Silk production has been an important industry in Britain since the C15th.

    • The earliest centres of silk weaving were Coventry, Norwich, Canterbury and Spitalfields in London.
    • It was considered to be so important to the economy, that in 1455 an act of parliament was introduced that would protect the silk industry from foreign competition
    • Many of the 50,000 French Hugenots who fled France in the late 1600’s, were silk weavers who settled in Spitalfields in London
    • It is estimated that, at the beginning of the C19th there were up to 30,000 silk weavers in London’s East End

Putting that last figure into context, an estimate for the population of London in 1801 is about one million people and that includes children and the elderly, so maybe as many as 5% of the population were silk weavers.

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Search the collections at the Victoria and Albert Museum to see examples of early silks