The Foxearth and District Local History Society

The Hysterical Hystorian

For occasional articles, snippets and announcements by the Resident Historians. (Andrew Clarke and GH) These articles are presented in date order, but if you explore the back-catalogue, you may find much of interest. Historical information doesn't really go out of date! Any member of the F&DLHS may add an entry or make a comment to an existing entry once they have got their userID and password from the Webmaster.

If you'd like to publish any interesting material about the history of East Anglia on the site, then please send an email to the Resident Historians at Andrew.Clarke@Foxearth.org.uk and we'll add it.

Family Historians have their own area on the site, so look there if your main interest is in tracing your family history.

Friday, December 10, 2004

The Flax Ladies



Glemsford Flax Factory Ladies
c. 1916

I'm fascinated by the group photo of the Glemsford Flax Factory staff. (the full detailed photograph is on the site). These ladies, with their striking features, gaze at the camera with a sullen dignity; bringing to mind Alexander Solzhenitsyn's wonderful phrase..

"The ferocious desire to appear happy at all times humiliates and undermines humanity. ...the inertia of accumulated suffering had freed us of that joyful air. In the face of the camera, our faces remain the way they are in real life -downcast."

The photograph was, we think, taken during the first world war, when Flax production was subsidised by the government. As always with group photographs, I ache to discover who they all were. We've identified a few; Miss Grimwood, Vin Prentice, M Shinn, R Shinn in the back row, and Mrs Clarke, Mrs Sparham and Mary Rampling in the front row.

The photograph hung in the doctor's surgery for a while, though I can think of cheerier scenes to choose.

The whole subject of the Flax industry is fascinating. It sustained Glemsford through a period of industrial and agricultural decline; there are still people around who worked in the Flax factories and have fascinating memories. It is the perfect subject of study for a local historian.

1 Comments:

Blogger Steve Clarke said...

I couldn't agree more with Andrew's final comment that here is a subject ripe for investigation and publication.
Before I left the area, I had grand schemes to research the topic myself, and even started with a few interviews and searches. This was prompted by some contact with the daughhter of the last (?) manager of the British Flax factory on the Lower Road, where Avent is now.
One of the features of the local flax industry seems to have been its association with wartime - bandages and the like, I suppose - and the Second World War brought in members of the Land Army to assist specifically with the production of flax. There are photos of the workforce, and there is, in the Museum of East Anglian Life, a painting (apparently of the Glemsford operation) which conveys the spirit of wartime co-operation and community in, let's say, a "propagandist" way.

There may just be some around who were such "Land Girls", who could be persuaded to take part in a research project.

Just a thought.

4:32 pm  

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