<div style="display:inline;"> <img height="1" width="1" style="border-style:none;" alt="" src="//googleads.g.doubleclick.net/pagead/viewthroughconversion/1028731116/?value=0&amp;guid=ON&amp;script=0">
6 ISSUES FOR £6 Subscribe to Lancashire Life today click here

Annie Garnett - A woman who wove wonders

PUBLISHED: 00:00 22 October 2015

Annie Garnett, by unknown artist, 1904, Lakeland Arts Trust

Annie Garnett, by unknown artist, 1904, Lakeland Arts Trust

not Archant

One of the first true northern female entrepreneurs was a relatively unsung designer, astute businesswoman and fabric expert called Annie Garnett. Silverwoods consultant Jacquie Fairburn reports

Fairfield was the family home in Bowness. It is now a guest house Fairfield was the family home in Bowness. It is now a guest house

Annie Garnett was born in Bowness on Windermere in 1864 when daughters of well to do families such as hers were kept at home by their fathers. There was never any notion of them earning money.

The exception at the time was learning traditional crafts at local village hall tutorials under the auspices of the church. This resulted in creating products to give employment, sell or support local workers for purely philanthropic ends.

Annie was just 24 when her father died, but the dominant male hierarchy of the time meant that it was remarkable that her stoicism, strength, tenacity and skill achieved so much within the era. Quality of design and care to detail throughout her career was the byword of her reputation. She initially started with local classes, run with the local curate and his wife – but that was soon not enough to satisfy her burgeoning ambition.

In 1891, with the generous gift of six free spinning wheels and six months’ start up finance rumoured to be from John Ruskin and a first order from America, she turned her back on industrialisation and instead returned to the traditional craft of hand spinning.

A weaving shed in Windermere A weaving shed in Windermere

She gradually built what became ‘Windermere Industries’ which was based next to her family home and dubbed ’The Spinnery’. Her work was always alongside the principles of zero industrialisation or intervention, with values true to the Ruskin and the arts and crafts ethos.

From 1891 to 1914 many beautiful silk, linen and tweed textiles were produced by her company, but it was to be the ’Throwan’ that made her name in the world. It was made from linen warp and silk weft which could be adjusted to taste by varying the weight of weft or warp, taking inspiration from the colours of the landscape around her.

Annie was always a great experimenter and, while she had no formal training, she was forever continuing self-learning to widen her crafts and after a spell at the Yorkshire College, she purchased a Jacquard loom.

She carried out research in museums on the woven fabrics of old and even tried breeding her own silkworms. As her business grew so did her workforce and, at its height, she had over 100 weavers, embroiders and other local craftsmen and women employed in the business. Annie was solely responsible for designs both for the handloom textiles and increasingly fashionable samites as well as associated embroidery with exquisite colours.

Workroom at the Spinnery Workroom at the Spinnery

The Spinnery was patronised by Queen Alexandra who commissioned the ‘Fritillary’ – hand woven silk fabric. An example in orange, green and white colourways can now be seen in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Liberty, already great arts and crafts supporters, sold her patterns and encouraged her to be more prolific in her supply. Northern ‘incomers’ including the Duchess of Hexham patronised the business to the inevitable chagrin of locals.

This wonderful story of local rural female crafting entrepreneurialism, which surely is a precursor or hint towards the pioneering spirit of the 100-year old Women’s Institute, was all sadly cut short by the advent of the First World War. After that, nothing was ever quite the same for Annie. This brilliant entrepreneurial lady desperately tried to resurrect her industry after the war. Sadly she died in 1942 with very little ceremony, celebration or even an obituary in the local paper. Yet a quote from the respected art magazine ‘The Studio’ in 1902, reported by Jennie Brunton in her book The Arts and Crafts Movement in the Lake District declared: ‘The Spinnery produced some of the most beautiful fabrics ever made in this country’.

The best examples of her work can today be seen at The Museum of Lakeland Life and Industry in Kendal which has a large collection of Annie Garnett textiles and archive material. Only a small amount of this collection is currently on display. w

If you have any antique you would like appraised, Silverwoods’ experts are available for free evaluation and appraisals every Monday (including bank holidays) between 9am and 3pm at their saleroom in Lincoln Way, Clitheroe. Often the best initial step is to email images of your item to: wilf@silverwoods.co.uk..

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Lancashire Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Lancashire Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Lancashire Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from People

Come rain or shine, this dedicated team of volunteers will be on the roads helping save lives. Rebekka O’Grady reports

Read more
Thursday, January 11, 2018

It’s hard to tell which are the hardier in winter - the farmers or the sheep. Writer and photographer Irene Amiet went to find out

Read more
Thursday, January 4, 2018

Stonyhurst College houses the oldest surviving museum collection in the English speaking world.

Roger Borrell reports

Read more
Stonyhurst
Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Just back from the jungle, Jennie McAlpine on missing her family and serving tea fit for a queen. Mairead Mahon reports

Read more
Afternoon Tea Manchester
Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Britain has never produced another hero like Dan Dare. Charlie Connelly pays tribute to a figure with strong Lancashire roots who has shaped our art, literature, science and architecture.

Read more
Tuesday, December 19, 2017

It’s been an action packed year in Lancashire, how much of it can you remember?

Read more
Quiz
Monday, December 18, 2017

Accrington’s Hollie Steel is back where her career began ten years ago as a hopeful on Britain’s Got Talent, writes Rebekka O’Grady.

Read more
Saturday, November 25, 2017

Test your county credentials in this picture based quiz.

Read more
Quiz
Tuesday, November 21, 2017

One man who brought giants of the rock world to Lancaster has told his story in a new book. David Stocker went to meet him

Read more
Tuesday, November 7, 2017

All the items that have appeared in our ambitious project to mark the 70th anniversary of Lancashire Life.

Read more
Lancashire70
Tuesday, November 7, 2017

A poll taken by Lancashire Life readers has revealed who they think is the greatest.

Read more
Lancashire70
Thursday, October 26, 2017

A centre devoted to natural childbirth has just celebrated its 5000th arrival. Chief photographer Kirsty Thompson captured the celebration.

Read more
Blackburn
Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The John O’Gaunt Rowing Club has a remarkable history – including the time one crew greased their shorts to make them go faster! Martin Pilkington reports.

Read more
Lancaster
 
Great British Holidays advert link

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Subscribe or buy a mag today

Lancashire Life Application Link

Local Business Directory

Lancashire's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area



Property Search