Macclesfield’s Silk History
Macclesfield became known as ‘the silk town’ by the 1850s. This came about by silk button making, which was a principal industry of the town by 1749. However, button making declined as horn buttons became dominant. But silk throwing mills could operate, thanks to an extant pool of skilled silk producers. The building of silk throwing mills commenced from the 1740s, and weaving sheds from the 1790s.
Industry prospered. By 1826 there were 70 throwing mills. However, many failed in the following years due to economic downturn. For example, 30 mills had closed by 1830. The decline of the silk industry consisted, and by 1851 it was almost defunct. The town’s silk went on display at the Great Exhibition – including ribbons, shawls and handkerchiefs.
Macclesfield Silk Museums
Macclesfield’s Silk Museum explains the town’s silk story. It is located in Park Lane, and housed in the former Art School, and is also a fitting exhibition space, because it trained many artists and designers for the silk industry. Here, groups can learn about mill owners, view an extension collection of pattern books, learn about World War Two-produced parachute silk and evade maps.
Paradise Mill is situated next door, and it is an original silk mill that offers guided tours three times a day. It is home to Europe’s largest known collection of Jacquard silk handlooms in their original setting. Book a tour to see all the stages of the Jacquard silk weaving process, including a demonstration on a restored loom.
Modern Day Macclesfield
Treacle Market is one of the largest artisan markets in the North West, and it is held on the historic cobbles of Macclesfield Marketplace on the last Sunday of each month (bar December). Visitors can explore over 160 stalls that are replete with unique artworks, antiques, books, vintage finds and delicious food & drink.
You can find more exciting, independent shops in Castle Quarter, which is a quaint area off Market Street. For example, N Carter and Co Family Butcher and Pie Maker enjoy a great reputation for the quality of their meat and pies.
Cinemac Cinema is an independent cinema, which is housed in a Grade II Listed building. Its programme features a diverse range of film: from family friendly favourites to Royal Ballet productions.
Macclesfield is also famous for musicians that have come from the town. Ian Curtis, of seminal Indie Pop band Joy Division, grew up in Macclesfield. Introspective and innovative, Joy Division paved the way for a number of New Wave pop bands in the 1970’s. After Curtis’ tragic suicide, three of Joy Division’s members went onto form New Order. Diehard fans can visit Curtis’ memorial stone at Macclesfield Cemetery.