I was in Northern Ireland this weekend visiting my beloved cousin and her gorgeous new baby. Not one to miss out on the chance to pick up some vintage fabric, I stumbled upon a little book store with a vintage section and picked up a huge piece of 60’s unused linen by ‘Old Bleach’ a Northern Ireland Textile mill which has long since closed.
Old Bleach open in Randalstown in Northern Ireland in 1864. It was originally a cotton mill but turned to linen by Charles James Web who was a Quaker from Dublin.
I ,of course, had never heard of Old Bleach, but apparently it’s really really and I mean REALLY famous and in its time adorned the tables of Royal Palaces. Whilst researching Old Bleach, I found a number of articles referring to the linen as the preferred fabric of French Couturiers “It appears that next Spring will find us wearing Irish Old Bleach Linen for street dresses, evening gowns, morning frocks and cocktail ensembles” (The Border Cities Star, Dec 26 1934).
From my research, I think Old Bleach had a particularly successful stretch from the 30’s to 50’s, as the fabulous designs of these generations are featured in the V&A archive.
By all accounts it was also a great place to work as seen in this lovely poem about the mill.
I can’t seem to find any indication as to when the Mill closed, but I did find an article saying the Dorma factory opposite the old Mill ceased trading in 2002. I believe there was a sister company in New York and it looks as if that is still making Linen. I would love to see some old archive images of their textiles. The fabrics from the 30’s-60’s I’ve found have been gorgeous.
Here are some Old Bleach Linen Textiles I have found online:
1 Furnishing fabric, Old Bleach Linen 1936 (www.art.co.uk)
2 Paul Nash, Fugue, Old Bleach Linen, 1936 (www.juliaritson.com)
3. Old Bleach Linen 1960’s Teatowel (Found on www.etsy.com £12)
Images of Old Bleach Linen & poem courtesy of Down Memory Lane