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1954 Unidentified newsclip
Museum’s lace has an expert’s touch

A display which is now a permanent feature among the exhibits of the Science Museum in South Kensington, bears the touch of an expert from the tiny Bedfordshire village of Podington. 

Mrs Robinson
Mrs. Robinson, of Podington, was at work on her pillow lace when our photographer paid a visit
The display is one of the old craft of Bedfordshire lace making, and the local expert whose work is on show and whose advice was given on the setting is Mrs. M. E. Robinson, 37 Vicarage Lane, Podington.

Asked for assistance by officials of the museum, some time ago, Mrs. Robinson obtained the required number of bobbins for the display, and gave advice on the setting, which is based on a room in her own home.

It depicts two girls at work making lace by the light of single candle set between four water-bowls, each of which reflected its light on the arena in which girls sitting around them were working.

bobbin winder
Mrs Robinson's bobbin winder
The lace the models are "making" is actually the work of Mrs. Robinson, and the bobbins in front of one model—nicknamed "Charlotte Brown"—were originally the property of the late Charlotte Brown, of Podington, an expert lacemaker.

Taught by mother

Among details attended to by Mrs. Robinson, with the assistance of a friend (Mrs. E. Stuart), were the position of a pin being handled by one of the models, which was being removed from the front of the lace, and had to be changed to the back.

Mrs. Robinson herself is one of the remaining Bedfordshire lacemakers, having been taught by her mother in 1918. A native of Stevington, after her marriage she went to live at Podington. The bobbin winder shown above, was used by three generations.

Note: We are told that Mrs Robinson was a cleaner at the church. Her huband, Harry, wound the church clock, at 9pm every night, and he often took one or two of the village boys up the two ladders to watch him do the winding.
Bedfordshire lace was made by girls and women throughout the area. A lacedealer would tour the villages to buy their completed lengths.

The women seen here, with their pillows on a pillow-horse or stand, are sitting around a single candle.

Henry Herbert "of Rushden in the County of North'ton Lace buyer" died in 1713. An inventory of his goods shows the value of some of the lace he had in his shop, as well as the goods in his house and yard.

See also:

Lacemaking - Doreen Perkins

Mrs Meadows

Jane Morris - Lacemaker

Mrs M A M Wykes
Photograph from the Arthur George donation to Rushden & District History Society.
A member of the Society, who is a lacemaker, tells us it is thought to be taken at Podington,
and is a well known photograph in lacemaking circles. c1940
The photograph also appears in Anne Cooper's book: 'Podington Parish - a Social History'

Anne names the ladies for us: l-r Mrs Ester Gooding, Mrs Bess Brown, Mrs Kit Arnold Brown (Eliza died 1941) and Mrs Ann Wykes (Anne's grandmother). It was taken at 28 High Street.

Rushden Argus, 13th December 1912

Podington - Social—A tea and social arranged by Mr. and Mrs. Bond was held in the Schoolroom on Thursday. Songs and dancing followed. Mr H Warner, of Irchester, accompanied on the piano. The following contributed songs: Mr. Neal (Rushden), Mr Bailey (Hinwick), and Mr Warmwold, etc. Refreshments were served during the interval.

“Kattern”—The lacemakers of North Beds held their annual holiday to celebrate “Kattern” by “Wetting the candleblock,” on Friday, when the four oldest lacemakers (females) sat around the “candleblock” and worked on their “pillows” by the aid of light passed through flasks, which were filled with water. The candle was lighted by the flint and steel, as in former days. After working for some considerable time, they received visitors, and several joined together and had tea. Afterwards there was the general “Cut off” and “set up” and drink of “Meytheagle” to the good old days, when Queen Catherine of Aragon first introduced lacemaking into England, which was on December 6th 1642.

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