Braintree District Museum holds a small collection of textiles, fabric samples, photographs, printing blocks and company records from the silk weaving firm of Warner & Sons. The museum is also privileged to have a Coggeshall Velvet Loom that was restored by a worker from Warner’s for the 1938 Essex Show held in Braintree.
The firm was founded in 1870 by Benjamin Warner, a Jacquard engineer, who had carried the family business on from descendant William Warner, a scarlet dyer. Known under several different names, such as Warner & Ramm, the silk firm was not formerly known as Warner & Son until 1891 when Benjamin was joined in the business by his sons Alfred and Frank.
Warner & Sons had a reputation for producing high-class furnishing silks largely in traditional designs of the 15th to 18th century. The firm also became known for buying designs from freelance designers to create new patterns with the tradition of experimentation. Among some of these designers were Arthur Silver, Theo Moorman, Marion Dorn, Sue Parmer and Alec Hunter who now has a local secondary school named after him.
Whilst located in London Warner & Sons in began weaving for Royalty in1880, and this trend continued once the firm moved to Braintree. First in 1902 for the Coronation of King Edward VII, the firm then designed silks for the Coronations of 1911, 1937 and 1953 as well as other Royal occasions. At Braintree District Museum it is possible to see some of the Royal robe fabric samples, in particular a sample of hand-woven silk damask used for the chair of estate and throne for the Coronation of Elizabeth II on 2nd June 1953.
In 1895 Warner & Sons bought out the business and premises of Daniel Walters & Sons at the New Mills in Braintree (next to Pound End Mill). The weaving firm remained in Braintree, expanding to other areas until it closed on 31st March 1990. Warner & Sons for over 100 years was known and loved for its high quality velvets, silks and fabrics.
An enormous collection of fabric samples, paper designs and documents were first organised into an Archive by John Tibbitts, Frank Warner’s grandson. Today it is now possible to view some of this marvelous collection not only at Braintree Museum but also at the New Mills where the Warner Textile Archive is located and contains over 100,000 items.
For more information on our sister museum – the Warner Textile Archive – please visit their website at: http://www.warnertextilearchive.co.uk/
Telephone number: 01376 557741