Sir Thomas Wardle (26 January 1831 – 3 January 1909) was a British businessman, known for his innovations in silk dyeing and printing on silk. He collaborated with the designer William Morris, who visited his dyeworks in Leek, Staffordshire to learn how to use natural dyes. He was knighted by Queen Victoria for his services to the silk industry.
Wardle was born in Macclesfield, Cheshire, a silk manufacturing town. He was the eldest son of Joshua Wardle, who in 1830 had opened a silk dyeing business near Leek in the Staffordshire Moorlands, south of Macclesfield.
Silk weaving had begun in Leek in the late 17th century and silk dyeing began during the 18th century. Leek became celebrated for its black dyes, in particular a "raven-black" (blue-black) dye. The water of the local River Churnet was agreed to be a key ingredient in this product. Aged about 16 Wardle joined his father's business. In 1872 he bought two dyeworks in the town (Hencroft and Mill Street dyeworks) from Samuel Tatton, a local businessman.
Wardle was interested in tussar silk, a type of wild silk. He became involved in making this silk commercially successful, after George Birdwood, a doctor and naturalist in India, who became known for his book Economic Vegetable Products of the Bombay Presidency, pointed out in 1860 its commercial potential. There was a great supply of tussar silk but it was resistant to dyeing. After much experimentation, Wardle in 1867 was able to treat the fibre, to overcome its resistance to dyes. At the Paris Exhibition of 1878, Wardle exhibited various samples of tussar silk; he was subsequently appointed a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour.
From 1875 to 1877 William Morris, of the Arts and Crafts movement, visited Wardle's dyeworks to experiment with indigo dyeing, and printing with this sort of dye. They became good friends, and remained so. Their aim was to produce a depth of colour with natural dyes, such as they found in Indian textiles. They succeeded in making vegetable dyeing important in the dyeing industry. By 1876 Wardle was printing a range of Morris's designs. At Morris & Co. at Merton Abbey Mills, Morris established his own textile printing while Wardle continued to print Morris's early designs.
Wardle also collaborated with other designers such as Léon-Victor Solon.
In 1885, Wardle accepted a Government invitation to visit Bengal Province (part of the then British Raj in India), to investigate the state there of sericulture; the quality of silk from there was not as good as silk from producers in other countries. He found that a great proportion the silkworms were dying of preventible diseases, and that reeling from cocoons was not done well. He set up training courses for local silk farmers, and for local technicians, and got the dyestuffs more organized; these changes much improved the silk industry in Bengal.
On the same visit he went in 1886 to Kashmir, where silk production was in a poor state. He had ideas for its revival, which on his return home he presented to the government; eventually in 1897 he purchased in Europe large amounts of silk-worm eggs and cocoon-reeling machinery for Kashmir, which revived the silk industry there.
In 1857 he married Elizabeth Wardle, a distant cousin, daughter of Hugh Wardle. They had fourteen children, of whom five sons and four daughters survived to adulthood.Lady Wardle was an accomplished embroiderer, and founded the Leek Embroidery Society. The Society's work was sold in 1880s in a Wardle shop in New Bond Street, London; it was also involved in a full-scale replica of the Bayeux Tapestry. She died at Leek, Staffordshire on 8 September 1902.
Wardle was interested in geology, and became a fellow of the Geological Society of London. He had a collection of Carboniferous Limestone fossils, and wrote about geology, particularly of his local area.
He was active in local church affairs: he was churchwarden of St Edward's Church in Cheddleton, and he wrote some church music.Shortly before his death he donated a new chancel to Warslow church.
Oscar Wilde, in a lecture he gave in Leek in 1884, paid tribute to Thomas Wardle's work.
In 1887 he helped to found the Silk Association of Great Britain and Ireland, of which he was president during his lifetime. He was a fellow of the Chemical Society. He wrote several monographs about silk, and he received a knighthood in 1897 for services to the silk industry. The businesses developed by Wardle in his lifetime continued in Leek, with changes of name, in the twentieth century.
He died in Leek in 1909 and was buried in Cheddleton churchyard.
Wardle's centenary in 2009 was marked by exhibitions in Leek, London's William Morris Gallery (Experiments In Colour),and Manchester's Whitworth Art Gallery.
Leek is a market town and civil parish in the county of Staffordshire, England, on the River Churnet. It is situated about 10 miles (16 km) north east of Stoke-on-Trent. It is an ancient borough and was granted its royal charter in 1214.
The River Churnet is a river in Staffordshire, England. It is a tributary of the River Dove.
Staffordshire Moorlands is a local government district in Staffordshire, England. Its council, Staffordshire Moorlands District Council, is based in Leek and is located between the city of Stoke-on-Trent and the Peak District National Park. The 2001 census recorded the population as 94,489.
The Churnet Valley Railway is a preserved standard gauge heritage railway to the east of Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire, England, that operates along a part of the former North Staffordshire Railway's (NSR) Churnet Valley Line. Regular services travel between the two main stations at Cheddleton and Kingsley and Froghall. There is an intermediate station at Consall. Some trains also head beyond Cheddleton to Leek Brook Junction and on to Ipstones, but Ipstones station is not in use.
Staffordshire Moorlands is a constituency represented in the House of Commons of the UK Parliament since 2010 by Karen Bradley, a Conservative who served as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport between 2016 and 2018, before she became Secretary of State for Northern Ireland from 2018 to 2019. As with all constituencies, the constituency elects one Member of Parliament (MP) by the first past the post system of election at least every five years. This seat has seen a swing to the Conservatives at the past four elections.
Cheadle is a small market town near Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England, with a population of 12,165 as of the 2011 census.
Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. (1861–1875) was a furnishings and decorative arts manufacturer and retailer founded by the artist and designer William Morris with friends from the Pre-Raphaelites. With its successor Morris & Co. (1875–1940) the firm's medieval-inspired aesthetic and respect for hand-craftsmanship and traditional textile arts had a profound influence on the decoration of churches and houses into the early 20th century.
Leek County School Old Boys Football Club is a football club based in Leek, Staffordshire, England. They are currently members of the Staffordshire County Senior League Premier Division and play at Pointon Park.
Merton Abbey Mills is a former textile factory in the parish of Merton in London, England near the site of the medieval Merton Priory, now the home of a variety of businesses, mostly retailers.
Cheddleton is an ancient parish and village in the Staffordshire Moorlands, near to the town of Leek, England.
The Churnet Valley line was one of the three original routes planned and built by the North Staffordshire Railway. Authorised in 1846, the line opened in 1849 and ran from North Rode in Cheshire to Uttoxeter in East Staffordshire. The line was closed in several stages between 1964 and 1988 but part of the central section passed into the hands of a preservation society and today operates as the Churnet Valley Railway.
Tussar silk is produced from larvae of several species of silkworms belonging to the moth genus Antheraea, including A. assamensis, A. mylitta, A. paphia, A. pernyi, A. roylei and A. yamamai. These silkworms live in the wild forests in trees belonging to Terminalia species and Shorea robusta as well as other food plants like jamun and oak found in South Asia, eating the leaves of the trees they live on. Tussar silk is valued for its rich texture and natural deep gold colour, and varieties are produced in many countries, including China, India, Japan, and Sri Lanka.
Congleton, Macclesfield, Bollington and Stockport were traditionally silk weaving towns. Silk was woven in Cheshire from the late 1600s. The handloom weavers worked in the attic workshops in their own homes. Macclesfield was famous for silk buttons manufacture. The supply of silk from Italy was precarious and some hand throwing was done, giving way after 1732 to water-driven mills were established in Stockport and Macclesfield.
Rushton is a civil parish in Staffordshire, England. The village within the civil parish, usually known as Rushton Spencer, is about 4 miles (6.4 km) north of Leek and 7 miles (11 km) south of Macclesfield, on the A523 road which runs between these towns.
Tittesworth is a civil parish in the Staffordshire Moorlands, in Staffordshire, England. It extends from the edge of the town of Leek in the south-west to Blackshaw Moor in the north-east. In the east is the village of Thorncliffe. To the west is the civil parish of Leekfrith, where the boundary is the River Churnet.To the east is the civil parish of Onecote. Tittesworth Brook runs westwards through the area from Thorncliffe, and flows into the Churnet.
The Amalgamated Society of Textile Workers and Kindred Trades (ASTWKT) was a trade union representing textile workers, principally silk manufacturing, in the United Kingdom.
St Edward the Confessor's Church is an active Anglican church in Leek, Staffordshire, England. The building, which dates back to the 13th century, is listed Grade II*.
Elizabeth Wardle (1834–1902) was an English embroideress. In 1857 she married the silk dyer Thomas Wardle, a distant cousin. Thomas was later knighted for his services to the silk industry.
Longsdon is a village and civil parish in the Staffordshire Moorlands district of Staffordshire, England, about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) southwest of Leek, on the A53 road.
William Morris (1834-1898), a founder of the British Arts and Crafts movement, sought to restore the prestige and methods of hand-made crafts, including textiles, in opposition to the 19th century tendency toward factory-produced textiles. With this goal in mind, he created his own workshop and designed dozens of patterns for hand-produced woven and printed cloth, upholstery, and other textiles.