Temple Bursts and Geergalls: Drawloom Weaving in an Irish Linen Damask Manufactory

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


A fine grained narrative of the technology and working practices of draw-loom linen damask weaving in Ireland has proven elusive. A proprietary knowledge, it was more often poorly documented and jealously guarded. Together with a spartan corpus of surviving material and visual artefacts, it is unsurprising that it has remained veiled in mystery. By necessity a work of recovery, the paper affords a more nuanced understanding of the workings and evolution of the draw loom in Ireland; challenging preconceptions of it as a hidebound technology. Taking the country’s pre-eminent manufactory, Coulsons’ of Lisburn, as its case-study, it begins by interpreting their singularly voluminous business records. Supplemented by contemporary Scottish weavers’ treatises, a newly discovered Irish mise en carte of 1740, an ‘Old Irish’ model draw loom of 1787, rival manufacturers’ memorials to the Irish Linen Board, and the proposals of the Scottish manufacturer, William Cheape, to sell his patented loom to Ireland, it charts the history of the draw loom and its myriad adaptations and refinements.
From the late eighteenth century through to 1851, when it was finally superseded in the Coulson manufactory, the draw loom was an engine of technical innovation, powered by a desire to abridge labour. The patented Comb Loom and the ‘French draw loom’ not only co-existed with, but often were adapted to work in, the draw loom, and in such way, technical improvements were tested and refined. Everyday practicalities of weaving are also detailed and explained, from reading the design and the dressing of heddles to the gristing of yarn for real and Superfine damask. Evidential and temporal gaps notwithstanding, what emerges is a privileged access to the factory floor and a fingertip acquaintance with the technicalities and art of draw loom linen weaving in Ireland.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEnglish
EditorsDr Anna Jolly
Place of PublicationWerner Abeggstrasse 67 Postfach, CH-3132 Riggisberg, Switzerland
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Sept 2023
EventColloquium Linen Damask In Its Historical Context - Riggisberg, Bern, Switzerland
Duration: 7 Oct 20218 Oct 2021

Publication series

NameRiggisberger Berichte


ConferenceColloquium Linen Damask In Its Historical Context


  • LInen
  • Draw loom
  • Weaving
  • Coulsons’
  • Lisburn
  • Technological innovation
  • Superfine Damask
  • Irish Linen Board


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