Darren Banks, Mark Davey, Tracey McMaster, Yinka Shonibare MBE, Julian Wild
Director Matthew Chesney began a research enquiry into The House of The Flying Wheel: former manufacturing centre for Morley’s textile empire based in Nottingham. Now home to Backlit, Matthew has unearthed the astonishing historical value of the building and in 2008 began to collate an archive. The 19th Century name given to the building was due to Morley’s innovative approach to technology. House of The Flying Wheel became inspiration for this exhibition.
I&R Morley was founded in Nottingham towards the end of the eighteenth century by two brothers, John and Richard Morley who were from Sneinton (a borough of Nottingham). The firm later expanded to have warehouses in both Nottingham and London. The brothers were no ordinary men; they were men of business and at the same time men of principle. Springing from an old puritan stock, they were true to their family traditions. Richard Morley became a prominent figure in public life in the midlands and became mayor of Nottingham in 1836 and again in 1841. In London John Morley became a leader of the nonconformist society. Of the three sons of John Morley, Samuel Morley took the most active part in affairs of the firm. Consequently, his efforts raised the firm’s profile and the brand of I&R Morley – The House of the Flying Wheel.
Samuel proved to be a commercial genius as he took in hand all the threads of his undertaking of his father. When Samuel Morley’s father retired he acquired a larger and larger interest in the business. In 1855, Samuel Morley became the sole head of the London business.
He was renowned for his career as a politician and a philanthropist giving great deals on money to now known Nottingham Trent University, University of Nottingham, Nottingham Castle, the Old Vic Theatre and in memorial to the Morley College in London in 1889. Morley was also a notable abolitionist who wrote the foreword to freed US slave, Josiah Henson (which was later immortalised into ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’), political radical (Liberal), and statesman (Member of Parliament and Mayor of Nottingham).
Since the mid 20th Century living memory of Morley has diminished and unfortunately his legacy has subsequently been forgotten. Backlit occupies one of Morley’s original and most prominent textile manufactures plants, Alfred house, in the eastside of Nottingham city. Backlit is is a vibrant community focussed gallery space that celebrates its past and looks to the future. Our work locally aims to enhance public exposure to the arts and to the legacy of Morley. As such, this exhibition acts as a link between Nottingham and London, demonstrating both the breadth of Morley’s influence and his enduring gift for breaking barriers and developing unity across cities.
The exhibition used Morley’s trade-mark ‘House of the flying wheel’ to reinterprets the heritage of Morley’s radical approach in the 1800 in his political actions in the abolition movement to end slavery and his ethos of giving fair wages and free education to the working class, endowing adult education heritage.