The Armley Mills (Industrial) Museum in Leeds is the home of Benjamin Gott’s former wool textile mill. Founded in the late 18th Century, Gott became the owner around 1812 (ish) and all processing of wool fibres was taking place on this site together with his other mill. We know that dyeing and weaving of pieces of wool took place there but the exact date when dyeing started is still to be confirmed. However, we do know that Leeds in the early 19th century was the home of the wool trade and there were dozens of mills along the river in an astonishingly short stretch.
The Assistant Curator at the museum has wanted to diversify the Museum from a home to the industrial machinery, for which it is justifiably well known, so that other aspects of the Industrial Age’s influences are acknowledged and to encourage a wider audience for the resources available there. One of the areas for research is the dye house. A research project last year established that dyeing did take place on this site and now a group of us are developing our knowledge of the Mill and its history to find out what was dyed and produced there.
Some years ago, a group of spinners set up a regular meeting in the museum and started a dye garden planting typical plants that our forefathers would have used and although it is unlikely that the garden planted then would have been used for anything other than the workers’ benefit, a community project has developed this year and we now have some lovely examples of traditional dye plants growing in this little green corner. Some of the lovely spinning and garments they make are on sale in the Museum.
Last week the BBC came to film for a series of programmes about gardens around the UK that are used by communities for different purposes. They stayed all day and filmed both the gardening and a dyeing session with Debbie Tomkies of DT Crafts and Design. We demonstrated dyeing with flowers, leaves and roots. Coreopsis, woad and madder.
Here are our results on the improvised washing line! Pink – madder, blue – woad and yellow from Coreopsis flowers.