Wessex Women

Mrs Robinson and the Downton lace pillow

Objects from: The Salisbury Museum

Mrs Robinson moved to Wiltshire in the 1890s. Together with her associate, Mrs Plumptre, she helped preserve the local lace-making industry.

Lace-makers in decline

When Mrs Robinson moved to Wiltshire in the 1890s, she became an enthusiast for lace-making.  But she was concerned that the number of those able to make lace was dwindling.

Along with her associate, Mrs Plumptre, she began collecting information and equipment to preserve lace-making skills. 

Leading a lace-making revival

The women quickly started to run classes locally for other women and children, passing on the skill of lace-making. In 1908, their efforts were even mentioned in an article in ‘Needlework Monthly’. The next year, Mrs Robinson was asked to take over the local lace industry altogether.

Mrs Robinson was motivated to preserve old skills and to provide opportunities for women and children in the Downton area to earn money in their own homes.

Lace-making continues in the area today and remains an important part of local trade history.

The Downton lace pillow

The object chosen to tell the story of Mrs Robinson was the Downton lace pillow (below). 

The Victorian pillow is set up in the traditional pattern ‘Eggs and Rashers’. There are many unique lace patterns with interesting names; Downton Daisy, Buns and Butters, Big and Little Idiot..!

The patterns are known as ‘prickings’ and were held in place on the pillow with pins.

Black and white photo of Mrs Robinson wearing a large hat.
Mrs Robinson
Black and white photo of a young girl making lace.
Young lace-maker
Downton lace pillow
Downton lace pillow from The Salisbury Museum.
Downton lace-makers
Black and white photo of an old lady making lace.
Lace-maker