While researching an article for Selvedge magazine, earlier this year I visited the Coventry firm of Benton and Johnson, one of the last metal thread manufacturers in the UK. If you’ve ever marvelled at the intricacies of gold work embroidery, this is how they make the threads that it’s worked with. These days gold and silver threads and bullion are used for ceremonial uniforms, epaulets and chairs in the Kremlin apparently. While much work is now done with cheap imports, this is the real, hand-crafted, McCoy.
There are only three people left at this factory, at least two of them nearing retirement. There was another factory in Sussex, but the craftsman there is retiring this year. That’s why metal threads feature in the Radcliffe Red List of Endangered crafts, published by the Heritage Craft Association this year. Up there with the Pandas on the endangered list are crafts such as saw and vellum making. Already dead as the dodo are Gold beating, the making of sieves and riddles, cricket balls and lacrosse sticks.
The article features in this month’s issue of Selvedge Magazine, available here.