Forge Mill Needle Museum
Richard Cavendish unthreads the history of this Worcestershire museum.
The Redditch area of Worcestershire, south-east of Birmingham, was the world's major needle-making district in the nineteenth century, turning out some 3,500 million needles a year in the 1870s. There's a story that a pushy foreign manufacturer once sent a tiny hypodermic needle to Redditch, claiming it as the smallest needle in the world. It was swiftly sent back to him with a Redditch needle threaded inside it.
All that has changed, though Needle Industries at Studley still has an annual output of around 400 million needles. Another survivor is Forge Mill, a needle-scouring works until it closed in 1958 and now a unique and lively-minded museum, set among green fields close to the River Arrow. After the mill shut down, the buildings and machinery were maintained by volunteers led by a formidable civil engineer named Geoff Rollins, who sadly died a year before money from Redditch District Council enabled the museum to open in 1983.