Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Percy Manning Spinning Wheels

Percy Manning was an antiquarian and folklorist who spent much of his adult life around Oxfordshire. Manning's centenary celebrations occur in 2017 so in preparation for that I have done some research on some of the objects in his collection.

Along with 143 objects donated to the Pitt Rivers Museum, Manning donated objects to the Ashmolean Museum and his archives are in the Bodleian Library. Percy Manning gave three spinning wheels to the Pitt Rivers Museum.  Two upright spinning wheels from Great Tew in Oxfordshire and a portable spinning wheel from an unknown location.  Spinning wheels increase production of thread 10 fold compared to hand spinning with a distaff.

© Pitt Rivers Museum
Spinning wheel 1911.29.14 (left) 
This vertical spinning wheel is known as a ‘castle’ style.  The spinning wheel has two flyers so using two hands you can spin two threads at the same time.  This wheel would have been used to spin linen.  The wheel is turned with a foot treadle.  This spinning wheel is Flemish in style but could have been used anywhere.

Spinning wheel 1911.29.15 (below) 
The spinning wheel has a horizontal bed and is known as a ‘saxon’ type.  The bent rim wheel turns one flyer.  This wheel would spin fine thread.  This spinning wheel is typically English in style.

The two large spinning wheels came from Great Tew.  Great Tew is a rural village about 16 miles from Oxford.  Manning was interested in the village of Great Tew.  On a farm close to the village are the remains of a Roman settlement.  Manning kept articles about the Roman remains found at Beaconsfield Farm.  Tessellated pavements were found as early as 1810.  Manning also got information from Mr Matthew Boulton, the owner of Great Tew estate.  The village was an estate village with most of the population tenant farmers and craftspeople.  The village contains an exceptionally large number of listed buildings, built, rebuilt and renovated by a succession of landlords, and has a reputation as a picturesque village.

© Pitt Rivers Museum
© Pitt Rivers Museum

Spinning wheel 1911.29.16 (right). The girdle or belt spinning wheel is a working spinning wheel.  The small size means that the tool could be tucked into a belt when being used.  The spinner turns the handle on the right hand side.  This turns the cog, which turns the flyer.  The material ready to be made into thread is held in the distaff.  James Webster of Salop was a manufacturer of this type of wheel.  The Webster family were clock makers.

For more information on spinning see Spinning Wheels, Spinners and Spinning by Patricia Baines, published London 1977.

Thanks to Alan Raistrik, independent scholar, for information provided.

Madeleine Ding
Assistant Curator

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