Warner Textile Archive

Located at Warner’s Mill, Silks Way the Warner Textile Archive is of national importance but its roots are firmly here in Braintree.

The archive is a unique record of the history of textile manufacture and design since the 18th century. It includes every example of woven and printed fabric produced by the Warner company as well as examples produced by other companies.

Warner and Sons set up its business in Braintree at New Mills in 1895. Following a series of takeovers in the 1980s the company and its archive moved to Milton Keynes. In 2005 with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund, other major charitable organisations and the generosity of individual donors the Braintree District Museum Trust, with the support of Braintree District Council, was able to return the archive to Braintree to the original site of New Mills. The site was renamed Warners Mill and given Grade 2 listed status.

The company’s directors and designers travelled all over the world promoting Braintree and the fabric being designed and produced by local people. On their travels they collected fabric from around the world to use as inspiration for new designs. The company started buying up rival companies from the 1880s and added their designs and fabric to what eventually became the Warner Archive.

Also housed within the archive is an extensive collection of original artwork by leading designers and major artists who were commissioned by Warner to produce fabric designs for palaces, stately homes, liners, hotels as well as ordinary homes. Influential designers whose work is represented include: John Aldridge, Edward Bawden, Vanessa Bell, Walter Crane, Marion Dorn, James Fitton, William Folliott, Alec Hunter, Owen Jones, William Morris, Marianne Straub, A.W.N Pugin, Arthur Silver, Bruce Talbot and C.F.A Voysey.

The archive also includes documents and photographs relating to the history of Warner’s business in Braintree. The archive’s team is actively collecting information about the Mill and recording former employees’ memories of working for the company.

The archive is accessible to anyone interested in the history and development of British textile design. One of the aims of the archive is to inspire new work by designers and to encourage schools and colleges to use the archive’s extensive resources.

One long term project that the Warner Textile team are undertaking is the ‘Voices of the Archive’ project to record the memories of former Warner employees including those of weavers and designers.

A programme of creative workshops and talks are organised throughout the year to give visitors greater appreciation of the archive’s collections.


The archive’s GALLERY is open to the public four days a week and is a celebration of the fabrics and designs within the archive.

Colour, shape and texture are the key words to describe the Gallery. Every drawer and display case takes the visitor on an exciting visual voyage of discovery from Warner’s unique three-pile velvets, the intricate woven silks of Owen Jones, cutting edge designs of the 1920s and 1930s, the boldness of the 1950s through to the iconic designs of the late twentieth century.

The Gallery has a small sales area where visitors can purchase postcards and publications. Also on sale is a unique selection of gifts including stunning work by local designers and textiles artists inspired by the Archive’s designs. All proceeds from the sell of these items go towards the upkeep of the Warner Textile Archive.

The Gallery may be hired by groups and organisations for small meetings or public relations events. Telephone 01376 557741 for more information.

Open: 11am – 4pm Wednesday to Saturday
(Closed Sunday – Tuesday and Bank Holidays)
Small Admission Charge
Accessible to wheelchair users.
Hearing loop within the Gallery
Toilets and baby change facilities
Toilets and baby change facilities
Postcards, books and gifts on sell at the reception desk
Parking at Silks Way and in the town centre
Railway station, bus station and town centre within a five-minute walk from the archive
Schools, researchers and booked groups welcome

Exhibitions & Projects

The team at Warner Textile Archive is keen to make the collections within the Archive as accessible as possible.

The team actively encourages groups and individuals to use the Archive for inspiration for creative projects.

In 2006 the team worked closely with the Braintree Writers Group. They initially visited the Archive out of curiosity but left inspired and between them produced a creative writing project based upon the collections within the store, the Archive’s history and the building itself.

Since 2006 the team has been working very closely with East Anglia members of the Embroiderers Guild on the Stitches at the Archive project, which cumulates in an exhibition later in 2007.

Guild members have taken inspiration for new work from all the collections within the Archive from printing blocks to ledgers, from woven scraps to lengths of printed fabric. Many of the participants have never exhibited their work before. To encourage them and get the creative energy flowing no restrictions have been placed on the embroiderers except that they are encouraged to abandon any thought of framing their work in the traditional manner and to think instead of ‘floating’, ‘wrapping’, ‘hiding’ or ‘standing’ as methods of displaying their work.

The Archive’s team welcomes enquiries from Individuals and groups who would like to establish links with the Warner Textile Archive and develop ideas for creative projects within East Anglia. Please telephone 01376 557803 or email warner.archives@braintree.gov.uk.

Group Visits to the Archive

Guided tours of the Warner Textile Archive can be arranged for Groups. The team at the Archive promise an interesting visit to the Archive and an opportunity to see ‘behind-the-scenes’ of this world-famous collection of textiles. The facilities at the Archive include:
Free car and coach parking
Gallery and store on one level
Ramp entrance to Archive
Sales area
Groups are welcome to book day or evening visits, Monday – Friday and Saturday (daytime). The minimum number for groups is 10. In the evenings 7.30pm is the latest start time for a visit. Organisers need to allow at least 90 minutes for a visit, which includes a welcome and introduction, a conducted tour of the Archive Store and a wander around the Gallery.

Refreshments are available day or evening, in addition if you would like to visit Braintree for the day we can arrange to book you in to the Herb Café for lunch and, if you wish, ask our colleagues at Braintree District Museum to give your group a tour around the displays. There is also the opportunity for large groups to book for a buffet lunch at either the museum (available during school holidays) or Town Hall Centre.


Enquiries from researchers are welcomed.

Textile, local history and social historians will find the Archive a fascinating resource for study.

Access to the Archive for research is by appointment only Monday – Friday. Please provide the Archive team with at least 10 days notice, we advise you to have at least three dates in mind when you contact the Archive in case it isn’t possible to accommodate your first choice.

To help you prepare for a visit please note the following:
When making an appointment have a clear idea of what you would like to see for example ‘19thC furnishing fabric’ is too broad!
Please keep the number and size of bags to a minimum size/number.
Bring with you a pencil to write with – ink pens may not be used.
Photographs (without a flash) may be taken for personal use only. You will be asked to complete a disclaimer form. Digital photographs must not be downloaded onto any website without our permission.
Food and drink cannot be taken in to the Archive. There is a coffee machine in the Gallery and the Archive is within walking distance of several cafes and restaurants including the Herb Café adjacent to Braintree District Museum in Manor Street.
There is ample free car parking at the Archive. The bus and railway stations are less than a five-minute walk from the Archive. There is a regular bus service to Braintree from nearby Stansted Airport.
There is a photocopier at the Archive – a small charge is made per sheet (A4/A3 colour or black and white)
There is an extensive library within the Archive covering both the history of textile design as well as manufacturing techniques.


The Archive team welcome requests from groups and education organisations to give illustrated talks at their venues.

The team are happy to talk about any aspect of the Archive and its history.

Please note: There is no charge for external talks but a donation to the Archive is welcome. Dependant on how far the Archive’s representative has to travel expenses may be requested.

Workshops and Study Sessions

Throughout the year the Archive team organise creative workshops and study sessions for adults.

Embroidery and bead workshops use the Archive’s collections as inspiration. Weaving workshops introduce the ancient skill that Warner and Sons was so well known for. Local textile makers and tutors run the workshops, we welcome suggestions for future workshops.

Study sessions, run by the Archive team, include looking at the major periods in the history of soft furnishings and textile design as well as the social history of Warners and Sons.

Information for Teachers


This nationally important archive offers endless educational possibilities for all age groups and abilities. All that is required is curiosity and imagination! The archive’s collection includes fabric and costume from around the world as well as fabric produced by Warner and Sons. Many of the country’s leading designers and major artists were commissioned by Warner to produce fabric designs for palaces, stately homes, liners, hotels as well as ordinary homes. The archive has an extensive collection of original artwork that can be used to inspire and stimulate children’s creativity.

Parking for coaches, mini buses and cars.
Hearing loop.
Gallery and Archive store on same level
Please note: we can not provide anywhere for you to eat packed lunches.

Please book your visit in advance. We are very happy to help you plan your visit and discuss the areas/themes that you would like to study.

Licensing Opportunities

The Warner Textile Archive offers selected manufacturers and retailers an opportunity to access exclusive designs to be sold in the international market.

Designs from the Warner Textile Archive are licensed to manufacturers internationally. The licensing team work closely with designers helping them source the collections within the archive and provide in-house research.

Until now commercial use of the Warner Textile Archive has been limited and restricted to wallpaper and soft furnishings. Braintree District Museum Trust Ltd welcomes enquiries from manufacturers and retailers interested in licensing designs from the Archive or working with the Archive’s team on joint commercial projects using the collections as a source of inspiration.

All designs licensed from the Archive are exclusive during the period of the license and will not accessed by other companies.

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