For this chapter on making buttons I decided to do some research on Dorset Buttons and visited the Golden Hill Museum in Shaftesbury.
Abraham Case moved to Shaftesbury in the early 1620s and started the Dorset button industry. The “High Top” was the first Dorset button followed by the “Dorset Knob” and the “Birds Eye”. Abraham’s sons took over the business. By 1658 there were thirty one different button designs and by the early 1700s seven hundred people worked for the firm.
In 1731 John Clayton reorganised the business so that outworkers made the buttons at home and by the end of the century about four thousand women and children were employed making buttons. The top quality buttons were sent overseas.
Ashton’s button making machine, displayed at the Great Exhibition in 1851, caused the collapse of the Dorset button industry and mass unemployment. With the help of local gentry and government funding many families emigrated to Australia and Canada including three hundred and fifty from Shaftesbury.
The different colour of card indicated the quality of the buttons. The top quality of buttons for export were put on pink card. Buttons for the domestic market on black card and the lesser quality for local use were on yellow card.
Below are a selection of photos showing the displays at the Golden Hill Museum.
7.12 – Singleton, bird’s eye & Dorset knobs.
7.13 – Blanford cartwheels, Dorset knobs, Singletons & High tops.
7.14 – Brass, zinc & tin rings for button making
7.8 Buttons on yellow card for local use.
7.9 Dorset buttons
7.10 Dorset knobs
7.11 Camisole showing Dorset buttons
7. 7 After visiting the Golden Hill Museum in Shaftesbury I decided to attempt a Dorset button using fine cotton thread. I found the buttonhole stitching round the edge quite easy with this thread but I tried to complete the button by weaving between the spokes in the cartwheel but had to stop because I could not see what I was doing. This image has been magnified but I think the making of proper Dorset buttons is for young eyes, not mine!!!
I found an excellent and most informative website on Dorset buttons which I can really recommend: http://www.henrysbuttons.co.uk/
Images 7.4, 7.5 & 7.6
Images 7.1, 7.2 & 7.3
Chapter Seven – notes from my workbook, evaluation and health & safety