The town of Kidderminster on the lower reaches of the River Stour in Worcestershire gave its name in the seventeenth century to ‘Kidderminster Stuff’, a fairly heavy woollen fabric used for curtains and for ‘carpets’ (in the sense of cloths laid on tables or chests). In the course of the eighteenth century the town became one of the most celebrated centres in England for the manufacture of carpets in the modern sense, i.e. woven floor coverings. The town came to be dominated by multi-storey steam-powered mills, many of them designed in a distinctive style by the Birmingham architect J.G.Bland who was responsible for the Stour Vale Mills, completed in 1856, where he made extensive use of white brick, especially on the engine house. The carpet industry in Kidderminster contracted in the late twentieth century although several firms remain in production.
The museum in the Stour Vale Mills, which is managed by a trust, was established from 2010 with the help of a National Lottery grant. It includes a large-scale image of the town when the carpet industry was at its peak, and its collections include some 5,000 carpet designs, and the files of the local newspaper, appropriately called the Kidderminster Shuttle. Looms used for weaving carpets were exceptionally large, and the museum has two working looms that were used for making Axminster and Wilton carpets, as well as examples of smaller items of machinery. Displays illustrate the social history of the carpet industry, particularly the famous strike of Kidderminster weavers in 1828.