This is the last surviving loom from the days of the Norwich textile industry. It dates from the middle of the 19th century, when thousands like this were in use in weavers’ homes, workshops and factories across the city. At the top, mounted on the ‘castle’ is a Jacquard mechanism. This machine controls the way a pattern is produced on the fabric and made the weaving of complicated patterns easier. It’s a hand-loom: the weaver provides the hand power to shoot the shuttle across the loom and uses a foot pedal to advance the mechanism. The Jacquard mechanism on this loom is by DeVoge of Manchester and was made about 1870. Jacquard’s invention is said to be ‘ the first computer’ as it based on a binary system using holes punched in card sets which are ‘read’ as lift, or lift the warp thread messages. The punched cards rotate on the cylinder controlling the needles and hooks that connect via the harness to the warp threads. These are to be raised or lowered row by row to allow the shuttle to pass through and produce a patterned cloth. The loom was thought to have been rescued from Hardy and Hinde’s and was in working order in the early days of the Bridewell Museum.
Gradually the linen harness for silk weaving decayed. In 2012 the loom has been restored and its traditional harness rebuilt to allow the typical ‘Norwich’ fabrics to be woven in the museum. The work was carried out by Richard Humphries MBE FRSA, specialist silk and worsted weaver. The last fabric woven on this loom was a complicated patterned silk with a double warp. It is now set up to weave a cloth representative of the earlier Norwich textiles. The stripe warp shows the Norwich speciality of fancy stripes designed to fit the floral Jacquard pattern. In adapting the loom for use the original reed (in the drop box baton) has been replaced.