Opening our small and compact studio shop in Berwick Upon Tweed in October 2017 has been incredibly rewarding.
Everyday is an informative session which is stimulated by customers chat and feedback on the shop as well as the knitwear fashion and accessories . Market research via experiences with the public has helped in terms of decision making about product, design and fit.
I have been asked “why Berwick-Upon-Tweed?”
I live not far from here and it seemed the obvious place to open a studio from where to work and sell. Also, Berwick has an amazing history with hidden lanes and cobbled streets, the coastal atmosphere and estuary as well as the Lowry connection.
The Rushworth connection
Only after I opened the shop did I realise that there is a previous important connection between Rushworth and Berwick Upon Tweed. According to Wikipedia, back in the days of the 1600’s one John Rushworth was MP for Berwick upon Tweed and a man with an interesting history.
John Rushworth was born about 1612 locally, near Warkworth, studied law and in 1638 was made a solicitor in Berwick upon Tweed.
He then began work at the House of Commons in 1640. The next twenty years were a dramatic period of British history with civil wars, the execution of Charles I and in the end, the restoration of Charles II. Rushworth was a man of the written word and reported on most of the great battles of the war and by 1645 he was secretary to the general of the New Model Army. In 1649, he became personal secretary to Oliver Cromwell and began drafting plans for the abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of an English Republic under the leadership of Cromwell.
An MP for Berwick-Upon-Tweed three times (between 1657 and 1685) he spent the last six years of his life in the prison in Southwark due to poverty. Apparently being reduced to his second childhood, for his memory wasn’t so good by taking too much brandy to keep up his spirits. He quietly died there on 12 May 1690.
He left behind his ‘Historical Collections’ which were an account of the time and apparently inspired Thomas Jefferson before the American Declaration of Independence and the Rushworth Book of Gospels, now a 1200 year old book which he donated to Oxford University before his death.
There is an opinion that he hand wrote the death warrant of Charles I as Cromwell’s secretary but as to the truth of that… who knows?
What about knitwear fashion?
So enough of the Rushworth association with Berwick, what about fashion and textiles?
The knitwear fashion and textiles link with Berwick includes Pringle of Scotland’s knitwear factory (then owned by Dawson International) which had been in Berwick for almost 50 years, employing up to 300 people. It closed sometime in 1998 having produced high quality knitwear fashion, particularly sportswear including sponsoring professional golfers Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie.
I have also learnt through local knowledge and a bit of searching the internet about a resident designer John Ashpool, who set up a small knitwear factory in Berwick upon Tweed in the early 70’s. John Ashpool’s knitwear designs are now exhibited in the New York Metropolitan Art Museum and the V & A Museum, London.
Not to mention that back in the day John Ashpool’s knitwear was stocked in some high end stores such as Browns in South Molton Street in London, and Roberto Cavalli in Florence. As he no longer produces knitwear, his jumpers and other designs are sought after and can occasionally surface to be quickly snapped up by collectors.
So while Berwick-Upon-Tweed may not be an obvious place to have opened a studio shop, we have enjoying reading and learning about the paths trodden by Rushworths and knitwear designers.
Shop to close 9th March 2019
You can currently visit us online at www.wearerushworth.com.