If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook then you will have seen me post recently about the fact that the shawl in which new-born Prince George of Cambridge was wrapped when he emerged from the hospital to meet the world for the first time was knitted in Nottingham. How exciting!
Source: The Independent
This may surprise some of you – I find that most people who aren’t from Nottingham will know us best for the legend of Robin Hood, and are not aware of many of the other things this city is famous for. Did you know that Nottingham is also the home of…?
- John & Jesse Boot, founders of Boots the Chemist
- Raleigh, bicycle manufacturer
- Paul Smith, fashion designer
- Torville & Dean, figure skating champions
- Notts County FC, the oldest professional footall club in the world
- …And much more!
Nottingham also has a very rich heritage in the textile industry, particularly in the manufacture of lace. The knitting frame was invented by William Lee of Calverton (Nottinghamshire) in 1589, reportedly when he became frustrated at how long it took his wife to knit him stockings by hand! The design Lee devised was the only one used for stocking knitting machines for centuries afterwards.
The rise of the knitting frame and mass-scale lace production saw Nottingham become a huge employer in the industry, right up until the late 19th century when hand-driven machines were gradually replaced by steam-driven ones and later by electrical machines, reducing the need for so many manual workers. There is an area of Nottingham city centre still called the Lace Market to this day, because it was so dominated by buildings and businesses making lace, producing garments from the new lace, or mending damaged lace for customers.
Source: Adam Clarke || Flickr
Have you ever heard the adage that Nottingham’s women are the most beautiful in the world? Or that women outnumber the men by 2 or 3 to 1? Both of these myths are rooted in the city’s lace industry. Women making or mending lace items would often work sat outside, sometimes just on the street, in order to get enough light to see their work by. This meant that many more women were visible day-to-day in public than in most other cities, and hence the myths began!
When I was in secondary school, a girl in my year once told me that her aunt used to make Nottingham lace. In the early 1980s they worked on a top secret project. The lace workers weren’t told what the lace they were making was for and apparently they had to destroy the copies of the pattern they worked from once the lace was finished. My friend’s aunt was very excited to see the lace she had made appear in one of the most exciting events of 1981 – it was Princess Diana’s wedding dress!
Other royal commissions from Nottingham include Sarah Ferguson’s wedding dress and baby shawls for new born Prince Charles and Prince William (the latter two again provided by GH Hurt and Son Ltd who made Prince George’s shawl)
This strong vein of textile history in Nottingham is still going strong today, with Nottingham Trent University running a huge range of internationally renowned courses at both undergraduate and postgraduate level, including Textile Design and Innovation, Knitwear Design, Fashion Design, Fashion Management, Fashion Marketing, and more. You can check out their Art & Design department’s course guide here.
Lastly, I was both surprised and pleased to find that just one day after Prince George emerged from hospital wrapped in his Nottingham-knit blanket, a visitor arrived at my blog by searching the Internet for “nottingham knitware royal baby blanket”. Clearly Nottingham remains a leader in the world of textiles, and I hope it will continue to be for many more years to come!
~A very proud Nottingham Knitter