HOW ROMNEY TWEED WAS BORN
I suppose you could say it all began with the Sheep Drive over London Bridge in 2008. Organised by a small number of Freemen from The Worshipful Company of World Traders £52,000 was raised on behalf of The Lord Mayor’s charities as 500 Freemen of the City of London exercised their ancient right by shepherding 15 beautifully behaved pure bred Romney sheep from Kent across the Bridge.
Fast forward to 2011 when a recent socio-economic report about the Romney Marsh indicated that what was already an area of social deprivation (26% unemployment in the 18-24 age group) was likely to be more so with the forthcoming decommissioning of the two nuclear power stations at Dungeness, the Marsh’s main source of employment. A Skills Festival held at the Marsh Academy later that year included a sector on Agriculture, with an emphasis on the Romney sheep and the spinning and weaving of Romney wool.
Like many people, I already had a lifelong love of the Romney Marsh, a unique area of Kent, where my cousins and I had spent holidays with our grandmother. She had put £1 down on a piece of shingle in 1936 and built the bungalow my husband, Robert, and I now live in.
With two friends (Anne Clifton-Holt and Faith Cowell), equally devoted to the Marsh, discussion centred on ways in which we might be able to create additional employment. With the area’s rich history tourism was an obvious one. However, a remark about a local farmer’s wife who had to send her wool to Wales to be cleaned, spun and woven for her business (Romney Marsh Wools - quite separate from Romney Tweed) set us on the path of considering a weaving industry on the Marsh.