Fun Fact Friday: Buckingham and Lacemaking

The lace produced in Buckingham was originally known as Point d’Angleterre but local prominence in its manufacture was so great that it was commonly called Bucks Point.

Wikipedia states that “Bucks point is a bobbin lace (lace made by hand with thread wound on bone or ivory bobbins) from the East Midlands in England. “Bucks” is short for Buckinghamshire, which was the main centre of production. The lace was also made in the nearby counties of Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire. Bucks point is very similar to the French Lille lace, and thus is often called English Lille. It is also similar to Mechlin lace and Chantilly lace.”

The BucksPoint organisation state that “although Buckinghamshire was a centre of English lacemaking from as early as the 16th century, the styles of the lace made would have varied at different periods, reflecting what was fashionable at the time which meant Bucks Point lace did not appear until the end of the 18th century.

Bucks point is made in one piece on the lace pillow, at full width with common designs being floral and geometric. The floral designs are like those in Mechlin and Lille laces, but Bucks lace is generally simpler than the Belgian laces, and is made of linen or silk.”

Lacemaking in general was quite literally a cottage industry where women worked at their lace pillow, often in the doorway or outside for good lighting, as often as they could, to make a few pennies per foot. Their children could even make narrow simple edgings almost as soon as they could sit up!

No lace maker ever made a complete piece of lace. Instead, they would learn one pattern by heart to sell to a lace dealer and then each pattern would later be joined together to become a flounce or shawl. The dealers would then commission strips of a particular pattern and travel round collecting them and usually exploited the lace makers by supplying the thread and deducting the cost from the payment, which was generally only pennies.

It was supposedly Catherine of Aragon who introduced the craft of lacemaking to the area. Catherine, Henry VIII’s first wife, visited Buckingham in 1513, staying in Castle House. An Ivory crucifix, which is said to have belonged to her, can be seen in the Old Gaol Museum today.

Is there any Bucks Point lace left? Well, the Mayor of Buckingham wears a jabot which is made from fine Buckingham Lace and the Macebearer’s jabot is the same, although less fine. The Mayors Bear also dresses in Buckingham Lace too – How fancy!