Free drop-in tapestry workshops, a weaver in residence and a chance to dress up in period costume are some of the activities on offer for children and adults at a Mid Wales museum during the school holidays.
Aiming to bring to life the town’s industrial heritage, Newtown Textile Museum is housed in an original hand-loom weaving factory, built in the 1830s in Commercial Street, Newtown.
This volunteer-run museum shows how people lived and worked in the building, the industrial history of Newtown and the processes involved in turning fleece into flannel.
In addition, industries linked to wool – tanning, clog making and drapers’ shops, including the Pryce Jones family who pioneered mail order – are also featured.
Newtown was the centre for hand-loom weaving in the 1830s and the museum is the last of 82 such buildings remaining in anything like its original condition.
The original hand-loom weaving factory comprised six back to back cottages with each having one room each on the ground and first floors to house up to 10 people. The two floors above, which ran the whole length of the building, housed the looms.
Special activities for children during the summer holidays include the drop-in tapestry workshops every Tuesday in August from 2-4pm. On Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, weaver `in residence’ Kay-lee Davies will be working on one of the looms in the museum.
Kay-lee, 34, from Capel Dewi, near Llandysul, is one of this year’s winners of annual bursaries awarded by Wonderwool Wales to graduates from the BA Textiles course at Carmarthen School of Art, part of Coleg Sir Gậr.
Children also get a chance to dress up in period costume every day the museum is open, to identify things on a Textile Trail and to colour in pictures.
“These activities are all part of trying to bring to life the history of the building,” explained Janet Lewis, the museum’s chair. “Weaving was an important part of converting the sheep’s fleece into flannel and thus converting wool into woven cloth.”
The museum also has an exhibition of the invoices and letters from a draper’s shop run by Amelia Ray in the 1870s. These invoices were found in an attic of a shop in Newtown nearly 100 years after they were left there and are now preserved in the museum.
“Seeing what people bought in those days is fascinating,” added Janet. “It is interesting to see, too, how our handwriting has changed since that time.”
New additions include a loaned Laura Ashley wedding dress and an old stereoscope to see photos in 3D. They sit alongside permanent displays showing how people lived and worked in the building and the industrial development of Newtown including mail order by pioneer Pryce Pryce Jones.
One visitor described the museum as “a little gem” while others loved talking to the weaver on the loom and dressing up in period costume. Other comments included “very interesting and well curated” and “an excellent museum - as good as any we have been in.”
Newtown Textile Museum is a member of MWT Cymru, an independent organisation that represents around 600 tourism and hospitality businesses across Powys, Ceredigion and Southern Snowdonia.
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