1900 – The Modern Era

1903 GAINSBOROUGH SILK WEAVING COMPANY FOUNDED

1914 – 1918 World War 1

1937 MENTIONED IN THE BYE-LAWS & ORDINANCES OF GEORGE VI

1939 – 1945 World War 2

1953 CORONATION OF QUEEN ELIZABETH II

1969 PENINE WEAVERS FOUNDED

1972 MENTIONED IN THE BYE-LAWS & ORDINANCES OF ELIZABETH II

1972 HUMPHRIES WEAVING FOUNDED

1982 HRH PRINCESS MICHAEL OF KENT BECOMES AN HONORARY FREEMAN

1992 WALLACE SEWELL FOUNDED

In the first half of the twentieth century, members of the Company were still connected with the silk industry, but new blood was needed, and although a textile connection was looked for, an interest in the City of London appears to have been the most common characteristic of new Liverymen in this period, amongst whom were many distinguished men, including Prince Arthur of Teck, brother of H.M. Queen Mary and later the Earl of Athlone (Upper Bailiff 1919 and 1932). His wife, H.R.H. Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, granddaughter of H.M. Queen Victoria, was much involved with the Company, becoming an Honorary Freeman. In 1930 the Company celebrated its octocentenary with a Court Dinner attended by H.R.H. Edward Prince of Wales and a visit to Brussels and Ghent, whence so many Flemish weavers had come to England during the middle ages.

During the Second World War the office building on the site of Weavers’Hall was destroyed and with it some panelling from the old Hall, but the Company’s portraits and silver had already been moved to a place of safety. The Court established the practice of meeting at the Savoy Hotel, which was more convenient for those members not away at the war.

The Company considered rebuilding the Hall after the war but decided that this would be prohibitively expensive and that its money could be much better used. The site was sold in 1962 and the funds thus realised, together with a munificent legacy from Sir Cecil Bigwood (Upper Bailiff, 1911‑13) enabled the Company to increase its involvement with the textile industry and the scope of its charitable activities. In the absence of a Hall the Company’s affairs are run from a fine office and committee room in Saddlers’ House. Its presence in the City and friendly association with the Saddlers’ Company has been a source of strength.

At the end of the war, ongoing austerity meant that textile design remained limited to simple woven and printed patterns which were cheap to produce.

In 1951, the Festival of Britain provided new opportunities for textile design and subsequent manufacture. The summer-long event intended to provide a ‘tonic’ for the nation by highlighting advances in British science, technology and industrial design. Designers like Jacqueline Groag and Lucienne Day created imaginative and original patterns with new energy. Textile manufacturers were initially sceptical of these experimental designs, but they became hugely popular with the public. Increasing demand was met by a supply of fabrics at a wide range of prices, including new textiles such as rayon.

Lucienne Day’s winning designs helped build the reputation of Heal Fabrics (launched by Heals department store during wartime), while other British manufacturers benefitted from design talent arriving from Europe.

Despite these design initiatives the cotton textile industry, then the textile industry generally, declined in the face of increasing overseas competition. The industry restructured and concentrated in an effort to survive. Post 1960 there was a period of rapid transformation in which cotton was absorbed into vertically structured textile conglomerates. Notwithstanding these changes, decline continued, and, as protection was phased out, fabric and apparel manufacturing faced similar declines

By the 1990s, the movement offshore of UK textile manufacturing reduced the UK textile workforce to less than a tenth of the size that it was in the mid 1960’s.

Coronation of Her Majesty The Queen
Top
The Weavers' Company Crest

Copyright © 2021 The Weavers' Company. All Rights Reserved.