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Pollards of Beeston

Text & Photographs
© Ernest Pollard - 2006-2007

Page Design
© David Hallam - 2007

Pollards of Beeston: a century of lacemaking - by Ernest Pollard

This story was first published as a booklet in 2006. Its importance as a record of lace making in Beeston cannot be overstated, telling as it does the story of four generations of Pollards, lace makers and their factory, Swiss Mills. The book was a cooperative effort by the five surviving children of John Pollard, the last of the family to make lace in Beeston, with Ernest Pollard the nominal author. They were able to draw on a body of family memories and a unique archive of family and factory papers, photographs, wages books, lace pattern books and ledgers.

It described the early growth of the factory, which included two strikes, something of the process of lace making, its marketing and its workers - including designers, draughtsmen, improvers, card-punchers, twisthands, threaders, jackers off and menders. Finally, it described the slow and inevitable decline of the factory, and indeed of the lace trade, a victim of changes in fashion, the depressions of the 1920s and 1930s, and two World Wars.

That story is now being released, through this site, to members of a wider audience of family and local historians. It is believed that this story - of one enterprising family, operating so close to the centre of the industry through the height of its prosperity - will be of immense help in the understanding of their own families and their community.

Pollard book

Foreword by the authors : Our aim is to tell the story of four generations of Pollards, lace makers in Beeston. We hope that this history of a family firm will help to show the ways in which individuals responded to the opportunities and problems created by the fluctuating fortunes of the lace industry. In many ways, as will be seen, the history of the firm encapsulates the wider history of machine lace making.

We are especially grateful to Sheila Mason for her advice, comments on the text and for making available transcripts of her conversations with our father John Pollard, in the early 1980s. We are very fortunate to have benefited from her extensive knowledge of the Nottingham lace industry. We also thank Professor Stanley Chapman who first encouraged us to write this history, Stephen Wallwork for his help many years ago, John Harlow, and Duncan Redpath, a grandson of John Pollard, who designed the booklet cover (shown left). Any errors are, of course, our own responsibility.

Ernest Pollard is the nominal author, but the story is a joint enterprise with Arthur Pollard, Janet Chapman, Mary Young and Jenifer Redpath, the surviving children of John Pollard, the last of the Pollard lace makers. We dedicate this brief history to our father and mother, John and Hilda, and to our brother John.

John Pollard, the last of the family to make lace , saw the factory at its peak in his boyhood in the early 1900s, but spent most of his working life during the decline of the trade. He oversaw the sale of machines in the 1950s and the eventual sale of the factory. Much of the complex was destroyed in a spectacular fire in 1984, which many Beeston people will remember. John died in 1997, aged 97; his long life and knowledge of lace made him an invaluable source for Sheila Masonís "Nottingham Lace 1760s to 1950s", by far the most complete history of the factory industry.

Now, speaking of this Pollard story, Sheila Mason has said, "What a fantastic achievement - a comprehensive, but intimately detailed history of an important family in the East Midlands most prominent industry."

The text and illustrations are also available for your library in the form of a beautifully produced 40 page booklet. This limited edition is available from Ernest Pollard, priced at £5 including post and packing in the UK, ( £5.50 to Europe and £6.00 elsewhere in the world) All proceeds, excluding p&p, will be donated to Ataxia UK

You can order here now and pay using the security and convenience of PayPal - even if you do not have a PayPal account Buy Now

Alternately, if you wish, you may contact the author at: lace@pollardweb.com to ask for details of how you can pay by cheque.
Mr Pollard would be happy to check the Wages Books for particular names for anyone whose ancestors worked at Pollards between the years 1876-1885 or 1891-1899 - the periods for which the records survive. Please bear in mind that only a surname is usually given in the books.