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Submitted by William Hornsby from an article written by Eunice Arnold (nee Morley) in 1993


Denis Hornsby with bobbins


It all began in Burton Latimer church in the summer of 1975, Denis had a display of Treen and I had a display of Lace. At that time getting bobbins was not an easy matter so, I asked, "Why don't you make bobbins?" Denis did not know what they were but by the time the public was admiitted he was well grounded and had a couple of examples in his pocket. The next morning he arrived
Denis Hornsby with Princess Alice
with bobbins of his own make. Granted the heads and short necks were not quite right but they were beautiful pieces of work. A few weeks later he attended his first Lace Day - the second at Elstow - with two pockets full of perfected bobbins. From then on Burton Latimer lost its carpenter and Lacemakers gained a champion.

Denis became a staunch supporter of Lacemakers and all their activities. When we set about forming the Lace Guild, an idea mooted at Elstow in 1974, Denis gave his full support. At the inaugural meeting in April 1976, he had inscribed souvenir bobbins on sale. He had studied the old bobbins and the few lace books available at the time to find out how inscriptions were made. Denis never let the grass grow under his feet. He always kept a finger on the pulse of lacemakers' activities and requirements, as well as the establishment and growth of the Lace Guild. No request ever fell on deaf ears. Denis made many personal sacrifices to meet our needs, fine linen thread being a case in point. None could be had but Denis persisted until one manufacturer agreed, on condition he bought a hundredweight! The cost was more than Denis had paid for his house but he took the risk for us.

And what about half a ton of pins? "Oh yes, Mr Hornsby, we can supply, provided you are prepared to purchase the complete run". An estimated 15 years supply! I would have backed off but Denis didn't. He knew we were desperate for fine pins - so desperate that he was sold out in two years!

Bobbin winders were another problem. Denis made bobbin winders based on the traditional design, which were works of art. Sadly, these were superseded by the lightweight, plastic variety.

Books were another thing in short supply in those early days. Denis did all he could to find what was available, in fact, it was Denis who was instrumental in the publication of my book. He brought it to the notice of Ruth Bean.

What a boon to lacemakers are the lightweight polystyrene pillows. Denis had a mould made for making these, after very careful research ensured the polystyrene was of sufficiently high density to give durability along with the best of working conditions. Plastic bobbins were another successful venture.

Young Lacemakers were always close to the heart of both Denis and his wife Mercy. They were ever ready to encourage. I well remember being reprimanded for only having three prizes for a competition! Denis and Mercy made sure there was something for every competitor. Prizes for grown ups were also generously donated.

Mercy did not escape. Horrified by my "Heath Robinson" version of a pillow bag, she made me a much more serviceable and attractive bag. That was the end of Mercy's dressmaking. Bags, bobbin cases and pillow covers took over. William and Sylvia were eventually ensnared. I think it was the books that really trapped William. Building on the worldwide contacts Denis had already made, William began to find books to widen our lacemaking horizons. But none of this changed Denis and Mercy. Anyone coming to their home was welcomed with a cheery greeting, a cup of tea and a good "natter".

Denis devoted himself to the service of the lace and Lacemakers worldwide and his like will not be seen again. Those of us who were "in at the beginning" along with Denis, know that there will never be a more dedicated and loyal servant of the Lace Guild and its members,. He will be sorely missed.


Mercy, William, Sylvia, Beccy and Catherine, would like to thank everyone for their kindness following the death of Denis on Sunday 3rd January.

We have all been touched and comforted by the cards, letter and messages which we have received - but there have been several hundred, and we are sory that we cannot reply to each one personally.

More than fifty people attended his simple funeral service. There were no flowers, except for a family wreath - a "bobbin" made of white carnations - but donations in memory of Denis may still be sent to the Young Lacemakers' section of the Lace Guild. He was interested in all aspects of lacemaking, but the children's work always received the special attention and support.

Without exception, people have remembered Denis as a cheerful, helpful man of integrity - a friend as well as a lace supplier. We are all proud to continue the family business which Denis started nearly twenty years ago. In future, all business will be dealt with from Canterbury by William and Sylvia (with help from Beccy and Catherine!). Mercy has "retired" from the partnership, but is working as hard as ever, and will be pleased to welcome friends for a cup of tea and a chat at Burton Latimer.

Sincere thanks from us all to everyone of our friends - customers and suppliers - for your support, and for your memories of Denis.

Click here to link to read about the production of bobbins by Denis Hornsby.

Click here to read about the Hornsby family

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