The Carpet Museum Trust was founded in 1981 with the aim of ‘establishing a public museum … for the exhibition of items of local historical and educational interest and in particular in any way connected with the manufacture of carpets and similar textiles’. Following the boom years of the 1960’s, the carpet industry – for over a century the principal employer in Kidderminster – was beginning to decline.
As the industry shrank, the Trust began to collect machinery, artefacts, archives and libraries from the numerous firms in the town. Before long, the Trust had acquired a good collection of machinery, including many items that showed the important stages in the technical development of carpet making as well as a large archive of ledgers, board minutes, deeds, and accounts acquired from many of the companies around the town.
The Trust also acquired a collection of around 3000 carpet designs, many by significant designers such as Charles Voysey, Edouard Glorget and Bernat Klein. The samples of rugs and carpets illustrate most of the types of carpets, the different fibres and dyes, and the changing styles of design.
The Trust had been founded by Ken Tomkinson, a carpet manufacturer and historian, with three co-trustees – a carpet manufacturer, a solicitor and a representative from Wyre Forest District Council. After a strong start, the work of the Trust stalled following the death of two of the Founder Trustees. The lack of a suitable museum site and the difficult economic climate facing the carpet industry also didn’t help. This situation was further compounded in 1990 when Kidderminster’s former museum and gallery buildings were demolished.
In 1997 the Carpet Museum Trust was revived by a group of local enthusiasts and efforts to create a museum to celebrate the town’s valuable carpet industry gained ground. By 2001, the Trust was doing so well that a Friends group was formed to spearhead the fundraising and as a temporary measure, the collections were placed in storage.
In 2004 the Trust received its first Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant in order to develop the Carpet Archives Centre to catalogue and make accessible the thousands of items donated to the Trust, as those items that had been rescued.
In 2008, the Carpet Museum Trust was awarded nearly £1.7 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund to develop a new museum to be housed in the former Stour Vale Mill.
Finally, after many years of hard work, The Museum of Carpet – the only museum in the UK dedicated to carpet and carpet making – opened in 2012 and firmly placed Kidderminster on the map of important industrial heritage sites in the UK.