The fortunes of Coventry declined in the first half of the 16th century and were not
seen to rise significantly again until the latter part of the 17th century when silk
ribbon weaving started to become very important. The existence in Coventry of
experienced silk weavers was the catalyst for this rise in fortunes.
At the beginning of the 18th century Daniel Defoe writing in his
book Tour through the whole island of Great Britain wrote:- "Coventry drove a
thriving trade in tammies (a word describing a particular type of silk
weaving) and in the weaving of ribbons"
By 1821 there were 5,000 ribbon weavers in Coventry out of a population of 21,000. By 1841 there were 30,000 weavers in
Coventry working on 3,500 plain and 2228 Jacquard looms. This influx of weavers caused major housing problems because
of the wall that surrounded the city and because the weavers, who were freemen, had no rights over the ring of common land
surrounding the city walls.
The area of Hillfields was created as a settlement outside of the city walls. This occurred in 1828 and Hillfields became the
area for the most skilled craftsmen that Coventry had known. Many factories were set up to manufacture ribbon on a more
commercial basis but there were dissenting voices amongst the craftsmen. Indeed the first factory built to manufacture ribbon
was burnt to the ground by the weavers. In the late 1850's peace was achieved and predominant amongst the peacemakers
were the Cash brothers. Cash's labels continues to this day carrying out the same sort of ribbon and label making that it
Herbert Art Gallery and Museum
. . . Contact Nos: Tel: 01203-832381
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday 10am - 5.30pm ,Sunday 2pm - 5pm
The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum is situated near to the Cathedral and Coventry University (where
I went to school) and has a large collection of Stevengraphs to its credit. However, an appointment
must be made to see most of it.
You can click on most images to see larger images or more information.
We wish to buy Stevengraphs. One at a time or collections. We also seek photos, brochures or any
item of related history.
- Malcolm J Roebuck,
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