textiles Collection. Many mills across Lancashire produced this type of fabrics and most of the finished bolts of cloth would pass through Manchester before being shipped overseas. The fabrics were carefully designed to closely imitate the locally produced textiles and imitated the traditional hand techniques such as wax resist and batik, adire eleko (starch paste resist), adire oniko (tie and dye) and even woven techniques such as kente cloth.

In Queen Street Mill’s entry in Skinner’s a reference to “African Prints” can be seen in the list of fabrics they produced and this probably refers to designs like this one.

In Anne’s research she came across the shipping company Compagnie Francaise de l’Afrique Occidentale and we were able to link this to the labels on some of the fabrics in the Gawthorpe Textiles Collection.

The company seems to have gone by several different abbreviations on its labels including F.A.O.M, as seen here, and CFAO which can be seen in the company logo stamped on the fabric sample below.

These paper labels record information about the fabric such as the design description, initials of the factory it was produced in and width, as well as information specific to that order such as the date and quantity being ordered.

In addition to the paper labels, information such as trademarks, manufacturer, design numbers and yardage were often stamped directly onto the fabric itself. As these were used to identify fabric at both ends of its journey the information was sometimes duplicated in several languages to ensure workers in the destination country could interpret these stamps.

On this sample we can see the logo for Compagnie Francaise de l’Afrique Occidentale; a stylised monogram of the letters ‘CFAO’ incorporated into a scroll that indicates the yardage of the piece of cloth.

Date:1936
Origin: Lancashire, United Kingdom
Dimensions: H 44 x W 44cm

This is another example from the Gawthorpe Textiles Collection and shows another type of cloth that was manufactured across Lancashire for the export market. Lightweight checked cottons were often referred to as Madras fabrics and could have the check woven all over, as borders or in stripes, with plain weave between, which would be cheaper options. The sample seen here is an example of a more expensive ‘fancy Madras’ that has a complex, multicoloured check across the whole fabric.

On the sample another F.A.O.M paper label can be seen, indicating this fabric was exported by Compagnie Francaise de l’Afrique Occidentale.

Date: 1930-1970
Origin: Lancashire, United Kingdom
Dimensions: H 8.5 x W 8.3cm

Stamps such as these would have been used to print finished lengths of fabric with the necessary information needed to identify them when they reached their destination.

This stamp is likely for an export or distribution company and shows their logo, which incorporates the text “Akaykaloo Fabrics, 14456, Copyright, Made in England”. The stamp is made of thin strips of brass set into a block of wood.

Date: 1930-1970
Origin: Lancashire, United Kingdom
Dimensions: H 5 x W 6cm

Stamps such as these would have been used to print finished lengths of fabric with the necessary information needed to identify them when they reached their destination.

This stamp would have been used to show the country of origin for the fabric and incorporates a seated figure of Britannia along with the text “Regd. No 14665, 64, Made in England”. It is made of narrow strips of brass set into a wooden block.

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