u3a logo Ashby de la Zouch U3A U3A Group Logo

The Industrial Heritage Group

Leader:  Mike Stow - indhist@ashbyu3a.co.uk - phone 01530 469152

The Industrial Heritage Group is for members who have an interest in our industrial heritage of trains, cars, planes, bikes, early manufacturing etc. to visit museums, railways, factories and other places related to our industrial past. We occasionally take a quite broad view of what constitutes "Industrial Heritage" if it is of interest to us!

Travel arrangements vary depending on how far we have to travel, but generally we meet in Ashby to car-share.

Our trips are normally on Wednesdays unless otherwise stated.

All dates and details are provisional at the moment due to the changing situation

Future programme

Wed 25th May8.45 am departQuarry Bank Mill, StyalKevinVisit the cotton mill, the house and gardens, and the Apprentice House. Entrance £19, free for NT members. Free guided tour. Car share from Featherbed Lane as usual.Depart 8.45 am.
Sat 4th Jun9.15 amPapplewick Pumping Station, NottinghamPaul McKayThis date is now confirmed as Saturday of Jubilee weekend to see the engines running. £10.50 on the gate or £9.75 online from www.papplewickpumpingstation.org.uk .There are 2 large steam-driven beam engines that were designed to pump water to Nottingham in the late 19th century.
Meet at Featherbed Lane for car-sharing. 9.15 for 9.30 depart
Wed 22nd JunTBAStourbridge Glass MuseumTony SmithThis is a brand new museum based in the old Stuart Crystal Glassworks and is just opened. The museum holds one of the finest world-wide collections of British and international glass from 17th to 20th century. Guided tour available.
Thu 28th JulTBAShuttleworth Collection, Old Warden, BiggleswadeBob BaxendaleNOTE this has been switched to Thursday to avoid a clash with History Group trip to Berkeley Castle on the Wednesday. The 6 hangers contain many very early aircraft, including the oldest airworthy aircraft in the world as well as early cars, bikes and buses. There are also extensive gardens for those who have had enough of aircraft!
Fri 26th AugTBAEcclesbourne Valley Railway, Matlock + Middleton Top winding engineColin EllisThis is the Friday before August Bank Holiday. A steam service will be running. We will drive to Wirksworth in time for a cuppa before catching the train to Duffield and back. There will hopefully be time for a look round the small museum and shop before going to lunch at a nearby pub. In the afternoon we will go to see Middleton Top beam engine which used to haul wagons up the steep incline by rope. It is the world's oldest working engine of its type, but unfortunately will not be running that day
Sat 24th SepTBABrooklands Museum, WeybridgeMikeA weekend visit to the home of motorsport and aviation. We will stay overnight to make the most of the extensive site. Mercedes Benz World is also next door and free to enter. More details to follow
Wed 26th OctTBAA tour of Marstons breweryTBAMarstons is now doing organised tours again. A good mix of old and new methods. Well worth a visit. £12. Beer tasting included. Maybe worth hiring a minibus.
Wed 23rd NovTBAHack Green Secret Nuclear Bunker, NantwichKurt and BillDiscover the secret underground world of government.

Wednesday 27th April. Framework Knitters Museum, Ruddington

Purely by chance, the day after we had a talk at the monthly meeting about Jedediah Strutt and his improvement of the framework knitting machine, the Industrial Heritage group visited the Framework Knitters Museum at Ruddington.

We last visited it about 8 years ago, but the museum received a Lottery grant just before Covid lockdown which allowed them to buy some property next door along with a chapel, and spent the next two years developing a reception building, coffee shop, gift shop and an art gallery in the chapel plus some gardens which have greatly improved the site.

After coffee, we were split into 3 groups to visit the 3 main areas of the museum, namely the framework knitting hall, the workers cottages and the circular knitting stocking machines room. All were fascinating.

The knitting frames are much larger than expected, looking similar to a hand loom crossed with a domestic knitting machine. The mechanism is extremely complex even for a modern machine. How anyone built or even thought them up in the 16th century seems impossible. Our guide demonstrated one of the 19 frames packed into a room not much bigger than the average lounge. They are extremely hard work as well as being quite complex to operate. With 3 foot pedals and 4 or more hand levers to push and pull in just the right sequence would have taken plenty of skill and manpower. And I mean manpower as they were almost exclusively operated by men. Before the factory was built knitting frames were usually in peoples cottages. They were too expensive to buy and so they were rented from a landlord or other entrepreneur. The husband operated it whilst the wife sewed the stockings together and the children wound the bobbins from skeins of cotton or wool. Wives would also be sent out to buy replacement needles which were quite fragile and broke often if not looked after. Whilst needles were all the same, the way the mounted in the frame wasn't and so the needles had to be cast into lead holders which fitted each individual machine. When the factory opened, men were paid piece rates to operate the frames but still had to buy the cotton and pay for broken needles. Children aged 6 were limited to working 69 hours a week!

The cottages on site were built as back-to-backs with one rom upstairs and one room down and a small attic space for the children to sleep in. A family of 6 or more lived in the two rooms. There was no toilet - that was across the yard, as was the washroom. That's for washing clothes, no people. The only water supply was from a hand pump in the yard.

The manager fared slightly better in that theirs was a through-house i.e. it had a scullery downstairs and two bedrooms above. But they still shared the toilet and washroom. Cooking was done on the range in the living room.

Circular knitting machines were invented in the late Victorian era, mostly for use by lower middle-class women in order for them to earn a little extra money, whilst working from home. However the machines were expensive to buy and the agents who supplied the yarn and bought the output made all the money and the women made little. They were also used in workhouses where children were put to work for no pay other than their lodging. The machines could make stockings or scarves and with practise could make tapered tubes for stockings and socks and could even knit in the heels and toes all in one piece.

This was a fascinating visit which we all enjoyed greatly. We had to drag ourselves away after 3 hours in order to keep our appointment at the White Horse pub at the end of the street, which served some very nice food and drink with no complaints that we were over 30mins late arriving.

Previous trips