Heritage Week event urges public to 'Bring Out Your Lace'

Limerick Museum and Archives will host a public event later this month to help people discover if they own a precious piece of Limerick’s history and heritage.

Bring Out Your Lace’, which takes place in City Hall on Tuesday 25 August as part of National Heritage Week 2015, will have experts on hand to identify whether lace items presented on the day are authentic pieces of Limerick Lace.

Limerick Lace is regarded as one of the greatest craft industries in Irish history and is among the most famous and beautiful laces in the world. At its peak in the early 1850s, an estimated 1,800 people were employed in Limerick City making lace. Over many decades, it produced a large output of lace products, from dresses, christening shawls and ecclesiastical robes to handkerchiefs and doilies.

Nora Finnegan, Limerick Lace expert and founder of the Kenmare Lace class, and textile conservator Cliodna Devitt will be attend ‘Bring Out Your Lace’ to provide expert advice and information to members of the public.

"Limerick Museum and Archives aims to document where lace is held and to help the owners of lace to care for it," explained Jacqui Hayes, Limerick Archivist. "We hope that each piece of lace will be professionally photographed and the owner will also get some advice on the type of lace and some tips on how to care for it."

"For those who simply are interested in lace but don’t own any pieces, they are still welcome to visit our open day where they will find lots to interest to them. There will be lace making demonstrations and lace experts available to talk about lace. Our ‘Amazing Lace also remains open at Limerick Museum in City Hall," added Ms. Hayes.

Ms. Hayes said Limerick Lace was once a major industry in Limerick and the city gave its name to a particular type of lace which was produced in many parts of Ireland.

She continued: "Limerick Lace is made by hand embroidering onto machine-made net.  The result is a very delicate, flowing style.  Lace making required a great deal of skill and the tiny stitches meant it was a slow process to create the exquisite lace.  Lace was often used in church garments and was highly fashionable in the nineteenth and early twentieth century."

For more visit www.limericklace.ie/bring-out-your-lace.

About Limerick Lace

Limerick lace is a specific class of lace which evolved from the invention of machine made net in 1808. Limerick lace is a form of hand embroidery on machine made net and is a 'mixed lace' rather than a ‘true lace’, which is entirely handmade. Limerick lace comes in two forms: tambour lace is made by stretching a net over a circular frame like a tambourine and drawing threads through it with a hook and needlerun lace is made by using a needle to embroider on a net background.

Limerick lace industry was established in 1829 when Charles Walker, an English businessman selected a premises in Mount Kennett, Limerick city as the location for a lace factory. Limerick lace was produced mainly in factories for the first forty years of its existence. Between the 1830s and 1860s, several lace factories operated in Limerick, mainly in Clare Street and Glentworth Street. It was also made in Cannock’s and Todd’s department stores.

In the 1840s, Limerick lace making was introduced to a number of convents and convent-run institutions, both in Limerick and elsewhere. In 1850, lace making was introduced to the Good Shepherd Convent on Clare Street Limerick, but it was also made in other religious houses based in the city, including the Presentation Convent in Sexton Street and the Mercy Convent at Mount Saint Vincent, on O’Connell Avenue. Limerick lace was disseminated widely throughout Ireland by Catholic religious sisters anxious to provide employment at the time of the Famine. They introduced it to several other convents including religious houses in Youghal, Kinsale, Dunmore East, Cahirciveen, and Kenmare.

In the 1860s, the spread of machine made lace from Nottingham brought about the collapse of large scale factory-based lace making in Limerick and many of the lace makers lost in their jobs. In the 1880s, Limerick lace underwent a significant revival due to the activities of Florence Vere O’Brien, an English lady who married into the O’Brien family of Dromoland Castle. She began to employ several former factory workers to make lace for her in their own homes, which she then sold. In 1893, she established a Limerick lace school in George’s (now O’Connell) Street which taught skills, provided workrooms and was used as depots where the lace was sold. After their training was completed, the former pupils usually became lace workers, working at home and using the school as their depot.

In 1904, Mrs Maude Kearney, a daughter of James Hodkinson, founder of the famous firm of specialists in church decoration in Henry Street, Limerick, established a lace making business which she called the Thomond Lace Industry. Based in Thomondgate, Thomond Lace employed between fifty and eighty workers at the height of its success. After the Second World War Limerick lace declined rapidly but the tradition is continued by a number of individual lace makers and lace classes.

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