I began lacemaking in 1975 after the then Curator of the Cowper and Newton Museum, Mrs Susan Hanson, put on an exhibition of ‘Olney Lace’, borrowing many items from the elderly lacemakers in the town. Several young mums, myself included, asked Sue whether she could find a lace teacher for us as we would like to have a go at lacemaking. Sue did so, and thus began a lacemaking group who later formed themselves into the Olney Lace Circle.
The first of the following four articles is of a Lace Walk around Olney, which I compiled for a group of international lacemakers who visited the town in the 1990s, in order to give them more background to this former cottage industry of our market town.
Direct link to the Lace Walk
I had always been fascinated by the tales my father-in-law, George Knight, told of Harry Armstrong for whom he had built the Lace Factory in the High Street in 1928, when I was asked by the then recently formed Stoke Goldington Historical Association to give them a talk on Harry Armstrong. For further information, I managed to get in touch with Harry’s nephew, David Armstrong and his mother who still lived in the High Street Armstrong family home. They were very helpful so I was able to give a well-illustrated talk. The text of the talk with all its accompanying illustrations forms the second article. Direct link to the talk on Harry Armstrong
This information formed the basis for a booklet entitled ‘Harry Armstrong and the Bucks Cottage Workers’ Agency’ which the Cowper and Newton Museum produced some time later. This booklet forms the third article. Direct link to the booklet on Harry Armstrong
Mike has added a fourth article, based on an interview with Cis Elderton in 2008, when she related her experiences in the 1930s whilst working in Harry Armstrong’s Lace Factory. This article has been slightly amended from an earlier version to include some examples of lace for sale in Harry’s extensive catalogue. Direct link to the Cis Elderton’s article derived from her interview
Of necessity, there is some repetition within the four articles, as they were written, and illustrated, for separate occasions.
Elizabeth Knight, November 2015
Edited for the website by Mike Neale