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Scarth Blue


You know that scene in Back to Future 2… the one where Doc Brown, dressed in the futuristic fashions of 2015, grabs a handful of rubbish and puts it into the back of the DeLorean… exclaiming ‘I NEED FUEL’. ⠀

Well, William Gilyard Scarth was doing something similar in 150 years before Marty and Doc were trying not to interrupt the space time continuum. ⠀

William didn’t have a flux capacitor … he just had a relatively small business dyeing and selling coloured cloth… but he was taking rubbish, in this case, the waste of several local industries, and using it to modernise the dyeing process and production of blue cloth. ⠀

The colour blue in cloth traditionally comes from two plants; Indigo; found predominantly in India and Asia and Woad; which, while able to grow in Europe, is particularly nasty if eaten by wildlife and has a tendency to grow at an exponential rate if not properly farmed. ⠀

Either way, blue was a fairly expensive dye to produce.⠀

So, in 1836, William Gilyard Scarth and his brother, Robert, bought some Sumac… a relatively inexpensive red plant used for spicing… sourced oak tree bark discarded by building and craft industries around Yorkshire… nabbed some peat fresh from The Pennines and threw in the stems of a few hops discarded by Thomas Walker’s Kirkstall Brewery… and then left the wicked concoction to ferment.⠀

Once dried, they were left with a blue powder that was almost indistinguishable from that made by more extravagant and expensive techniques of the time… ‘Great Scott!’, they cried (probably).⠀

Seeing the treasure in another man’s trash… the Scarth’s used the unwanted crap of others to make the future of the coloured cloth industry a little bit brighter… in Morley and beyond.

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