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History of the Guild

In the beginning...

The seed was sown amongst five students attending a WEA class in Tapestry Weaving. With no further advancement available they decided to set up their own group in the then newly opened Durham Arts Centre in Castle Chare. The building has since been converted to trendy flats and one wonders who now occupies the large attic which stretched the whole length of one wing and was accessed by a dangerously narrow, curved staircase.

The latter was eventually pronounced a fire hazard and the group moved to a room in Alington House in the Bailey.

A huge increase in rent prompted the next move to Redwood Lodge in School Lane. This Durham County Guide HQ remained the home of the Guild until it was needed for daily use by a Play Group.

At that time the Guild moved to St. Oswalds Institute, which is connected with St.Oswalds Church across the road, and currently we use both of these venues.(details above and on Diary page.)

A Group becomes a Guild

Before long the growing group joined the National Association of Guilds of WS&D and became known as Durham Guild of Spinners, Weavers & Dyers, giving first place to spinning, unlike the National Association. A further step was a successful application for charity status. Arts Council grants for workshops meant that such textile luminaries as Marianne Straub, Hilary Chetwynd, Mabel Ross, Rodrick Owen, Penny Porter and Michael Crompton all featured as tutors in the early years. The tradition of seeking always the best continues to the present day, borne out by our current Diary page.

The Guild reaches out

Amongst numerous public projects undertaken, Knit a Square proved so popular, it was repeated. Shoppers and visitors in Durham Market Place were invited to knit a square from hand-spun wool, the end products being added to and assembled as coats and raffled for good causes. In 1987, during the 1300th Anniversary of St Cuthberts death (his bones are buried behind the high altar in the Cathedral) the Guild produced The St. Cuthbert Trail. Selected shop-windows en route to the Cathedral displayed tableaux illustrating events in Cuthberts life, the hand-made figures and animals all depicted in textiles.

In 2001, due to foot and mouth, the famous Masham Sheep Fair was going to be devoid of livestock, but the organizers decided to go ahead and use it to raise funds to help the beleaguered farming community. Requests were sent out for all and sundry to fill the pens with home-made sheep and shepherds. The Guild rose to the challenge and put together a multi-coloured sheep and shepherd, glad to be part of this ingenious event.

The Guilds moves forward..

In 2000, the last stage of the National Associations travelling Millennium Exhibition came to Durham City and was hosted by the Guild, linked with eight other Guilds in the region. The venue was the DLI Museum and Art Gallery and was launched in style by David Bellamy.

This occasion was the catalyst for producing the Bishops Mitre (see Guild Projects). Since the inception of the Guild its members have been motivated by exhibiting their work, and this stands to the present day. The Guild regularly mounts its own exhibitions and has established good relations with several venues in and around Durham, including the Universitys Oriental Museum and Botanic Gardens. The Guild also has forged strong connections with the Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead, Sunderland Museum and Art Gallery, and more recently, the McGuinness Gallery at Bishop Auckland Town Hall.

St Oswalds Institute, Church Street
Durham City, Co Durham, DH1 3DQ
tel. Secretary 01388 817404
Contact: email: stoswalds@durhamguild.co.uk