The group of volunteers celebrating 25 years of championing textile heritage in the Stroud valleys

Dunkirk Mill at Nailsworth. Looked after by the Stroudwater Textile Trust, the trust are celebrating their 25th anniversary for 2024.
-Credit: (Image: Stroudwater Textile Trust)

In one part of Gloucestershire you may be very familiar with the beauty of the Stroud valleys. Five valleys in total including Chalford, Nailsworth, Painswick, Ruscombe and Slad - each have a story to tell, including the very many mills you can spot.

History and heritage matters a great deal when it comes to mills dotted close to the town, and in 2024 a group of committed volunteers who have a keen interest in promoting the lively textile culture Stroud offers, are celebrating a major milestone.

The 25th anniversary of the Stroudwater Textile Trust involves volunteers looking after a living history, where three main sites include Dunkirk Mill as their flagship museum at Nailsworth, Gigg Mill on the Horsley brook at a spot where the stream plunges into the Nailsworth Valley too and in Chalford, St Mary's Mill has a proud industrial past.

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While registration to the trust did exist in the 1980s, it was 1999 when more people began to come together with a keen interest in textile production and history, or textile art and craft. Wanting to promote awareness of the woollen industry in the Stroud valleys and celebrate contemporary textiles is exactly what the Trust does explains Trevor Ford.

As chair of the Trust now for three years, Trevor says the anniversary "is a very important time, and a time of change because we are becoming far more involved with the community, lots of new people and minority groups (such as the Ukrainian community who have made their home in Stroud). One of our responsibilities is to explain to people in Stroud what the place is all about, its history, relevance and link to their own lives."

Inside Gigg Mill where you can witness hand-weaving
Inside Gigg Mill where you can witness hand-weaving -Credit:Stroudwater Textile Trust

Explaining why Stroud is here through industry is key to the conversation where 50 years ago it was true that you could witness many enormous mills dotted among the landscape, as trustee and founder member Ian Mackintosh says.

"Stroud was an internationally important place and it is important to remember a lot of people who contributed to Stroud's textile past. Appreciating those who worked in the industry is also something we have communicated with schools."

Saving machinery and celebrating the achievements of Stroud exporting its trade to many global countries is worth talking about, a part of Gloucestershire that dressed the British Army and the late Duke of Edinburgh married Queen Elizabeth II in cloth made from the Stroud valleys.

Jane Ford showing schoolchildren the working practices inside Dunkirk Mill Museum
Jane Ford showing schoolchildren the working practices inside Dunkirk Mill Museum -Credit:Stroudwater Textile Trust

Another trustee who enjoys volunteering is Jane Ford, another founder member of the Trust. A 25th anniversary "is wonderful as a continuation to showcase tradition. Textiles was a declining industry but to keep a thread going is important and from a craft perspective such as handspinning, it makes you feel a part of Stroud's story

A growing membership, you can find out more about the Stroudwater Textile Trust here.