Somerset Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers

Origins of the Somerset Guild of Weaving, Spinning and Dyeing

The Guild began with two ladies, known as the Quantock Weavers. Their story is documented in a short book entitled “Woven from a Stone”. The book comments, “ One cannot mention the history of the Guild without reference to the Misses Biddulph and Dickinson. Both ladies were born in 1885 into families used to comfortable living, but in the early 1920’s both their worlds were shattered and they were left virtually penniless”.

Miss Biddulph spent some time in Egypt where she became interested in spinning and weaving. She returned to Britain and decided to pursue the crafts. She went to Sweden for instruction. On returning home she settled in Somerset and started spinning weaving and bottling fruit.

Miss Dickinson spent several years as an Organiser in the Women’s Guild of Empire and then, for a time, worked for the Conservative and Unionist Association. However, she missed the countryside and its crafts and finally decided to move to Somerset.

It was at this time that she and Miss Biddulph met and in 1932 they took the option to buy the property they had been leasing. They set up business together spinning, weaving and bottling fruit and adopted the name “The Quantock Weavers”. They began giving lessons in their craft and were soon known far beyond Somerset for their work.

In 1949 they founded The Somerset Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers. The Guild began as a branch of the Dorset Guild but by September 1949 discussions had taken place and it was decided that a County Guild should be set up. In January 1950 the constitution was presented and accepted and the sign of the spindle adopted.

At the first AGM in 1950 membership was reported to have grown from 33 to 113. Three exhibitions had been held and a variety of talks given at the meetings. By the third AGM membership had grown to 200 and, despite rising costs, the annual subscription had not increased from its original 5 shillings (25p now). By 1956 the subscription had increased to 10 shillings.

Miss Dickinson was the Guild Chairman from 1949 to 1966 and during the same years Miss Biddulph served on the committee both as member and later as Honorary Secretary. In 1966 they became Joint Presidents (at the grand age of 81). Sadly Miss Biddulph died in 1972 but Miss Dickinson remained President until her death in 1978 at the age of 93.