Lace

Five facts about lace

1) The industrial revolution brought with it a profound change in lacemaking with the introduction of the first machine lace. An invention of the late eighteenth century, which was fully utilised in the 19th century.

2) The profit from handmade lace in Britain was so great that much of it was smuggled into the country.

3) John Wesley refused to waste money on fashion.

4) Many Methodists played an important role in the development of the trade unions. That is why early trade union meetings were called ‘chapels’.

5) According to Morgan Philips, General Secretary of the Labour Party (1944-61): ‘The Labour Party owed more to Methodism than Marxism.’

About Lace

In the eighteenth century corruption was rife and the division between rich and poor was stark. For families who were poor it was a struggle to survive on what little money they had. Lacemaking was one such trade where conditions were harsh. The working day was long and hard, beginning at 6am and finishing at 7 or 8pm. Each square centimetre of lace could take up to 5 hours! Candles were expensive so cheaper tallow candles made from beef or mutton fat would have been used by up to four lacemakers. These would have smelt horrid, and with low lighting conditions many lacemakers damaged their eyesight. There was no such thing as Fair Trade to ensure they were paid properly or worked reasonable hours. In an age obsessed with fashion, John Wesley voiced the needs of the disadvantaged. He hated the huge gap between rich and poor. He rejected the concept that people should waste money on fashion and other needless things when so many people were starving and deprived of decent clothing.

"Really excellent - I will be recommending it to friends" - Museum visitor

How to find this item

in the Georgian Bristol room

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