Ilkeston Town Walk - Stage 09 - Cluny Lace Co Ltd
w/e 04 May 2003

The answer to the poser in Stage 08 of the Town Walk is of course "LACE" and the factory on Belper Street is owned and managed by the eighth and ninth generations of the Mason family. It goes by the name of Cluny Lace and the company has been the proud manufacturers of the finest Leavers lace since 1845.


Our guide, John, took time off from his normal duties to show my wife Sandra and myself, around one of the workshops on the ground floor. John is seen here clutching one of the intricate patterns that he uses to set up the machines, the inset shows the result of his labours as it appears on the machines.
Fine Thread
Egyptian Cotton
 I provided three clues in Stage 08, the first being an Egyptian import. That was the fine cotton thread that is used in the manufacture and the view above is from the rear of one of the machines. Cotton accounts for over 95% of the material used in most of the laces produced in the factory. Small amounts of polyester and nylon are used in some of the products.
Thirsty Work 
Hundreds of the "metal objects", the second clue, are used on the machines after being fitted with discs holding the thread to become the bobbins. You can see them stacked up on the table in the photo as they are prepared for the machines. With the bottles of orange and water on the table, it looks like thirsty work!
Lace Making Frame 
The third clue was the name of John Jardine on one of the machines. All six of the machines in this workshop were manufactured for export by John Jardine of Nottingham which is less than ten miles away. Cluny Lace have rescued, re-imported, renovated and refurbished them for use in this factory in Ilkeston. The one above is still in need of some work but will soon be in production too.
Punched Cards

To produce the intricate patterns on the lace the bobbins are jiggled back and forth by means of thin metal rods or plates that run along the length of the machine. They are programmed to move by a punched card system similar to those that are often seen on old fairground organs.
A Lasting Design

Of the six machines in the workshop, one came from France, one from the USA, two from Austria and two, including the biggest ever made, from Canada. When fully laden each machine weighs about 20 tons. It is easy to understand why they are on the ground floor. The next floor up has medium sized machines and there are small machines on the third storey. I marvelled at the ingenuity of the designers of these machines for although the two largest were built in 1960 and 1962, the original design dates back to the early nineteenth century. They started out as steam powered machines, then generators were used before their progression to computer controlled electrically. Just moving with the times.

As a bonus to this Stage of the Town Walk, you can click on the image below to see a panoramic view of the whole workshop. All that remains is to extend our thanks once again to the company for giving us the opportunity to see lace making at close quarters and to John for showing us around. If you would like to know more about the history of the Cluny Lace Co Ltd, please click on the name to visit their web site.

Lace Workshop

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