The historic Sunny Bank Mills Museum and Archive, one of the most significant and substantial woven textile archives in the UK, is launching an exciting programme of speaking events.

This programme, called Weaving Voices, follows a £10,000 grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The Museum and Archive is an integral part of the award-winning Sunny Bank Mills complex in Farsley, near Leeds. The Mills, which were originally built in 1829, have been in the Gaunt family for six generations and are currently owned and managed by cousins William and John.

The programme starts at 2.00pm this Saturday (October 14) with a talk by the renowned Yorkshire weaver Agnis Smallwood in the Bobbin Room adjacent to the Museum and Archive at Sunny Bank. Agnis will explain how she uses the Archive as inspiration for her creativity.

Agnis will talk about her practice, her collaborations with Sunny Bank Mills and her passion for sharing her weaving knowledge with others. The format will be a one-hour talk and walk around the Archive with Agnis as she intertwines and makes connections between her work and objects within the Archive. She will also deliver a weaving demonstration explaining how the loom works and the process of weaving, bringing the loom to life.

Heritage director Rachel Moaby explained: “This will be the perfect start to Weaving Voices, our year-long programme which will feature a variety of exciting speakers. All experts in their fields, they will look at specific elements of textile process and the Archive collection, helping to explain objects and their connection to Sunny Bank in new and exciting ways.
“It is important to emphasise that these talks will not just highlight aspects of our precious Archive collection, but they will also illustrate how the collection is used both now and in the future.

The programme will also promote and improve the Museum and Archive’s accessibility for both blind and visually impaired and Deaf visitors. This will include training for staff and volunteers to explain the Collection to blind and visually impaired visitors and provision of BSL interpretation for the talking programme. These will allow us to enhance our ability to share our heritage with wider audiences throughout the project and beyond.

“We are incredibly grateful to the National Lottery Heritage Fund, whose support has allowed us to create Weaving Voices. The Fund has already given us a transformational grant of £40,000, which has enabled us to be much more accessible to the public in a myriad of ways”.

The second Weaving Voices talk will be held on Saturday November 11 at 2.00pm and will be delivered by local historian Irene Froome, who will describe how a man from Farsley, Samuel Marsden, changed the face of the Yorkshire textile industry.

But who was Samuel Marsden? In her talk, entitled One Man and His Sheep, Irene will explain why Marsden was so important to the prosperity of West Yorkshire and outline her discoveries about Samuel’s life, character and career as well as looking at how he revolutionised the textile industry in both West Yorkshire and Australia.

William Gaunt commented: “Once again, we are delighted to be recognised by The National Lottery Heritage Fund. This grant has allowed the Museum and Archive to promote a series of fascinating talks as well as continuing our vital task of making the Archive more accessible and enjoyable for the community of West Yorkshire and beyond.”

The nationally important Sunny Bank Mills Museum and Archive consists of: Fabric records including over 300 guard books containing thousands of textile cuttings; 60,000 lengths of fabric; 8,000 fabric designs; 5,000 wool dyeing recipe cards; 100 leather bound ledgers and cash books; weaving looms; photographs and memorabilia and a library of mill-related books.
If you would like to learn more about the Weaving Voices programme and to find out about its future speakers, please visit