After lunch the room was reorganised for the talk “The Story of Stephen Simpson’s Gold Thread Works- Spinning a Golden Yarn” by Linda Barton.
Linda is a member of the Local Historical Society and began to research Simpson’s Gold Thread Works in 2005 after visiting a building which had been converted to city apartments on Avenham Road, Preston.
It was a unique factory and was the only one to produce the threads from the beginning to the end of the process. The first stage was to melt the silver and copper and pour the molten material into a mould. Then it was cooled and on the drawing bench a perfect surface was obtained before covering in gold leaf.
The rod was then pulled through a series of die until the wire became thinner than a human hair. The wire would be flattened, spun, woven, corded and crimped to produce cords, sashes, ribbons and laces.
It was Stephen Simpson the 6th, and youngest son of Isaac Simpson, who began to develop the factory and machines for producing precious gold and silver threads. The factory operated from 1825 to 1991 and at its height employed over 230 people in the different departments.
We learnt about the employees who became long standing and loyal to the company- the first was a lady called Martha Riley who served for 44 years.
Thread were given different effects and known as purl purl, smooth purl and rough purl. Hand embroiderers both in the factory and as out workers produced beautiful badges and emblems for the military, royal outfits, the White Star Shipping Company and the masons to name but a few.
The company began to close down (within one week) when the GPO moved from copper telephone flex to fibre optics and finally due to cutbacks in cost from gold threads to cheaper man made lurex.
Thanks to Linda for a fascinating and enjoyable talk. Many of us learnt something new about the history of Preston, whereas others knew of friends who had worked at the factory in the past.
Finally we looked at the samples Linda had brought with her.
A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all members.
Hope to see you all on the 4th January for our talk and workshop by Chris Cannon – Kath Morton Memorial Wessex Stitch Day.