Friday, 30 July 2010

60 Years of Hampshire Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers

Special article put together by Dawn Dunlop for the Hampshire Weavers, Spinners, and Dyers Guild's Jubilation Exhibition. The information in this article is collated from documents from  Hampshire WSD Guild Archives.

As a member of the Hampshire Guild of just 13 months, it has been very interesting looking through the archive at photographs, and slides and minutes books from the last 60 years. It certainly seems as though the guild has been very active over the years, and successful in bringing the skills to the public.
There has been involvement in many exhibitions since its early years and this is set to continue with the Jubilation exhibition in Winchester this year. The Guild has attended many shows too including the Romsey show for many years where members demonstrate their skills, display items they have made and introduce visitors to the world of weaving, spinning and dyeing. These shows are a great way to showcase the work of the Guild and its members.
Other major events over the years have included the Art for Everyone project (A4E), Fibre Fun and community events such as the dyeing day at Hawthorn Urban Wildlife Centre on Southampton Common. Another large project was the weaving of the Altar cloth for St Swithuns which will be on display at the exhibition in August.

[caption id="attachment_2108" align="aligncenter" width="498" caption="Woven Altar cloth for St Swithuns Church (from Hampshire WSD Guild Archives)"][/caption]

Hampshire Guild has great success in sharing their knowledge and skills within the community and especially with children who seem to love having a go at these crafts. Days such as A4E, fibre fun and the weaving afternoons at Hilliers have all been successful in introducing children to the crafts. The Guilds open day in September also attracts a good turn-out of members of the public. A real success story of Hampshire Guild has been the inception of the Junior Guild (see article later in newsletter), who meet in holidays and always seem to have so much fun learning from members of the Guild. The future certainly is bright and I personally look forward to being involved with the Guild for many years to come.
Dawn Dunlop, Guild Newsletter Editor

The day it all began, 15th July 1950

Many Weavers, Spinners and Dyers resided in Hampshire and an idea was born that a Hampshire Guild should be formed. Students from the Schools of Art in Winchester and Southampton were invited to an inaugural meeting at “Sandy Shoot” Burley, the home of Mrs Eileen Richards in the New Forest on July 15th 1950. In spite of the shocking weather, 31 attended the meeting bringing samples of weaving, spinning and dyeing.
Miss Hester Viney, Hon Sec of the Dorset Guild, brought messages of goodwill and assurances of help from the Guild. After some discussion a temporary committee was formed. Mrs Hodgson Chairman, Mrs E Richards Hon Sec, H.Thurston-Dale Hon Treasurer; Miss R Allen, Miss Aylivin County Art Advisor, Col A J Harris, Miss A Hendson, Mrs Hughes and Miss O Spencer-Smith. The subscription was 5/- per annum. The first meeting was held at the Southampton College of Art where Miss R Allen was Weaving Tutor, the second was held at Winchester School of Art and these were the venues for some time. Meetings were quarterly, and gradually membership increased and in 1952, at the AGM, Miss O Spencer-Smith was elected chairman and Mrs Ray Hon Sec.
1953 being Coronation Year, the Guild decided to have a four day Exhibition and Sale at the Southern County Show on Southsea Common. This was a great venture as little money was available, however a marquee was ordered and insurance arranged. Woven articles flooded in to the Selection Committee - stoles and scarves, lengths of tweed, cushion covers, table mats, bags and rugs. Weaving and Spinning demonstrations were arranged for stated times and a rota of Stewards drawn up for the four days. A week before the Show opened, a letter was received from the Duchess of Gloucesters Lady in Waiting stating the Duke and Duchess wished to visit the Exhibition. The Royal Visitors were very interested in the Exhibits and the spinning of flax by Miss Cox. The Duchess purchased a child’s skirt and accepted a knitting bag woven by a member of the Guild. The Duke and Duchess were received by Miss O Spencer-Smith and Brigadier Lucey who had served under the Duke.

Lady Cooper from Hursley was the Duchess’s Lady in Waiting, she was most interested in the exhibits and promised to return the next day, which she did and bought £100 worth of goods. The then Duke of Wellington was with the Duke of Gloucester and was most interested in the display of hand-woven tweeds. He asked me to put him in touch with a tweed weaver. I informed Miss O Spencer-Smith and she sent him some samples, he duly ordered tweed for three suits and wrote of his satisfaction in the material also that his tailor enjoyed making up such excellent cloth. The public were most interested in the demonstrations and Exhibits, at the end of the show the expenses were covered and a tired but happy Committee were glad the effort had been made.
Exhibitions and Sales were held at the Avenue Hall Southampton, the Romsey Show, Milner Hall Winchester, the New Forest Show and Southampton Show.
Gradually the membership declined. The School of Arts were no longer able to accommodate the Guild for meetings so a few were held at the Red Triangle Club Winchester and Portsmouth College of Art and the Winchester Centre.

[caption id="attachment_2106" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="AGM Garden picture from the archive (from Hampshire WSD Guild Archives)"][/caption]

The AGM during Miss O Spencer-Smith regime was always held in her garden at High Mead Bursledon during June. It was a pleasant social occasion, after the business was finished, and the speaker also, tea was served by Burseldon WI. Miss O Spencer-Smith allowed members to visit her workroom in the garden.
Membership gradually increased and good work was done. The Guild was fortunate having Miss A Hindson, Miss Allen and Miss Aylivin who gave good advice and the Guild had a name of good work.

Words by Margaret Ray from the Guild Archives

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