The Silk Museum

The Silk Museum is housed in the original School of Art built in 1879 with land and funding granted by the council and public subscriptions.  The School had been founded in 1851 and initially used rented rooms in the Useful Knowledge Society building.  Its original aim was to educate practical designers for the manufacture of silk, but later it went on to offer more general art education and gained a reputation for producing high quality work.  It formed part of a complex of buildings linked to learning in this area of the town, including the Free Library, the Technical School and the Useful Knowledge Society.  The School also established the town’s first museum which exhibited student’s work along with items loaned from museums in London.

Famous visitors include the artist, designer, poet, novelist and social activist William Morris who came to the North West and Macclesfield to learn more about natural dyes from local silk manufacturer Thomas Wardle and gave a lecture at the School of Art in 1889 about the Arts and Crafts movement.  He described Macclesfield as a ‘shabby town’ but with the surrounding countryside being ‘really beautiful’.

Wardle, who did much to rejuvenate the silk industry in India, was born in Macclesfield in 1831 and saw the benefits of maintaining a close relationship with the town when he made his home in neighbouring Leek, particularly links with the Brocklehurst family.  He was instrumental in inviting the Duchess of Teck to Leek and Macclesfield to promote the British silk industry, where she was hosted by the Brocklehursts on the Swythamley Estate and visited a silk exhibition at the Macclesfield School of Art with rooms decorated by Arighi Bianchi.  He also corresponded regularly with Marianne Brocklehurst as they had many interests in common.  The museum collection includes the letter Wardle sent Marianne advising on an architect for her proposed West Park Museum, along with a collection of archive material relating to Wardle and a vast array of textiles inspired by India, Morris and Wardle, many produced by students at the School of Art.

Painter and illustrator Charles Tunnicliffe was born in Macclesfield and studied at the School of Art from 1916.  He went on to become the first illustrator of Henry Williamson’s Tarka the Otter novel, illustrated many Ladybird books and RSPB magazine covers.

Today The Silk Museum tells the silk heritage story, giving an introduction to its journey along the Silk Road and how Macclesfield is forever associated with this industry.  It explores the work of some of the Art School students, from their initial ideas to their final exam pieces.  It examines the properties of silk, how it is woven, printed and coloured.  It introduces you to some of the well-known Macclesfield silk manufacturers and their looms.  Highlights include 18th century silk buttons which were the start of the Macclesfield silk story, silk escape maps and parachutes which helped to win World War II and the loom used to make the famous Brocklehurst Whiston silk pictures.

There is a special exhibition gallery with an exciting programme of changing displays throughout the year, the Jacquard Tea Room for light refreshments and a gift shop.

The new Between Floors Gallery is now open, featuring Charles Frederick Tunnicliffe:  A Cheshire Countryman, a display of work by the acclaimed artist.

Access:  Steps at the main entrance to the museum, step free access available on request, step free access around ground floor, lift to first floor special exhibition gallery, accessible toilet.

Location: The Silk Museum is located off Mill Street on the old Park Lane.  There is no on-site parking, but there is short stay on-street parking directly outside the building and a public car park on the junction of Park Lane and Park Green (the Old Library car park in front of The Society Rooms pub).



Park Lane, Macclesfield SK11 6TJ


01625 612045
[email protected]

Visiting times

Monday-Saturday, 10am-4pm
Open on Bank Holidays, 12noon-4pm


£4.50/£4, combined ticket with entry to Paradise Mill £8/£7, children free

Visit info

Thanks to Chris Spargo and James Ridley for making this film.

Jacquard Tea Room

Jacquard Tea Room

The Jacquard Tea Room serves tea, fresh coffee, soft drinks and a selection of cakes and snacks.

There is also a Museum Shop filled with gifts, silk accessories, local history books and pocket money mementos.

Admission to the Jacquard Tea Room and Shop is free.

Group Visits

Group Visits

Charges per person for group visits:
Silk Museum £4, Paradise Mill £4.50
Combined entry to Silk Museum and Paradise Mill £7
Discount: For every 10 paying visitors, one goes free
Driver Offer: Free tea and cake for the coach driver

Practical Information
Entrance to Paradise Mill is by guided tour and last approximately 1 hour. There is a maximum of 30 people per tour. However, groups larger than 30 can be split with one group visiting the Silk Museum whilst the other group take the Mill tour and then swap over.
The visit to the Silk Museum is self-directed and takes approximately 1 hour.
There is a drop-off point outside the front door, coach parking £5 for up to 10 hours on Duke Street Car Park, SK11 6UR, which is 0.2 miles from the Silk Museum (5 minute walk).

Group Visit Experiences

Group Visit Experiences

We also offer two special group visit experiences:

The Silk and Splendour Tour gives you the opportunity to discover the work life of people in Cheshire at the Silk Museum and Paradise Mill and then travel to Tabley House to see how the other half live.

The Trouble at Mill tour gives you the opportunity to discover the lives and work of young silk weavers, including a Victorian School Room experience.

For more information, contact Katie James [email protected] or telephone 01625 613210.

Pattern Books

Pattern Books

The Silk Museum has a pattern book collection of around 1000 volumes from local textile factories, each with hundreds of examples of different woven and printed designs and colourways.

The pattern books date from the mid-19th century through to the 1950s.