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Click-clack sound to return to Norwich after loom restored during £1.5m Bridewell revamp

PUBLISHED: 06:30 28 June 2012

Renowned weaver Richard Humphries makes his third and final trip to the Bridewell Museum to put the finishing touches to restoring Norwich's last working loom. 
Photo by Simon Finlay

Renowned weaver Richard Humphries makes his third and final trip to the Bridewell Museum to put the finishing touches to restoring Norwich's last working loom. Photo by Simon Finlay

Archant Norfolk Copyright

Rhythmic click-clack sounds swept around Norwich for decades until the demise of the textile industry.

But within days they will return to a small part of the city for people to hear again.

After months of restoration work, the last Jacquard loom used to weave cloth in Norwich will be returned to the Bridewell Museum.

The machine has been hailed as one of the Bridewell’s notable highlights after a £1.5m revamp, while it is thought to be the only original working loom outside of Macclesfield, Cheshire.

Under the watchful eye of Richard Humphries, a renowned weaving specialist, the loom spent nine months in a workshop before returning to the museum.

Mr Humphries visited Norwich three times to apply the finishing touches to get the machine – believed to be 120-160 years old – working.

He said it took a “few hundred hours”, and added: “The loom is an interesting thing but if you can demonstrate it, it comes alive.”

That challenge will fall to Sue Foster, of the Thorpe area, who first set eyes on the loom and the pattern books 25 years ago while studying for her first degree.

She will be responsible for demonstrating how the loom works to visitors.

Mrs Foster said: “It’s so exciting. I am so passionate about the textiles of Norwich. It was a huge industry here and what’s happening in the Bridewell and having a loom will make people look further into it. We have a very big collection at the Shirehall. If I help to bring that history alive then that would be brilliant.

“I saw that loom for the first time 25 years ago and now I’ve sat on it and used it. I think it will help people to understand what goes in to making cloth and what hard work it is.

“Also, there will be a pattern book downstairs, so you will get to see how the designs were and how beautiful they were 200 years ago.”

Cathy Terry, curator of social history, said another task was to decide what patterns the loom should make.

She said it was agreed the chosen designs should be “achievable, sustainable and very Norwich”, with stripes picked as the most appropriate.

She said: “This loom came into the museum in the very early days of the Bridewell. This would have been one of the last working looms in the city.

“We’ve been looking at the loom for many, many years thinking ‘wouldn’t it be nice if we...?’ but we never thought it would be feasible to have someone with the know-how and have the money to do that work.”

The museum, in Bridewell Alley, will re-open on Tuesday, July 3.

richard.wheeler@archant.co.uk

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