Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required

Silk workers' archive

The archive was deposited at the  Library by the Union of Textile Workers through the good offices of the General Federation of Trade Unions.  Some of the material in the collection was used by Frank Burchill and Jim Sweeney for their 1971 centenary history of the Amalgamated Society of Textile Workers and Kindred Trades (ASTWKT)1.

The surviving minute books of the ASTWKT constituent unions and the Leek Textile Federation date back no further than 1907, although the ASTWKT dated its centenary back to the formation of the Associated Trimming Weavers Society in 18712.  Therefore almost all of the collection consists of 20th century material.

Apprentice identure for Sam HuntThe archive contains minute books of the pre ASTWKT unions and the Leek Textile Federation. Notable among these is the minute book of the Amalgamated Society of Women Workers. Material from women-only unions is quite rare. There are also incomplete runs of annual reports and a set of apprentices indenture forms for the trimming weavers.

ASTWKT material includes Executive Council minute books and synopses, rule books, annual reports, material sent to members (headed Textile Voice from 1970), records of inter-union disputes, and branch minutes. In addition to Leek and Macclesfield, branches existed at various times at Cheadle (Staffs), Congleton, Great Yarmouth, Mayfield, Sandbach and Tean. The National Silk Workers Association (NSWA) material also includes executive minutes, reports and accounts, records of inter-union disputes, and minute books for the branches at Macclesfield and Dunfermline.

The rest of the collection records the external relations of the silk workers' unions, including Amalgamated Society of Spinners, Throwers and Reelers Annual Report 1907materialon claims and arbitrations, disputes with specific companies and wage rates and price agreements negotiated in the industry. The price agreement material contains the only significant holdings in the archive from the 19th century. The earliest document is a list of prices for Manchester smallware weavers for 1873, and information for Leek and Congleton starts from 1877.

The final part of the archive deals with representation on other bodies, notably the Joint Industrial Council for the Silk Industry and the Joint Industrial Council for the Narrow Fabric Industry.  Of interest to anyone studying the history of Leek will be the minute books for the Leek Trades and Labour Council from 1909 to 1934.

Full details of the archive can be found in our online catalogue

You can find more detail about the occupation of 19th century silk workers here


1. Frank Burchill and Jim Sweeney, A history of trade unionism in the North Staffordshire textile industry, University of Keele (1971) - Shelfmark: B30
2. A slightly earlier date for the centenary would have been achieved if the Amalgamated Society of Silk Twisters (established 1866) had not decided to stay independent from the ASTWKT. For an account of earlier attempts at unionisation in the silk industry, see Arthur Marsh (ed.), Historical directory of trade unions, vol. 4. Scolar, 1994, pp. 324-327 - Shelfmark: R03


Resources about Silk workers in the library collection

W. Henry Brown, The silken glow of Macclesfield. Manchester: Co-operative Printing Society, 1938 (Jubilee History of Macclesfield Silk Manufacturing Society Ltd) - Shelfmark: E24

Gail Malmgreen, Silk town: industry and culture in Macclesfield, 1750-1835. Hull U.P., 1985 - Shelfmark: H19

Jill Norris, Well fitted for females: women in the Macclesfield silk industry. In: J.A. Jowitt and A.J. McIver (ed.), Employers and labour in the English textile industry, 1850-1939, 1988, pp. 187-202 - Shelfmark: H51


Resources held by the Modern Records Office

Other records are held at the Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick:
Macclesfield Silk Manufacturing Society Limited (MSS.162/MSM)

Comment on this page

Cannot read text? Show another

Comments are moderated before publication