North Buckinghamshire was an important area for lace making. Newport Pagnell along with towns like Olney had a flourishing lace industry at one time. There is still a group making lace for fun in the town, but once it was a serious cottage industry. Hand lace was much sought after and there were local dealers who provided lace made by local people for the select market. Although Bucks. was an acknowledged centre of of English lacemaking from as early as the 16th century, styles varied over time depending on fashions.
A particular lace made in the area was Bucks. point, which was bobbin lace. It is very similar to the French Lille lace and as a result called English Lille. It did not appear until the end of the 18th century. Bucks point has a gimp thread outlining the pattern. It usually has Point ground or sometimes Honeycomb ground. It is made in one piece on a lace pillow at full width and not in strips. Common designs are floral and geometric and it is generally simpler than the Belgian laces to give a lighter lace popular at the time. Picots or loops of thread along the edges can be found. It is made using linen or silk.
Bobbin lace is a lace textile made by braiding and twisting lengths of thread, which are wound on bobbins to manage them. As the work progresses, the weaving is held in place with pins set in a lace pillow, the placement of the pins usually determined by a pattern or pricking pinned on the pillow.
Bobbin lace is also known as pillow lace, because it was worked on a pillow, and bone lace, because early bobbins were made of bone or ivory.
The making of bobbin lace was easier to learn than the elaborate cutwork of the 16th century, and the tools and materials for making linen bobbin lace were inexpensive. There was a ready market for bobbin lace of all qualities, and women soon took up the craft which earned a better income than spinning, sewing, weaving or other home-based textile arts. Bobbin lace-making was established in charity schools, almshouse, and convents.
The term gimp with reference to lace refers to the thread that is used to outline the pattern. This thread is normally thicker than that used to make the lace. It gives definition and slightly raises the edge of the design. A gimp thread is used widely in many laces.
Bobbin lace ground is the regular small mesh filling the open spaces of continuous bobbin lace. Other names for bobbin lace ground are net or réseau (French for network). The precise course of the threads and the resultant shape of the ground are an important diagnostic feature in lace identification, as different lace styles use different grounds.
At the side of the Parish Church in the High Street you will find a small monument. This monument commemorates the successful Newport Pagnell lace maker Thomas Abbott Hamilton, whose father John was also a lace maker. Newport Pagnell was the centre of the North Buckinghamshire lace trade. There is an epitaph carved into the top of the plinth by the famous local poet William Cowper of Olney, also a local lace making town. Cowper lived in the late 18th century. The plinth was erected in 1997.
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