Lace making in the 18th century in Ireland appears to have been very much a local affair. The Dublin Society (now called the Royal Dublin Society) was formed in 1731 to promote agriculture and industry in Ireland with lace making as one of the industries being encouraged. However, it was in the 19th century that lace making, as an industrial art, became a noteworthy trade. With the exception of Limerick Lace, which was a private commercial venture started in 1829, most of the well known Irish laces were developed with a view to alleviating poverty after the devastation of the Great Famines of 1845 to 1847. Lace items produced varied from simple lace handkerchiefs to elaborate wedding dresses in Irish lace and wedding veils for the Royal families of Europe.
The first of the large scale making of Irish Handmade Lace began with Limerick Lace. Items made included lace for dresses and bridal veils as well as smaller accessories such as lace gloves, lace collars and lace trimmed hankerchiefs. In 1829, Charles Walker, an Englishman married to the daughter of a lace manufacturer, came to Limerick to set up a lace making factory. The availability of inexpensive labour, who were already skilled in sewing, were part of the attraction for him. He brought 24 trained staff with him to help develop his business. Other factories soon opened and by the 1840’s the making of Limerick Lace had also been introduced into convents and similar institutions. [Read more…]