In 1908 ABC Wax in Hyde produced wax cotton for export to West Africa. They continued to export high quality wax cotton, often combining traditional symbols used in West Africa with modern influences in designs, until 2005 when the company relocated its manufacturing process to Ghana. A small design team continued in Hyde until February 2021.
Until we spoke with ABC Wax Manager David Bradley, we were unaware of this amazing part of Tameside’s heritage. One of the fascinations for us was the ‘batik’ process ABC used. Batik is a technique originally from Indonesia where wax is used as a ‘resist’ or barrier to the fabric dye. Our friends Cabasa, use hand made batik for most of their costumes made at The Vale partly because it gives each piece a unique quality.
Soon after speaking with David we met Tameside resident Agnes Fough of Ghanian heritage who is a font of knowledge on Adinkra cloth which originates from the Akan people in Ghana and uses symbols to convey meaning and philosophy. ABC Wax designs sometimes included Adinkra symbols and so we were keen to know more.*
In this talk from our Cotton Connections series Agnes helps us to to have a more complete understanding of Tameside’s heritage and how cloth can be part of a cultural dialogue. Thank you Agnes for sharing your knowledge and time with us.
With thanks to Portland Basin Museum, Ashton Under Lyne and Manchester Museum for the images of ABC Wax prints.
* For a more detailed discussion on Adinkra symbols and representation in British cloth for export see Allison J. Martino (2020) From Kings to Kids: Refashioning Akan Adinkra Symbols as ‘African Motifs in a Nineteenth-Century British Cloth Design. Textile History, 51:1, 29 – 59.
To read more about Cotton Culture, our Heritage Lottery Funded Project, head to our Heritage page