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Acts of kindness in the rag trade: City of London Linens and Furnishings Association archives

Katie Keys

London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) extensive collection of trade association archives saw a recent addition (2013-14) in the records of the City of London Linens and Furnishings Association. Recently catalogued, this collection sheds light on an organisation established in 1921 to support workers in the textile trade, formerly one of the UK’s leading industries.

History and records

The Association was established in 1921 as a forum for workers in the wholesale linen trade to come together for the benefit of themselves as a group and for their industry. 

Initially entitled the City of London Wholesale Linen Trade Association, membership consisted of buyers and agents only. It was later expanded to accept members from the manufacturing and retail sectors. A series of name changes signal this progression, firstly to the City of London Linen Trades Association (CLLTA) then, in 1962, to the City of London Linens and Furnishings Association (CLLFA).

Members took part in activities such as bowls, snooker and golf, and attended an annual dinner both for their own enjoyment and to raise funds for the Association’s Benevolent Fund. Administering this Fund was an important function of the Association. Managed by five trustees, the Benevolent Fund was established in 1926 to provide members, former members and their dependents with financial assistance in times of hardship or ill health. The minutes of the meetings of the trustees form the main records of the collection, and detail the assistance provided to named individuals from 1926 to 2013 (LMA/4655/01/001 and 002).

Despite the Association’s logo featuring a female textile worker spinning on a wheel, it was an all-male preserve until 1979 when female members were first admitted.  The first female President, Jean Biggs, was elected in 1985. The collection also contains the President’s chain of office (LMA/4655/04/01).

Membership peaked at over 300 members in the 1990s. However, by the end of the 20th Century, textile manufacturing in the UK was in decline. Companies were moving their production to the Far East where overheads were lower and labour was cheaper. As a result, membership of the Association began to decline. In 2011 the Committee and Trustees made the decision to wind up the Association.

These records are complemented by the collections of other trade associations we hold, such as the National Pawnbrokers Association (CLC/012), as well as those of benevolent funds such as the Tailors Benevolent Institution (ACC/2655), Hackney Carriages Proprietors Benevolent Fund (ACC/3653), Drovers’ Benevolent Institution (CLC/138), and Boot Trade Benevolent Society (CLC/116) amongst others.


The full catalogue can be found on the LMA Collections catalogue at reference LMA/4655. The benevolent fund minute books (LMA/4655/01/001 and 002) have been placed under restricted access because they contain details of individuals' personal circumstances which, under data protection legislation, remain closed to the public for the lifetimes of those named.

LMA would like to thank the Trustees of Archives of the City of London Linens and Furnishings Association for their kind donation of these records which will enable the contribution of the Association and the wider linen trade to be documented for posterity.

Further information

  • You can find out more about the amazing collections held by LMA on our collections pages.
  • You can see more about the City of London Linens and Furnishings Association on the LMA Collections Catalogue under reference LMA/4655.


19 June 2014
Last Modified:
01 August 2018