Lace making first appeared in the East Midlands in the late 1500s,
but we do not know the number of Helmdon villagers involved in the
craft until the 1841 census at which date the number was very small.
However, in 1861 around a quarter of the women were registered as
lacemakers, supplementing, no doubt, the low farm wages of village
men. Lace making was a cottage industry. The work was drudgery, and
the long hours spent over lace work in often very poor light undermined
health. Village lace school taught the craft, and there were two in
Helmdon. In England as a whole lace making began to decline in the
1880s, mainly because of the advent of machine-made lace, and in the
village in 1861 only six women made lace for a living. Today the craft
survives in Helmdon a leisure activity only, as it does everywhere
The old skill of lace making
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making in Helmdon.