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24 September 2014

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A history of the silk weaving industry in Coventry

Cash's history.  History of the silk industry in Coventry
Read the history of the silk weaving industry in Coventry and test your knowledge to win a Cash's framed embroidery for Christmas.
Read about the silk weaving industry in Coventry and about how Cash's put the city on the map during the Industrial Revolution.

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This feature explores the history of the silk weaving industry in Coventry and the role that Cash's played in putting Coventry on the map during the Industrial Revolution.

Silk weaving industry - roots in Coventry
Cash's (UK) is now known as one of the UK's quality weavers.

But it was the Quaker brothers in Coventry last century who started the company.

John and Joseph Cash were sons of a wealthy stuff-merchant. They began production of silk ribbons in the early 1840s.

At this time Coventry was already famous for its silk weaving.

Skilled work force
A Cash's Topshop in Coventry at the turn of the century.
Skilled jacquard weavers called Huguenots who were escaping persecution in Europe had settled there and soon thousands of local people were employed in the cottage industry.

Workers owned their own jacquard looms and the Cashs, like other merchants, distributed the silk for them to weave in their homes. A fixed price was paid for each finished piece.

Pioneers of the industry
 Cash's history picture
A woman dressed in Cash's silk at the turn of the century.
The brothers Cash fast outgrew this system and instead became factory masters.

They were among the first in Coventry, pioneers of a more enlightened approach to employment. Soon, they planned to build a 'halfway house' which would allow their workers the independence of the old outworker methods while they themselves controlled output.

In 1857, work began on a site at Kingfield which Cash's (UK) was to occupy for the next 138 years. Above rows of weavers' cottages, the brothers created an upper storey with well-lit work areas housing jacquard looms powered by a central beam engine.

These were the famous Cash's Topshops. And the prizewinning silk ribbons woven there were used on the prettiest gowns, to the delight of fashionable society ladies.

The Free Trade Bill
 Coventry canal
Alongside the Coventry Canal today. Many of the original Topshops and cottages are now flats.
The Free Trade Bill of 1860 allowed continental ribbons to flood the English market and many established Coventry firms collapsed.

But Cash's didn't. The brothers responded by switching production to narrow frillings, Victorian silk commemoratives and later to woven labels with which garment manufacturers.

Woven name tags
Then came the development that would make the name of Cash's (UK) famous.

It was in the 1870s that the first Cash's woven nametape rattled off the jacquard looms. Since then successive generations of school children have come to rely on this method of identification.

In January 1964, Cash's (UK) was appointed 'Manufacturers of Woven Name Tapes to Her Majesty the Queen.'

Today, as the sole survivor of those historic Coventry weavers, Cash's combines its weaving heritage with the latest developments in computerized technology.

The name goes a long way
Today Cash's (UK) is an international operation.

From its headquarters and manufacturing base in the Heart of England, the company's woven products are sold worldwide.

In Australia, a sister company manufactures a complete range of woven products.

150 years after those Quaker brothers founded their company, Cash's the Weavers of Coventry still leads the way.

Win a Cash's framed embroidery
You can now test your knowledge in our pop-up quiz.

Just follow the link on the left to the competition to be in with a chance to win the beautiful framed embroidery of a robin, just in time for Christmas.

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