Textile Industry

Warwickshire is not usually characterised as a ‘textile county’, with its industrial history focused on other activities, many associated with transport. Even so, the county has a significant, and varied, textile history, ranging from the smallest craft industry to large-scale manufacturers producing for an international market.

One starting point would be to identify the ‘raw material’ involved. A simple division can be made between natural and man-made fibres.

Natural fibres

  1. Wool (short staple), worsted (long staple), wool felt (e.g. for hat-making)
  2. Cotton
  3. Silk
  4. Flax and linen, hemp and jute

Man-made fibres 

Artificial fibres are manufactured from plant-derived cellulose. Rayon is an example.

Synthetic fibres are man-made from chemicals, often based on polymers obtained from petrochemicals. Nylon is an example.

Many of the products of the textile industry would be produced initially by natural fibres, later to be replaced by man-made fibres, or some combination of both.

There are, of course, a range of process (e.g. spinning, weaving, finishing) through which these fibres would pass before they became finished products (e.g. clothing), and firms could be involved in one or more of these stages. There are also many sub-divisions of the textile industries e.g. hosiery, elastic webbing, corsets, often with specialist firms involved.

One of the problems of classifying sites is that some premises were used for a number of different textiles over time. For example, the 1906 OS map for Coventry shows Leigh Mills in Hill Street as manufacturer of ’silk, worsted, cotton’.

There follows a short introduction to each of these industries in Warwickshire, with suggestions for further reading and visits, remembering, of course, that the internet will often be the starting point for researchers.

Hatting IndustrySilk Ribbon Industry