Tying Up Threads

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Leghorn Straw Hat

Straw plaiting was a huge industry in the late 1800s. It became the new and main employment of 1000s of women in Berkshire and Hertfordshire. It was the perfect way to supplement an agricultural wage because it could be done any time of day, was in huge demand and the straw was in great abundance [...]

Smoking Cap

This cap was manufactured in North America and is most likely associated with the Haudenosaunee nation, commonly known as the Iroquois Confederacy. Indigenous women would make items like smoking caps, moccasins and baskets for British visitors who could then return to the UK with souvenirs from North America and Canada.  Smoking caps were popular in [...]

Loyal Order of Ancient Shepherds Sash

This sash belonged to the Loyal Order of Ancient Shepherds; a Friendly Society founded in 1826 in Ashton-under-Lyme. Friendly Societies were created to provide help for local communities before there was any kind of public health care or financial support. Members paid a monthly fee that would go into a shared pot used when a [...]


These items come from the Kellman Collection, used and collected by Alexander Kellman, a tailor on the Queen’s Road in Reading. Thread MERL 97/79 Cloth MERL 97/82 Bobbins MERL 97/78/1-37 Tailors were important members of society since the late Middle Ages. Their main role was often focused on men’s clothing, specifically tailoring military wear. As [...]

Working by Candlelight

Rushlight holder for Discover
Could you imagine spending your evenings just by candlelight? In most homes across England the main source of light in the home was firelight and candlelight. The rich could afford candles made of beeswax, which smelled nice and lasted a long while. In poorer homes they used rush lights or tallow, which smelt terrible and [...]

Reins and Harnesses

To make leatherwork for horses a lot of skill and a good range of tools are required. This craft often happened in towns and villages, with a good saddler in high demand. As well as working on the farm, horses were the main form of transporting both people and good across the country, and leatherwork [...]

Clothing on Canals

Moldacot machine for barnett intro blog
Canal boats were vital in transporting coal and goods made during the boom of the industrial revolution in the 18th Century. This moved many seasonal farmers to the boats as this life was slightly more predictable, but still maintained the migratory aspect of living.  Canal boat living involved the whole family. Children were expected to [...]

Hand sewn dress

Hand sewn dress for Discover
Worn in Oxfordshire in the early twentieth century, this dress was hand sewn from cotton and printed with floral designs. The time it was created was an important turning point for British influence in the global cotton trade. Having previously exploited the colonies for cotton growth, such as America and then India, Britain’s role in cotton [...]

Sewing basket

Sewing basket for Discover
Made in Orkney, this straw coil-type basket was used to store sewing supplies. Scorch marks are visible within the basket, which is evidence of the basket being ‘toasted’ to remove protrusions of twine and straw from the inside. A straw sewing basket such as this would have been much more common in remote, rural areas, [...]
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