The Songs of the Spitalfields Silk Weavers

Early industrialisation, silk weavers and industrial protest

Spitalfields Music Archive


Seeing as our all-female choir Women sing East will be exploring local protest songs with Bishopsgate Institute’s Tubthumping Chorus, we thought it would be a good idea to give you a brief history of the silk-spinning industry in Spitalfields and the songs that the weavers sung.

Silk has been produced in Spitalfields since the 15th century. The industry grew quickly and by the 18th century, large portions of the population were employed by ‘masters’ to work in their own homes. Typically, a family in this time may have had four looms in their house, one each for the husband and wife, and some for the children, if there were any. Children were expected to start working from the age of six, quilling and winding the silk, and by the time they reached 12, they worked on the looms.

From the 17th century onwards, the weavers faced a new threat. In…

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