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Visit to John Boyd Textiles : Street Society
Protecting the past with an eye to the future

Visit to John Boyd Textiles

A group of members visited John Boyd Textiles in Castle Cary for our June outing.

First established in Castle Cary in 1837, John Boyd Textiles maintains the tradition of horsehair weaving using the original mechanical looms installed in the 1870’s.

At the turn of the century, horsehair fabric was so popular that John Boyd became one of the main employers in Castle Cary, employing over 200 people weaving horsehair fabric.  John Boyd is now one of the last surviving horsehair weavers in the world and its fabric is exported worldwide.

The horsehair fabrics were initially woven by hand but the end of child labour led to the development of the mechanical picker looms still used today.  They were patented in 1872 and are continually maintained by the company’s own skilled mechanics.

The horsehair must be used from live horses and today insufficient horsehair is available in the UK so it is now sourced overseas mainly from the Far East where they still use working horses with cropped tails.

Horsehair fabric was originally used by famous furniture designers such as Chippendale, Hepplewhite, Lutyens, and Rennie Mackintosh, and is ideally suited to most forms of upholstered furniture; antique, classical, and contemporary. To this day, horsehair fabrics are widely recognized for their unequalled lustre, durability, care properties and value and they have been used in many prestigious projects throughout the world.

During our visit we were able to see the warps being measured and wound from raw cotton followed by the hacking of the horsehair through a large comb of sharp needles prior to dying.  We then went on to see the original looms in use weaving just three metres a day, slow enough to be able to see the individual hair being teased from the bundle to form the weft and loaded to the loom.  The machines were very noisy and used “old” technology but still efficiently produced a fantastic and unique product.

Everyone came away fascinated and wiser about horsehair weaving and its use today.

For more information follow this link http://www.johnboydtextiles.co.uk/