Leeds textile hub is weaving a place in history

SECURE: John Gaunt at the archive of Sunny Bank Mills.
SECURE: John Gaunt at the archive of Sunny Bank Mills.
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IT is one of the most significant woven textile archives in the country, that helps to tell the social history of one of the city’s mill towns – and now, its future has been secured.

A new not-for-profit company has been set up to safeguard the textile archive at Sunny Bank Mills, at Farsley, which contains a wealth of historic items, including over 60,000 lengths of fabric, 8,000 fabric designs, 5,000 wool dyeing recipe cards, weaving looms, photographs and a library of mill-related books.

The Mills, which were originally built in 1829, have been in the Gaunt family for six generations and are currently owned and managed by cousins John and William.

They established the archive two years after production ended in 2008, but have taken the step to form the new company, along with a board of trustees, to ensure it is safe even after they are gone.

John Gaunt said: “It is important to William and I that the archive has a secure 
future beyond our lifetimes, so we have taken the decision to create a new company to 
oversee the management, 
restoration, conservation, preservation, use and promotion 
of the archive at Sunny Bank Mills.

“This will facilitate and encourage public use and enjoyment of the archive; to provide educational activities and to facilitate and encourage creative arts activities inspired by the archive.

“To help make the archive sustainable, the new company will also be able to apply for funding for all these activities.”

SEE ARCHIVE FOR YOURSELF

The “substantial” archive is essentially the company records and the contents of all departments from 1829 until production ceased nine years ago.

The archive, established in a 3,000 sq ft old warping shed, will be open as part of National Heritage Open Days. Mill tours will also run from Friday to Sunday this weekend hourly from 10am to 4pm.

The Archive is open on the first Wednesday of every month, with extra tours by appointment.

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