Guest post by Eleanor Edwardes
From the 1500s until the late 20th century, Stroud and the surrounding valleys were home to over 100 mills. This is hardly surprising for an area that's historically famed for wool production, and located right by the River Frome. Cathedral of Cloth, opening this weekend at Museum In The Park, showcases the history of the prolific Ebley Mill, the largest in the South-West, coined as ‘the powerhouse of Stroud’ and once owned by Samuel Marling.
Originally, a corn mill, Ebley Mill produced famous Stroud scarlet wool broadcloth for military uniforms, synthetic cloth for use in heart operations and fashionable garb for Victorian gentlemen, racing drivers and 1960s dolly birds. Records for the mill date back to the 1400s, and this exhibition celebrates the history of the Long Block (its oldest surviving building) which was built 200 years ago, including the lives of the many people who had a part to play in its story.
Over the years the mill changed ownership, was repurposed, and was once partially destroyed by a fire. At times it was the site of innovative new ideas for textile and mechanical production. The exhibition looks back to this past through many artefacts including maps, photographs and cloth samples, painting a rich and exciting picture.
Ebley mill is currently used for council offices, but many mills in the area are open for visits including Dunkirk Mill Centre and Gigg Mill, Nailsworth, both of which are working to restore and demonstrate historical textile machines. David Elford, chair of Stroudwater Textile Trust has commented: 'I am delighted that we were awarded a significant grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to organise this exciting event with the Museum in the Park. In particular, it will allow families to engage with Stroud's rich textile heritage and the area's innovation that continues to this day.'
Cathedral of Cloth, 3 February - 4 March 2018
Museum in the Park, Stratford Park, Stratford Road, Stroud, Gloucestershire, GL5 4AF