Charlotte Treadwin (1820-1890)

Now regarded as an internationally important designer and lace-maker, Charlotte Treadwin was an ambitious businesswoman with a background in the fashion industry. Born on Exmoor, she took up an apprenticeship with a dressmaker and milliner. While still a young woman, she learned lace in Woodbury, Devon, and by 1844 was in partnership with Ann Barns at 14 Bartholomew Street West, Exeter. Ann Barns went on to run the Regent Street, London, branch of the business. Charlotte was successful in business long before she married John Treadwin, a watchmaker, at the age of 30.

Charlotte Treadwin’s lace collection is one of the treasures of the museum.

Charlotte ran her manufactory on very modern lines, compared to the traditional rural system of outworkers and middlemen. She paid her workers a fair wage in cash, rather than in goods. Local newspapers also recorded her benevolence to Exeter charities and institutions including Exeter Female Penitentiary and the West of England Blind Institute.

Treadwin’s last showroom and lace manufactory was at 5 Cathedral Yard from 1867 (until 2020 this was the ASK Italian restaurant). Her obituary states that she was ‘a woman of culture and taste who had the best interests of the trade at heart’.

Her great skill as a lace maker earned her a Royal warrant in 1848 – numerous royal commissions and prize medals followed. She exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851 and the International Exhibition of 1862.

Charlotte Treadwin & Ellen Herbert

Ellen Herbert organised examples of Charlotte’s work and pieces from the collection she gathered throughout into an album. ultimately Ellen took over Treadwin’s business. While some samples were produced at Charlotte Treadwin’s manufactory, others are much earlier pieces dating to the 16th and 17th centuries. The album was bequeathed to RAMM in memory of Mrs Treadwin on her death in 1929.

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