Wednesday, June 8, 2016

A Glimpse of Lace Trim

Lace made at Broadlands
In 1827, Nunn's Lace Factory * was opened on the Isle of Wight. The factory was placed in Staples, Newport, a remote location, to keep its machinery that made fine French Blonde lace from prying eyes.

Pink silk lace dress
Queen Victoria wore
This factory located in what is Broadlands House today was one of the largest employers on the Island. The factory made a profit for some years. Queen Victoria and other ladies of the court were among its customers.

The lace it produced was as fine as a spider web and expensive but when tastes in fashion changed the factory lost business. By 1870, William Henry Nunn retired and having no son to leave the factory to, the business closed.

This left 200 men, women, boys and girls without a means of support.

In 1880 the old factory was used by a charitable establishment for 40 “poor spinsters and widow ladies who had fallen on hard times.” This charity also trained young working class girls as servants to be placed in positions around Newport.

Tragically one of these girls was killed at Broadlands in a fire in January of 1904. Alice Barton was 14 years old when she was left alone in the matron’s sitting room. She stood on a fender near the fireplace to reach some papers when an ember from the fire dropped on her dress.

The fabric on her dress quickly ignited. Alice suffered severe burns and she died.

The charity closed in the 1930s and in 1949 Broadlands was bought by England’s Ministry of Labour.

Broadlands House today.
Ghosts do not always appear at opportune times. Linzi Mathews would agree with this statement. In 1982, Linzi worked for the Department of Health and Social Security at Broadlands House.

One afternoon as she sat on the toilet in the first floor ladies room she saw a foot appear at the bottom of the door. But the door that enclosed her stall went all the way to the floor. It was if someone was walking right through it.

The small foot was wearing an old-fashioned shoe, pointed, grey in color and decorated with buttons. Above the shoe she could see a lace-trimmed petticoat.

She sat frozen too scared to open the door and see what was on the other side. Seconds later, she watched as the shoe vanished. Gathering her wits she opened the door but no one else was in the room despite the fact she still felt a presence.

When Linzi mentioned this encounter to her coworkers she was told that the Broadlands ghost had been seen, heard and even smelled over the years.

A strong odor of toast often accompanied appearances by this ghost. Staff members told her they often heard footsteps in the upper empty rooms late in the afternoon.

Knocking sounds and furniture being moved about was also heard on the top landing of the Broadlands House.

So who was the ghost that Linzi saw? Some feel it was Alice Barton who died in the fire, or maybe it was another distressed young women fallen on hard times that stayed at the house.

Linzi still wonders if the lace trim she saw was made at Broadlands when it was the 1800s Isle of Wight lace factory.

Traverse warp
* J. Brown and George Freeman invented the lace making machinery—known as a traverse warp, they agreed to take a banker’s son—W. H. Nunn on as a partner with his father’s support who was a Nottingham banker.

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