In 1790 the weaving of silk was introduced into Macclesfield by Leigh and Voce who bought looms into a loom shop in Back Street (now King Edward Street). Of course the looms were no good without knowhow. Weaving silk was a highly skilled operation in which only the descendents of the Huguenot refugees—now living in Spitalfields in London—were proficient.
These were the very first refugees — our word comes from the French word ‘refugiés’ — those seeking refuge. The Huguenots were French Protestants who came to Britain in the 16th and 17th centuries, around 50,000 in number (Population of Britain only 5 million in 1700). It is estimated that one in six of us has Huguenot ancestry. ’The majority arrived with nothing but their industry, talent and enterprise.’
Many settled in London. Spitalfields became an area of Huguenot silk production. The connection with Macclesfield was already there as the Spitalfields weavers bought their silk thread from Macclesfield, since Charles Roe had introduced silk ‘throwing’ mills.
One of the weavers, Margaret Moborn, was induced to leave Leigh and Voce — we don’t know how—and work for James Pearson and his brother George in a weaving shed in what is now Sunderland Street. (It was James's father George who had invited John Wesley to preach in Macclefield and we’ll talk about Methodism in Macclesfield shortly). Margaret lived with James for several years as well as teaching the principles of weaving and warping.
George Pearson and Sons became the leading silk weavers here in the early nineteenth century, so she must have been good.