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A husband and wife who were central to Leek’s place in history as the centre of the British silk industry have been honoured with their own plaques.

Blue plaques to Sir Thomas and Lady Elizabeth Wardle were unveiled on Tuesday (November 13th) at their former family home in Leek, 54 St Edward Street, now the base of our Leek office!

The plaques are the work of Leek and District Civic Society and may be the first in the country where a husband and wife have each been given their own plaque and honoured at the same time.

Leek & District Civic Society member, Roger Warrilow, said: “We began discussing blue plaques for Leek around six years ago, not only to create a sense of civic pride but also to create points of interest for tourists coming to Leek.

“We are very proud of our other six plaques, but we are especially proud of these two plaques, as Thomas and Elizabeth Wardle were two of the most influential people in Leek during the 1880s.

“We were thrilled when Bowcock & Pursaill Solicitors agreed to the plaques on their building, and I wonder if in the history of blue plaques anywhere in the country, has there ever been two erected next to each other on the same day for a husband and wife?”

Silk dyer and printer Sir Thomas Wardle and his family moved to 54 St Edward Street in the 1880s. He later went on to establish the Churnet works and the Leek Spun Silk Company, and was knighted in 1897 for his services to the silk industry in England and India.

Lady Elizabeth Wardle was the founder member of the Leek Embroidery Society and is credited with the creation of a replica Bayeux Tapestry which took 37 women just over a year to create and is now hosted in the Reading Museum.

Blue plaques to Sir Thomas and Lady Elizabeth Wardle are unveiled

Ian Naylor, Partner at Bowcock & Pursaill, said: “We were delighted when the Civic Society approached us, and more than happy to support the creation of these blue plaques.

“Both Sir Thomas and Lady Elizabeth Wardle hold an important place in history, and their contribution to placing Leek on the map is something we should all be very proud of.”

Chair of the textile society Dr Brenda King was invited to unveil the plaque to Lady Wardle, alongside Leek historian Cathryn Walton who unveiled the plaque dedicated to Sir Thomas Wardle, and the ceremony was witnessed by several members of the Civic Society and our local press – the Leek Post & Times and Moorlands Radio.

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