Macclesfield Silk Industry

Silk is woven into the fabric of Macclesfield’s identity in so many ways. Walk around the town today and you’ll find the mills and warehouses that have survived from the town’s golden age of silk production. But, the silk stories of Macclesfield run much deeper: silk shaped the human lives in the town, as well as paving the way for technological advances in the form of the Jacquard mechanism, a technology that laid the foundations for our digital age.

From the personal experiences of individual silk workers to the role Macclesfield Silk played on the global stage of the Second World War, there is a lot to discover.


How we became The Silk Town

Discover the significance of the humble button at the start of Macclesfield’s silk industry.

Paradise Mill Handloom Restoration Project

The Association for Industrial Archaeology has kindly funded a project to restore and conserve two of our demonstration Jacquard handlooms in Paradise Mill at Macclesfield Museums.

Keeping these 19th Century Jacquard handlooms in working order allows visitors to continue to experience the incredible sights and sounds of these historically important looms during our dynamic tours here in Paradise Mill.

The Jacquard Mechanism

Our modern-day digital technologies and computer systems can trace their origins back to the invention of the Jacquard mechanism and the influence it had upon the pioneers of computing.

Macclesfield Museums has the largest known collection of Jacquard handlooms in Europe, still housed in their original location at Paradise Mill.

In this four part series, to complement the restoration work, we shall discover the remarkable history of the Jacquard mechanism; its origins, innovation, influence and legacy.

How the Jacquard mechanism works

See how the Jacquard mechanism works in this short video explained by Daniel – one of our team of expert Mill Guides.

Are you cut out to be a card cutter?

Dan (one of our Paradise Mill museum guides) tells the story of Jack, the hapless Jacquard card cutter.

The Cliff Brown Talks: Life & Work at Paradise Mill

Cliff Brown started working at Cartwright & Sheldon at Paradise Mill in 1947. Such was his talent for art and drawing, he trained to become a Jacquard designer, learning on the job.

He completed his City & Guilds Final exam in 1951. Then he was promoted to head designer and worked for the company until 1981, when Cartwright & Sheldon ceased trading.

In a fascinating talk he gave to Macclesfield Arts Society on the 20th February 2020, at Macclesfield Silk Museum, Cliff Brown speaks about his life and work.

A series of 9 Podcasts from the talk will be released in total.

Find out the work and skills that went into becoming a Jacquard designer.