The Old Weavers House takes its name from the influx of Flemish and Huguenot weavers who settled in the area after fleeing from religious persecution during the 16th and 17th centuries. Elizabeth I granted the Flemish weavers the right to establish their businesses in Canterbury, and they are known to have used this and other similar buildings nearby.
THE WEAVERS OF CANTERBURY.
By C. W. Beck.
The old home of the Canterbury Weavers at Canterbury, Kent, is quaintly beautiful. It dates back possibly to the fifteenth century, although, of course, restorers have since done their best with it. Nevertheless, it is still lovely. Stand near it on a moon-light night, and drink in the picturesqueness of the dark masses of black shadow and reflection, the bright masses of cold light-there is no corner more charming in Nuremberg or Rothenberg. The sluggish waters of the Stour flow beneath and the air is tremulous with the chiming of bells from many a steeple.
The persecution of the Protestants by the Duke of Alva, under Phillip II. of Spain, in Flanders, which began during the reign of King Edward VI., gave new life to trade in England by the communication of paper, silk, woollen, and other manufactures. The “Walloons” left Flanders and fled to England from the cruelties inflicted on them on account of their religion. On the accession of Queen Elizabeth and the establishment of the Protestant religion they came over in bodies and were welcomed by the Queen, who granted them her protection.
Those who were weavers in fine silk chose Canterbury for their habitation, where they might have the benefit of the river Stour. and easy communication with the metropolis. Those who were permitted to settle in Canter-bury consisted only of eighteen housekeepers. They sent a petition to the Mayor and alder-men of Canterbury for the grant of certain privileges for their convenience and protection. The Queen, in 1561, granted them the Undercroft of the Cathedral Church, as a place of worship. They increased as persecution abroad grew, and in 1676 Charles II. granted them a charter. This enabled them to be-come a company by the name of the Master, Wardens, Assistants, and Fellowships of Weavers, John Six becoming their first Master.
Nearing 1800 the silk weaving manufacture of Canterbury greatly decayed, the most part being removed to Spitalfields in London. An ingenious and public spirited manufacturer of Canterbury, John Callaway, in 1787 invented a beautiful new article of fabric called “Canterbury muslins.” He combined the old weaving with the inventions of Sir Richard Ark-wright.
To-day the old weaving Industry is represented by the many gabled building overhanging one branch of the Stour, where visitors may see something of the old home weaving still carried on, and may rejoice in a delightful old house, one of the most picturesque of its kind remaining. The window boxes give a pleasant bit of colour to the view of those who pause on the Westgate bridge and look down the stream.
Sydney Morning Herald, 11 June 1938
The Weavers of Canterbury whose old house was described and illustrated in the ‘Herald” by C W Beck have recently abandoned the old place for a modern shop, not far from the Westgate Bridge. The present weavers numbering about forty, are descendants of the original weavers. They are very consolvatlve, and do not mix with the other citizens of Canterbury.
Sydney Morning Herald, 18 June 1938