Macclesfield Museums are home to a wide variety of fascinating collections. Whether you are interested in machinery, textile design, costumes, fine art or Ancient Egypt, there is always something for you to discover in our displays and archives.
Macclesfield Museums hold a variety of machines.
At Paradise Mill, 26 iconic Jacquard Hand Weaving Looms are uniquely housed in their original positions, while the Silk Museum houses the more modern mechanised Smith Loom, Rapier Loom and Ribbon Loom, which made tags for Dr Martens.
The collection also includes various other machines connected with weaving such as a card duplicator, used to make copies of Jacquard cards, and a silk throwing machine.
You can see some of the machines demonstrated during tours of Paradise Mill or on Tuesdays when our Machine Volunteers are conducting conservation work at the Silk Museum.
The Silk Museum holds over 1,000 pattern books, 40,000 textiles samples, 300 Point Paper designs and 150 Jacquard Card Sets within its design archive, as well as about 150 Printing Blocks and Printing Block Tools.
These are all from local silk mills in and around the Macclesfield area, including Cartwright and Sheldon (Paradise Mill), Langley Mill, Barracks Mill, Davenport Mill and Giddons Mill to name a few.
As the patterns date from 1800s – 1990s you can discover how styles changed and how society and politics influenced designs, particularly during the World Wars. There are also some well-known designs within the collection such as David Whitehead and Liberty patterns.
Notes on the Jacquard Card Sets and the Point Paper designs also help tell the story of the people behind the designs, from the School of Art Students’ names and date of their exams to the card cutter and designer’s memos about the production processes.
The majority of the costume collection dates from the late 18th century to the mid-20th century and is mostly made from silk.
The Silk Museum has a particularly strong women’s dress collection, including beautiful silk wedding dresses (some of which are made from parachutes) and 1920s and 1930s dresses made from the iconic patterns of the Macclesfield Stripe.
There is also a smaller collection of Menswear and Childrenswear in the collection, including top hats, waistcoats and christening gowns.
The museum also holds a wide variety of examples of accessories in the collection, such as ties, scarves and handkerchiefs, which were some of the key items produced in Macclesfield.
Many of these items illustrate key designs such as Paisley prints, but also act as memorabilia for important occasions such as Royal Coronations.
There is also a small but significant collection of Macclesfield silk buttons, the most important of which are three cards of silk mohair twist buttons dating from the late 18th century and produced by J & T Brocklehurst.
The museum holds a large collection of textile samples, mostly from Macclesfield Mills and the surrounding areas.
Over 2,000 flat textile samples are from Cartwright and Sheldon who were based at Paradise Mill from 1912 – 1981.
The collection also contains a small selection of textiles created by students from Macclesfield School of Art, created for their City and Guilds Exams.
Alongside these textiles there are the initial drawings of the pattern, technical notebooks and point paper designs all linking to their final examination piece.
Thanks to a Heritage Lottery funded ‘Collecting Cultures’ project (2009-2011) the museum now has a small collection of textiles from across the globe, which focus on the Silk Road.
These fabrics represent diverse styles and techniques including embroidery and dyeing.
Ranging from the Predynastic to the Greco-Roman period, our Egyptian collection spans the entirety of Ancient Egyptian civilisation. The range of object types is equally broad, with everything from a Middle Kingdom model boat from Meir to a three armed Theban shabti.
The collection also includes a Third Intermediate Period cartonnage mummy case, an amulet mould of the double cartouche of the Aten, a model hoe from the foundation deposit of Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple and a number of soul houses excavated by Petrie at Rifeh, as well as many other fascinating artefacts.
The diary and watercolour sketches of the local Victorian traveller Marianne Brocklehurst are also cared for by the museum.
Through trips to Egypt and support of excavations conducted by the Egypt Exploration Fund (now the Egypt Exploration Society) and the British School of Archaeology in Egypt, Marianne Brocklehurst and her companion, Mary Booth, are the very reason why Macclesfield has an Egyptian collection.
The museum holds various objects relating to the 1814 Old Sunday School on Roe Street, including: school registers, commemorative ceramics, bibles and classroom equipment such as slates, quill pens and an abacus.
The social history collection also contains a small collection of domestic objects including irons, pipes, hot water bottles, childhood toys and games and police truncheons.
Within the archive there is a growing Oral History Collection. This has been created through past projects such as ‘Macclesfield Memories for the Millennium’ and is continuing to be developed by new projects led by the Museums’ Young Ambassadors.
These describe what life was like in Macclesfield, from the living conditions in garret houses to the work in the mills.
The current Oral History Project has a new focus on leisure pursuits in Macclesfield.
The Fine Art Collection is an eclectic mix of amateur art of local scenes and other significant works by artists such as Joseph Wright of Derby, Henry Calvert, George Stewart and Nina Colmore.
The largest collection of artworks held in the museums is that of Charles Tunnicliffe (1901-1979), an artist made famous for his illustrations of Henry Williamson’s 1932 edition of Tarka the Otter and his artworks for the RSPB.
This collection not only contains beautiful representations of wildlife but also scenes and landscapes from the local area of Macclesfield, where Tunnicliffe grew up.
The collection comprises a mixture of oil paintings, watercolours, engravings and sketches, as well as several RSPB magazines containing his work.