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Usines is the french word for factories, in our case those where the lace fabric was made by the Lacemakers of Calais.

For a detailed comment on the construction and layout of the large Calais lace factories, see the journal Tulle Issue 38 pp29-31

The machines started as crude timber frames with levers and pedals operated by a man sitting in the frame. Technology and human inspiration saw these basic frames develop into sophisticated but noisy metal machines with many moving parts able to produce very wide fabric of net called tulle, which when intricate but delicate patterns were applied to it became lace, or in French dentelle.

In England the machine-made lace industry developed in the midlands with Nottingham becoming the major centre. In France the industry developed in the north and in particular in Calais. For a detailed report on 'The Machine-Made Lace Industry in Calais' in 1904 [not much changed from 1848] see the journal Tulle Issue 119 pp12-27.

The process to make lace on the steam-powered Leavers machine is complicated. A much simplified description of the processes and the workers involved can explain this process.


Usine Boulart - Calais Lace Museum

Image: Gillian Kelly

Usine Boulart Calais

The Boulart Lace Factory

The above view taken from Rue du Pont Neuf is probably of the abandoned building after the lace workings were removed. The "bow windows" created when the Leavers machines were lengthened to accommodate the jacquard heads can be seen projecting from the facade. 

It is this building that was renovated and extended to become today's Calais Lace Museum 

Usine Topham

Usine Topham Calais

The Topham Lace Factory in Calais

Image: Gillian Kelly Collection

Calais Lace Museum

Image: Google Earth

Usine Boulart today as the "Calais Lace Museum"

Image: Google Earth

Usine Boulart today as the "Calais Lace Museum".


Aerial view shows the 3 building wings and the central yard which originally housed the boiler house and it's steam engine.

Plan - Lace factories in Calais and St Pierre in late 1800s

Usine Gaillard

The Gaillard lace factory was constructed in St Pierre-les-Calais by M. Joseph Napoléon Gaillard and his son in the 1890s within an old lime factory on most of the block of land bounded by rues Gaillard, Archimède, du Four à Chaux and Masséna. The factory continued to be expanded and renovated during the twentieth century by successive generations of the Gaillard family. The building was abandoned in the 1990s and has been renovated and now houses a public high school, the Collège les Dentelliers with its address at 42 rue Gaillard.


Other former lace factories in Calais including the Lefebvre factory in rue Auber, have been renovated and repurposed to accommodate other uses such as apartments and artists’ studios and workshops.

Image: Gillian Kelly Collection

Inner yard in early 1900s

View looking at the Boiler House that supplied steam to operate the machinery in the wings on either side of the yard. 

Note the turrets or stair towers used to access the building floors.

Inner yard in 1996

View after the lace factory was abandoned. 

Street View

The abandoned building looking looking north along rue du Four à Chaux

Note the projecting windows built to accommodate Jacquard enhanced machines. 

Image: Gillian Kelly

Image: Gillian Kelly

Image: Gillian Kelly

Aerial view

The school today showing the turret stairs and original two, three and four storey buildings of the lace factory

Image: Google Earth

School entrance today in rue Gaillard

Image: Stephen Black


Adams Factory - Nottingham

Image: Gillian Kelly Collection

How noisy is it in a lacemaking factory?

Click the icon to hear just one machine.

Heathcoat and Boden Factory 

Barnstaple 1825

Image: Gillian Kelly Collection

Heathcoat Factory Tiverton c 1900

Factory opened c1817

Image: Gillian Kelly Collection


A Framework Knitting Machine

Image: Stephen Black

A Frameshop 

Frameshop at Ruddington Framework Knitters' Museum showing the original and close layout of machines

Image Stephen Black

Leavers Machine 1851

Builder Richard Birkin

Leavers Machine 1851

With Jacquard at end

A Lace machine

with Jacquard apparatus

Caudry Lace 

Jacquard cards

Longmire's Leavers Machine

On display in Nottingham 1905

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