Last Chance Lace

PUBLISHED: 18:18 29 June 2012 | UPDATED: 21:34 20 February 2013

Last Chance Lace

Last Chance Lace

Broadclyst Lace Festival celebrates the unique collection of lace gathered by Constance Senior over 50 years, on show for the last time from 5 to 8 July

Last Chance Lace

Broadclyst Lace Festival celebrates the unique collection of lace gathered by Constance Senior over 50 years, on show for the last time from 5 to 8 July

Lovingly curated by her daughters Miriam Gent and Mary Schlich with support from the National Trust, the Broadclyst Lace Festival, named Mothers Story, follows Constance Seniors impressive private collection and celebrates the history of lace-making in Devon, amongst a stunning flower display ablaze with colour.

On display for the very last time at Broadclyst Parish Church, Mothers Story will provide an insight into one womans passion for intricate design and heritage, in celebration of the work and skill involved in this historic cottage industry.

Constance moved to Broadclyst in 1945, when her husband George Senior was appointed land agent for the National Trust across Devon and Cornwall. The family lived at Budlake House just outside the village. Soon after arriving in Devon, Constance was given an old Honiton lace wedding veil and collar by a local woman, to which she added an Irish lace collar she had crocheted as a child. Constances passion for lace was born.

She began to search antiques shops and auctions in search of important styles at every opportunity, growing her collection slowly. Fascinated by the many different lace patterns and their origins, Constance enjoyed nothing more than meeting with fellow enthusiasts to help identify lace, or negotiate the purchase of a new piece to enhance her collection.

As the collection evolved she began to focus too on the importance of displaying her lace. Following her interest in historic lace fashions, Constance began to craft intricately detailed ceramic figures. She would use these detailed figures to demonstrate how lace was worn over the centuries from Elizabethan times, by adding lace panels to their skirts and dresses.

Retiring to Carne Vean, Cornwall, in 1956, Constance began to collect lace in earnest and held her first exhibition with her sister soon after. In 1972, she returned to Devon after the passing of her husband George and two years later, held the first lace exhibition at Broadclyst.

After Constances death in the 1980s, daughters Miriam and Mary began to care for their mothers collection and have done so for the last 30 years. In the 1960s younger sister Mary used to frequently travel to London to attend antique lace auctions, to hunt for key pieces to complete the collection.

The sisters have twice exhibited their mothers extensive collection, in 1982 and 1993 at Broadclyst Parish Church, and have decided to put it on show once more this July. The collection includes some fine examples of bobbin and needlepoint lace from many regions across Europe, including examples of the local Honiton pattern. Notable pieces include the lace apron and lappets of Queen Caroline of Anspach (wife of George II), a large triangular Brussels veil as well as a selection of Constances ceramic display figures.

Constance had a great respect for the skill and patience of the lace-maker and the history attached to the trade. A highly desirable fashion item, there was huge demand for lace across Europe from the late 1500s. In response to this demand, lace making became a widespread cottage industry in East Devon and it is thought that nearly half the local population were involved in the trade during the mid-17th century.

The renowned local pattern Honiton Lace, distinguished by its use of delicate flowers, sprigs and roses, was gathered from lace makers across the county. At Honiton it was put on the stage coach, and later the steam train to London, destined for the citys fashion houses and markets. Today, there are still a small number of lace makers in Devon and workshops are increasingly popular.

Broadclyst Lace Festival

5-8 July Open Thursday to Saturday 10.30am-3.30pm and Sunday 11.30am-6pm.

Stalls and refreshments will be available in The Victory Hall.

All proceeds will be donated to the Clyst Mission Community and Clyst Caring Friends.

In preparation for the festival, sisters Miriam and Mary are holding a special workshop with the National Trust, focusing on effective exhibition and display techniques.

If you are interested in being part of the Broadclyst Lace Festival please contact Miriam Gent on

01392 467288.

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