STUDENTS and researchers will benefit from better access to an important collection of clothing and textiles, rehoused at a £32m mill venture.

The Gawthorpe Textiles Collection has 30,000 items including lace. embroidery, costumes, printed and woven materials and accessories.. It was established by Burnley-born Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth and was based at Gawthorpe Hall, a National Trust property at Padiham.

But now, it has a new home for studies, activities and storage at the newly completed Northlight redevelopment of Brierfield Mill, which also includes apartments, business spaces, adult education and leisure facilities.

Ian Brown, a textiles truste formerly with Blackburn-based wallpaper firm Graham & Brown, said the Gawthorpe collection is hugely important alongside other textile and craft collections across the country. It is as good as anything in the V&A, he said.

Textile collection curator Rachel Midgley said: “We plan to have all sorts of activity at Northlight including study and storage facilities, workshops and sewing clubs.  Gawthorpe Hall is a fantastic National Trust attraction. But these new spaces at Northlight will really enhance our activities.

“We have links to the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) which we hope to develop further. The clothing and textiles here are fantastic source materials for design students. They can visit us and experience the items closely.  There are clothes and textiles from around the world including Europe, the Middle East, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and China.

“Some items feature old embroidery techniques that will be known to Lancashire families with Asian links. Through history, some of the techniques were replaced by machine techniques. But maybe the hand techniques will be picked-up by new generations for hobbies today?”

Fiona Ritchie, another collection trustee, said: “The collection’s founder, Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth,  was active in many projects and wanted to get things going in the community,

"That included education, social,  economic and creative projects . This new space at Northlight really opens things up for our work today.

“We want to raise wider awareness of the collection and textile skills, and in getting those skills to live-on in new ways. We’ll be digitising the collection but also want groups to visit us and see these items for themselves. Students obviously use the internet and digital sources for their work. But this collection offers different and additional experiences. It’s fantastic.

“We work with schools and colleges, including Nelson & Colne College, Burnley College and Blackburn College, along with UCLan. We’re delighted to be at Northlight and looking forward to exciting future projects, ”