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British Industrial History

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Lullingstone Silk Farm

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of Lullingstone Castle, Eynsford, Kent. Telephone: Farningham 14. Cables: "Hartdyke, Eynsford, Kent". (1947)

  • Nearby are the remains of Eynsford's old castle, one of the most complete Norman castles of its kind in England. It is looked now after by the Department of the Environment and is open to the public, but for some years it was used as kennels for the hunting dogs owned by the Hart-Dyke family of nearby Lullingstone Castle.
  • Lullingstone isn't really a castle at all, and never was, despite the impressive towered gateway which was built in the last years of the 15th century. Between the gate and the house is a wide expanse of lawn on part of which stands the ancient parish church of St Botolph known appropriately enough as The Church on the Lawn. The church can be visited at any time, but the house cannot.
  • House and church were both restored by Sir Percyvall Hart in the 18th century in honour of Queen Anne, who often stayed there. A rather odd little story is told of his daughter, Anne. It relates how, on the night of the celebration of her betrothal to Sir Thomas Dyke of Horeham, Sussex, she slipped away to her bedroom where she made a rope of knotted sheets and climbed down into the arms of a young navel officer called Bluet, who was waiting for her in a boat in the moat.
  • Together they ran away and were married. The jilted Sir Thomas swore he would never marry anyone else and, indeed, he did not. When Bluet died nine years later, his widow found the faithful Sir Thomas still waiting for her and they were married.
  • The house remained in the same family for six-hundred years. It was empty when Sir Oliver Hart Dyke married Zoe, who became Lady Hart Dyke and who started the famous Lullingstone silk farm in part of the house.
  • 1937 Silk from the farm was used for Queen Elizabeth's Coronation robes in 1937, as well as for dresses for the two princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret Rose.
  • Later, more Lullingstone silk was incorporated in Princess Elizabeth's wedding dress, and during World War II it went to make parachutes.
  • 1947 Advert for Silk Farm.
    • "When Zoë, Lady Hart dyke, imported a machine to reel the silk cocoon which she had reared in 1934, Sir Oliver looked at it critically. As an engineer he was interested, and set to work on an improved design. This was so successful that he has now put it into production on a commercial scale, and the new model, incorporating his latest improvements, can be seen in operation on Stand No. 137.
    • This Power Reeler for large filatures - inexpensive to install and run, and simple in construction - is usually sold in units of three basins (24 skeins). Each unit has an output of 4lbs of raw silk per 8-hour day, takes the maximum amount of thread from each cocoon, and operators do NOT need long training. For small producers there is a new hand-reeler, also designed and produced by Sir Oliver, which is as simple to work as a sewing machine yet produces two standard skeins for commercial use.
    • Particulars of these machines may be obtained on the Stand, from the Silk Farm or from the manufacturer, Sir Oliver Hart Dyke, M.I. Mech E., Lambolle Place, Eaton Avenue, London, NW3. (Primrose 3189).
    • Similar machines under normal working conditions can be seen at the Silk Farm at Lullingstone Castle, Eynsford, Kent. The Farm is open to visitors every day from 1st April until 30th September, from 11 a.m. until 6.30 p.m. and all stages of silk production from the silkworm eggs to the hanks of raw silk are shewn and explained."
    • Manufacturers of Power and Hand Silk Reeling Machines and Producers of Raw Silk. (Textiles Section - Earls Court, Ground Floor, Stand No.37) [1]
  • The whole enterprise has since moved to Compton House in Dorset, and it was from there that the silk used for the wedding dress of Princess Diana was spun.

See Also

  • [1] The Village of Eynsford web page

Sources of Information

  1. 1947 British Industries Fair Advert 446; and p173