Speaker Barry makes a point about needles

MEETINGS of Morpeth Stobhillgate Townswomen’s Guild have resumed after the summer break and it was nice to see everyone again.

Chairman Mrs Rutherford introduced guest speaker Barry Mead, who is curator of the Woodhorn Museum but spoke to members about a previous job as curator of the Forgemill Needle Museum in Redditch, Worcestershire.

It was a fascinating insight into the production of all types of needles beginning with the first factory opened in 1629, although in Redditch they were called knitting pins, not needles, and in the 19th century in the days of the Empire, they were sold all over the world.

Today, most needles are still made in the village of Studley near Redditch.

It was a long process involving children, men and women and some of the jobs were very dangerous, such as pointing – an expert could point 10,000 needles per hour. It was highly paid, a guinea a day, but the pointers suffered lung diseases from dust with most not living beyond 40.

In 1851, at Washford Needle Mill, the hours worked were 6am to 7pm in summer and 7am to 8pm in winter. Workers got half an hour for breakfast, one hour for dinner and half an hour for tea.

Charles Dickens visited the area in 1852 and was impressed by the workers and their level of education, ie reading. Water power changed working patterns and of course led to job losses, although one mill, opened in 1730, only closed in 1958.

Mr Mead was warmly thanked by Mrs Churnside. Lastly, members remembered Mrs Rita Carmen, a long-serving Townswoman in St Mary’s then Morpeth Guild, who passed away recently. Our condolences to Dick.

The group’s next meeting is on Thursday, October 11, at St Robert’s Church Hall, Oldgate, from 2pm. Visitors are very welcome.