This piece explores Carlisle’s industrial textile history, in particular that of Shaddon Mill, whose chimney towers over Carlisle.
CONTENT WARNING: This art piece and the stories it makes reference to may be upsetting or triggering. The content includes themes of trauma, Carlisle’s connection to the exploitation of enslaved people, and suicide.
The mill was owned and run by the Dixon family from 1836 to 1883. During this period the mill produced a cloth colloquially known as ‘Slave Cloth’. This was made from cotton grown on USA plantations, by enslaved people, and was then shipped back to the same plantations as a cheap, rough cloth, woven into striped and checked Gingham. Dixon’s chimney is also associated with the tragic death of Robert Philip Longcake in 2019.
‘Tangled Threads’ reflects on trauma, and a city’s history. Dixon’s chimney is seldom thought of in connection with the Slave Trade yet it is a reminder to the people of Carlisle of how we have historically benefitted from the financial gains of slavery. It seeks to bring to mind stories that too often remain invisible.
Rosie’s Artful Way walk followed the route of the 1823 canal, which ran between Carlisle and Port Carlisle, from where the cloth was shipped across the Atlantic. The canal became a railway in 1854 and was closed in 1932.
Carlisle’s textile history does not stand alone from wider complicated world history, and in particular the more shameful parts of British international history. ‘Tangled Threads’ refers, as well, to the current situation we find ourselves in where we must untangle these links, the ways we have benefitted, and examine them as closely as we are able to.
To find out more about the process behind the making of ‘Tangled Threads’, please read ‘Slave-Cloth’ – with history in mind.
Additional thoughts from Anti Racist Cumbria
During the process of creating her artwork, Rosie, together with curators Harriet Fraser and Rob Fraser and the Tullie House team, has been in conversation with some of the members of Anti Racist Cumbria. The subject of enslavement is sensitive and as such needs to be approached with due care. Rosie explains how she wished to use her artwork to tell the seldom-heard story of Carlisle’s connection with the Slave Trade in her ‘long read’ here, which gives more context to both the making of ‘slave-cloth’ and a wider consideration of trauma.
In addition, Lindsay Atkinson, who is the Community and Young People coordinator at Tullie House, and is a member of Anti Racist Cumbria, has written the following piece. Lindsay is a descendent of people enslaved at Lowther Plantation, Barbados.
“Tangled Threads can be found everywhere …
Fragments of our past construct who we are and are woven into the world we live in. Some of these histories we allow others to see, and we feel proud to wear. Some are like weights, sewn into our clothes, sometimes even invisible to ourselves.
We have reached a place where our shameful histories are forgotten, ignored, reduced. But historical trauma is still present. Anti Racist cumbria care about finding truth. Through their work, they aim to repair incomplete and biased narratives. Now is a time for acknowledgment, education, reflection ann change.
The issues connected with this piece of artwork are harrowing, yet need to be acknowledged. Anti Racist Cumbria welcome these issues being brought into awareness. It’s important they are handled with sensitivity, with care for language, and consideration for who tells these stories, why they are told, and how.
To learn more about the work Anti Racist Cumbria are doing, please visit their website, where you will also find the article: ‘The slave trade was hundreds of years ago, why does it matter to Britain today?’ “