Can't museums, mills and local attractions get things right?
There was a discussion recently in the UK Spinners Forum on Ravelry about the way displays show spinning wheels set up wrongly! Well on our travels we visited the Helmshore Textile Mill this is run by a trust and received funding from Lancashire County Council, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the North West Development Agency, and the Friends of Helmshore Museum. So not some amateurish set up.
The museum is divided into two sections - one for cotton and one for wool (as the mill seems to have been used in the past for both fibres!). We went for the wool section first, as there was a demonstration due later on in the cotton part. Imagine my surprise to find an Ashford Traditional on display as an example of a typical English wheel of the 18th and 19th centuries.................
A conversation with the person overseeing the room was interesting to say the least. She couldn't believe that this wheel wasn't what the description card stated - I explained that these wheels were made in New Zealand in the 20th century so couldn't possibly be from the 19th century let alone the 18th and that I had a similar one at home..................
They had some fine examples of Looms, Spinning Jennys a lovely Walking Wheel and right at the back this interesting contraption
Why they have set it up with a cone of yarn is beyond comprehension and to be completely honest I am not entirely sure that it is a spinning wheel. The wood under neath was a different colour (and I suspect age) from the top (the top has had wood worm and the base has not) and as I couldn't get any closer I didn't get a good look at the spindle, but if this was set up level it is very similar to some old wood turning wheels in Mr S's Wood Turning Magazine - I wonder!
Having duly inspected the mill pond under a large umbrella in a monsoon, we turned our attention to the cotton displays.
The first display showed a family working in a cottage - the wife with Great Wheel, the husband working a loom and two children carding cotton on (modern) hand carders! I am sorry that I don't have a photo of this as I was inform that they didn't encourage the taking of photos, I wonder why! So dear reader you will have to take my word for the following description:
The room was approximately 3 by 4 metres, with a small window high up in the back wall, at one end was a fireplace with the obligatory pot over the fire. At the back of the room, to the side of the fireplace and next to the wall was the Great Wheel the woman stood behind it and there was no way that she could have spun from that position, plus she was supposed to be spinning cotton...... The two children sat on stools in front of the fire and the rest of the room was taken up by the man who was working on the loom. Just how wrong can you get it and to make matters worse they a a short video showing the scene with the people working, talking and laughing - as if!.
When we got the to cotton demo things look up - well the guide had worked there! We were taken through the machinery and the processes needed to produce cotton for weaving - all very impressive as the machinery had been saved from export to India in the 1980s and was still making the tea towels which were sold in the shop.
Unfortunately we were out of time so I was unable to complete the visitor's satisfaction survey - perhaps next time we are up that way I can add some comments to the visitor's book...