Friday, 13 May 2011

The Quantock Weavers Loom


In February 2011, thanks to Janet Phillips I was offered a pile of firewood which could possible be a loom with no guarantees that it would work. After borrowing a big truck and strong arms the pile of pieces arrived and I painstakingly tried to work out which end was which. Worse for me as there was no plan and I had no idea what type of loom it was.  It now stands some 6 feet by 6 feet and can weave cloth up to 130cm width and endless length. With Janet's help, the loom has now been restored and is in working order.

The reason why this loom is so significant to the area is because it was especially made for Miss Norah Biddulph by Gunnar Anderson in about 1933, in Sweden and imported to England by her. She and Miss Emily Dickenson formed the Quantock Weavers and lived in Over Stowey. The Quantock Weavers were at the forefront of the resurrection of handweaving in Britain in the 1950’s, as I understand it, and instrumental in the establishment of the National Association of Guilds for Weavers,Dyers and Spinners in the UK. Some of Miss Biddulph’s weaving can be seen in the shape of an altar frontal at Wells Cathedral.

After some research I found out that the loom was created to Mr Anderson’s design and as little has changed I was able to order some specific spare parts from the Glimakra Vavstolfabric in the small town of Glimakra in the south of Sweden.

The loom has its provenance stenciled indelibly upon it as it was labeled with the address when it was transported on the Great Western Railway. So you can see that this loom is a piece, albeit a very small piece and a specialized one of local history and it is nice to be able to give it a home in Stogumber.


Loom number 8 has been lovingly called ‘ Norah’ in Miss Biddulph’s memory and was probably one of a series of looms in her workshop. This loom seems to have been destined to weave  all types of twill fabric in all its variations. It may take me a long time to follow in Miss Biddulphs footsteps while loom number 8 teaches me but it is a loom to be respected and I am glad I am its custodian.

4 comments:

  1. I had a similar experience with a loom I bought on eBay. It was listed at an Ashford Jack loom so I downloaded the instructions for this from the Ashford website only to find when it arrived (as a pile of random bits of wood and string) that the loom was actually a Frank Herring Countermarche loom - much more complicated and with no instructions available anywhere! My daughter and I spent a long time with the jigsaw puzzle of bits, putting it together, taking it apart again, standing back and looking to see if it looked right, putting it back together again again,... Finally I had a loom that works and I know all about how it works and how it fits together now, that's for sure. Looking forward to reading your experiences in weaving.

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  2. Hello Ann, My name is Jane Caldwell and I live in Dublin. Norah Biddulph was my great aunt, my grandmother was Kathleen Biddulph who was disowned by her family when she married my grandfather!. I was clearing out a room the other day when i found a little booklet called, Woven From A Stone by Hubert Fox, it is signed by Gladys dickinson and Norah Biddulph,I am sure you have a copy of it. I googled quantock weavers and was delighted to see that you have restored her loom. I thought you might be interested. I tried to contact you through your web site but it doesn't seem to work.

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  3. Hello Jane, lovely to make a connection this way to your great aunt. I am currently not able to weave post stroke but am hoping to get back to it asap. I know of the existence of the book although do not have a copy as it is out of print. Managed to get some local info via the history society but am sure there will be more to find out. I bought a postcard with both ladies on which I keep with the loom. You can contact me on journey dot bc at mac dot com

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  4. Hi Ann, my name is Nicola Jennings and I also live in Dublin. Norah Biddulph was a cousin of my grandmother's [Amy Biddulph]. I remember visiting Kathleen as a child in Killyon Manor. I have known about the Quantock Weavers for a long time and was delighted to read about the restoration of the loom, and more of Norah's story.

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