Make Your Way: Memories of the textile trade, Larkhall
Allison Smith - artist residency
Weaving was prominent in Larkhall during the 18th and 19th centuries, so much so, that during the 1840s, 42% of the population were weavers! Beautiful weavers’ cottages can still be seen throughout Larkhall – a reminder of the now lost industry.
Allison Smith, Artist in Residence, Larkhall for the Make Your Way arts, heritage and active travel project, chose weaving in Larkhall as the focus for her residency. Spot the pattern sliders inspired by the historic industry as you follow the Make Your Way Larkhall trails, available on the link below or under ‘Other Resources’.
During her residency, Allison took to the streets of Larkhall with a hand loom, giving her an opportunity to engage with the public face to face and hear what knowledge and memories of the industry they had. She found strong connections between people and the Avon Water and even the viaduct that towers above it. People shared poetry, memories of industry and life, reminisces of orchards and tales of Celtic heads and even Mary Queen of Scots.
People shared memories and tales with Allison about the Avon Water, which has been an integral part of industry in Larkhall for hundreds of years. Various industries have sat on its banks, including a distillery, a brewery, a waulkmill, an inkle factory, and most recently, the Bleachfield Dyeworks. When speaking about the dyeworks, some people Allison spoke to said, “you never knew which colour the river was going to be the next day!”
This treasured part of nature has always been vital to Larkhall people too. In winter when the river froze over, curling was popular, and in summer, people would paddle and splash around in the cool river. One lady said, “It was our summer holiday! This was before you went abroad, we stayed out as long as possible, prolonging the fun and taking the long road home.”
Even the viaduct, once Scotland’s tallest, towering 174 feet above the Avon Water, is held dear in peoples’ hearts. People told tales of ‘walking the boardwalk’ to sign their names on the viaduct, showing how much the structure means to Larkhallians.
In 1932, Daks Simpsons, famed for providing M&S with a range of clothing items, took over the previous Messrs Young, Caldwell & Co. silk factory site, providing full families with employment. When it closed its doors in 2002, it left a huge void in employment and was the last major link with the town’s rich textile heritage.
Inspired by these stories and memories, Allison created her own artwork and responses. She made a handmade loom and took it with her to a local knit and natter group who meet at the library every Tuesday, who shared their memories with her. Using a shed stick, a tool often used in weaving that helps create a gap between threads, speeding up the weaving process, Allison created prints. She also led a seed sowing walk in Tom Thumb Park, once known for its beautiful flowers.
Find out more by reading Allison’s presentation and the Make Your Way Larkhall trails below, or downloading them from under ‘Related links’.
Make Your Way is an arts, heritage and active travel campaign, focusing on the communities of Carluke, Glassford, Lanark, Larkhall and Stonehouse, in 2016 – 17. It was delivered by icecream architecture and SYSTRA, with support from Smarter Choices, Smarter Places grant and is part of the Heritage Lottery Fund supported Clyde and Avon Valley Landscape Partnership scheme.