Behind the Scenes Blog

A behind the scenes look at aspects or the collections, displays, art stores, conservation, new acquisitions and much more. Contributors include a number of our curators, our conservator, collections manager and a number of guest bloggers.

A Roadshow Report

As Storm Brian noisily heralded the start of Saturday 21st October, we prepared the Long Eaton Art Room for the day ahead. Our goal:  to capture stories, objects and information/knowledge regarding the Nottingham Lace Industry and in so doing, fill gaps in the lace story told by the lace collection (designated a Collection of National Importance by the Arts Council).

Tables were filled with objects from the collection, including bobbins, carriages, a jenny and various lace panels. Pictures of mystery objects were laid out, photos and information displayed.  Tea cups and biscuits were arranged and paper lace bunting was festooned.  The scene was set.  All that was needed now was some people…  They arrived in a steady stream, and by lunchtime there were various crowds around sections of the displays and Ann Inscker (Curator) and I were kept very busy meeting and talking to lots of them.  Many had brought items to share or to generously donate, which were received with grateful thanks.

A maker’s plate from a card punching machine – kindly brought to show us by Barry and Margaret Stocks


The Chair and the Treasurer of the Long Eaton Art Room also joined in with the activities, demonstrating a sock machine and providing information about the history of the buildings (the perfect venue for the event as they were originally lace factory buildings and also the HQ of Lace Productions Ltd – a key organisation in Nottingham Lace history).

All in all, a successful first roadshow (yes, there is another in the pipeline for early in the New Year!). Thank you to all our Lace Unravelled project mentors, the legends of the lace industry who turned out and made the day extra special (at one point it seemed to turn into a grand reunion for ex Guy Birkin staff!), and many thanks go to our small band of volunteers who welcomed everyone and generally helped out.

Being back in the old Lace Productions building must have struck a chord with one of our Project Mentors, Richard Granger (R. Granger and Sons Ltd), as it inspired him to send us this wonderful photo:

1948 – The first Board of Directors of Lace Productions Ltd – it was a serious business!  (reproduced by kind permission of Richard Granger)

It features his own father, John Granger (who managed the firm until 1976 when Richard took over).    If anyone knows the identity of any of the others we’d be glad to hear from you.  As Richard said to us, it proves that you were expected to look fierce in 1948!

Aside from the roadshow, we have been continuing with the other aspects of the Lace Unravelled Project. Last week, another batch of our lace sample books was delivered to the Nottinghamshire Archives for conservation.

All boxed up and ready to go – lace sample books from the stores being loaded into the van at Newstead Abbey…

…almost accompanied by two of Newstead’s resident geese, Bert and Gert

The Conservators at the Archives are already doing a wonderful job with the first batch of books, and on my recent visit, Maria (one of the Archives’ Conservators) showed me some of the interesting features she’s been uncovering:

Revealed in the conservation process – An ink stamp on the back of one of the photographs in a lace sample book


Lace sample book from Guy Birkin Ltd (1913-1927) before conservation [NCMG 2005-121-6] – photographic fashion plates with mounted samples of lace

This part of the project is just as important as the learning and information-gathering – the lace sample books need to be stabilised so that we can continue to share them with visitors, either in study visits, or by putting them on display. I will be visiting the books (and our lovely friends at the Archives) as conservation progresses, and will keep the blog updated with new developments.

09 November 2017

Things to do, people to see…

Autumn is definitely here today, reminding me that a blog update is overdue…

During the summer, we have been very busy with the project, meeting with our industry mentors- all very lovely people who have been endlessly helpful and told us many wonderful tales of the industry in its heyday, and also as it is now.  Yes, there is still a lace industry in this area, even though the majority of the factories have gone, lace has left its legacy.  We have visited several of the extremely skilled and experienced designers and draughters still working in the Nottingham area and they’ve helped us identify some of the pieces in our collection (such as this one – see picture).


Lace Design for Guy Birkin by Sid Wyer (NCMG 2015-52/370)


We’ve also met with some of the larger companies who now work with technical fabrics (another legacy of the original lace machines, and also the cutting edge development work carried out between Guy Birkin and Karl Mayer).   If you want to see some more about this, check out the video we’ve uploaded – a trade film from the 1980s which is part of our lace collection.  Aside from the legwarmers and big hair (!), it shows the computers being used to design, ‘read off’ and draught (a real innovation for the time):

Guy Birkin – The Edge

Most recently, we have also been preparing for the first of our two planned ‘lace roadshow’ events.  These will be events for anyone to bring along items (including photographs) related to the lace industry for discussion or perhaps for donation.  There’ll be some items from the Nottingham lace collection on show and even a curator on hand to chat to!  The venue couldn’t be more appropriate – an old lace factory, and the HQ of Lace Productions Ltd in Lime Grove, Long Eaton (now Long Eaton Art Room), and we’re especially pleased to be able to hold the event there.  So why not add Saturday 21st October to your diary and come and see us?  More details:  Poster for Lace Roadshow

October 2017

Unravelling the Lace Industry at War

The Battle Of Britain Lace Panel (NCM 1974-2) ecru cotton machine-made curtain lace. Designed by Harry Cross.  Draughtsmen J.W. Herod and W.J. Jackson. Made by Dobson, Browne and Co.


So, with the up-coming (pun intended) May Day 1940s Knees Up event, my thoughts turned to what the lace industry did during the two world wars. I was discussing this with our Curator of Industry, Antiquities and Archaeology over a cuppa the other day and we know that the lace factories did not stand idle during this time.  Amongst other items, they made hair nets for the munition factory workers, mosquito nets for the troops, and blast-covers for windows, but sadly we do not have any examples of these in our collection.

Do you have any of these hiding away at home, maybe in a loft, or a garage?  Would you be willing to donate them to fill a gap in our lace story?  If so, please contact Ann Inscker, Curator of Industry, Antiquities and Archaeology, for further information.

I’ve included a picture of one of the most famous items in our lace collection – the Battle of Britain Lace Panel, not just for it’s relevance to the wartime theme, but also because, as part of our project we will be looking into the complex art of designing and draughting for the lace industry.  I’m looking forward to learning more about this as we speak to people who used to/are still working in the trade.  It’s thanks to their precise skill and attention to detail that we have amazing pieces like this one.  More about that later!

For details of the 1940s Knees Up event visit or

24 April 2017












Unravelling Nottingham Museums’ New Lace Project: Lace Unravelled

Hi – I’m the new Project Assistant for Lace Unravelled, and I’ll be blogging about our new Arts Council funded project – We are currently in the early stages, so I’ll be posting more once we get fully under way. The project aims to bring together specialists, academic partners and the lace industry of Nottingham to further our understanding of the Nottingham Museums’ Lace collection.  The collection was Designated as a Collection of National Importance in 2014 and it really is very special – alongside lace clothing such as dresses, collars and gloves, we have designs, bobbins, panels, table-cloths, even menus!

Just one of the lace menus in the collection – sounds delicious!     (NIM 1976-38)


Over 100 lace sample books are currently in our stores, and their conservation will be part of the project. This is already under way, with every one of them having been condition-checked and recorded.  Not as easy as it sounds, as some are so large and heavy, it takes two to lift them out of the box!

Sample book from Birkin and Co, founded in 1827 (NCMG 2007-1/12)




Sample book made by Mallet and Birkn, St Mary’s Gate, Nottingham (NCM 1937-32/1)


The collection also includes examples of the machinery that produced many of these items and made Nottingham famous for its lace – the Leavers Lace Machines, housed at Nottingham Industrial Museum (on the Wollaton Hall site).


The Leavers Lace machine at Nottingham Industrial Museum (NIM 1965-8) – how did they smuggle one of these into France?!

As part of the project, we hope to find out more about these machines and their workings, and their use in other areas around the country and further afield (yes, amazingly, they are still being used by modern textile companies). We also want to discover more about their clandestine journey across the channel to France and the subsequent lace links between Nottingham and Calais.

So, lots to do! I’ll be blogging about our progress, but in the meantime, if you want to see a very small part of the lace collection, there is a selection currently on display at the Castle, and of course, you can see the heavy machinery at Nottingham Industrial Museum (check main websites for details of opening times, or and


March 2017