International Textile Collection

Professor Aldred Farrar Barker (1868-1964)

Professor Aldred Barker

Calling himself a ‘typical product of the Clothworkers’ Department of the University of Leeds’, Professor Aldred Barker rose through the ranks to become its third Chair from 1914 to 1933. He also was a longstanding editor of ‘The Journal of the Leeds University Textile Association’, and then ‘The Journal of Textile Science’, to which he was the prime contributor, predominantly on the international wool industry, drawing on his visits to Europe, the Americas, South Africa, India and the Far East.

New: see Professor Barker in our digitised video of him in Peru 1926.


1868-1884: Born at Fleet Mill near Oulton, Leeds on 31 May 1868. Church of England upbringing, influenced by the church and the City Art Gallery (his father being on the original committee). Until the age of 16 he worked at his father’s factory, Sheepshanks Mill, Kirkstall Road.

From 1884: Studied at the Yorkshire College with a Clothworkers’ Company Scholarship, and particularly recalled attending art lectures by Lewis F Day. Became Treasurer of the Student Association, and was asked to establish the Student Textile Society. Sat for a Senior Scholarship. Became an Honorary Associate of the Yorkshire College, and was awarded an MSc on the formation of the University of Leeds in 1904.

1887-1893: Appointed Head of the Textile Department, Saltaire Technical School. Founded the Shipley Textile Society.

1894-1914: Became Head of the Textile Department at Bradford Technical College. Designed and equipped Bradford’s Textile School. Founded the Bradford Textile Society.

1912: Invited to Cambridge University to assist Professor T B Wood (Professor of Agriculture) in sheep cross-breeding research.

1914: Elected to succeed Professor Roberts Beaumont in the Chair of Textile Industries, University of Leeds.

29 September 1914: Newly appointed, Professor Barker’s first public lecture, on ‘Sheep and Wool’.

1st May 1914: Bradford Textile Society holds a dinner in honour of Barker.

Autumn 1919: Toured Canada and the United States at the same time as the Prince of Wales.

1921: President of the newly formed Leeds University Boat Club; Carried out research on developing the wool supplies of Peru.

1923: Lectured on the degeneration of merino sheep to the Pan-Pacific Science Congress in Sydney, Australia. Lectured to the Theosophical Society on Evolution.

1926: Professor and Mrs Barker invited to visit Peru by the president to report on the potentialities of Peru as a ‘wool-growing’ country. They spent six weeks in the country and visited a model sheep farm. Barker produced a report for the Peruvian government on ‘The prospective development of Peru as a sheep-breeding and wool growing country’ (1926) (reviewed in the Journal of the Textile Institute Proceedings, 1927).  A film reel of this visit was discovered in ULITA, and is now available to view on YouTube.

16 Nov 1926: Barker wrote to the Editor of ‘The Times’ on ‘The World’s Wool: A Serious Position’. His concerns were that cattle rearing, for beef, was taking over from wool production, which would affect the world, and no doubt the local economy: Sir,- Having just returned from an extensive tour of South America, covering most of the sheep raising and wool producing districts of that continent; and having previously visited Australia for the purpose of studying the wool trade of that continent, I shall be much obliged if you will allow me, through your columns, to call attention to the serious position which is slowly, but surely, developing in the wool industry. (Journal of Textile Science Aug 1927)

Late 1920s: Visited South Africa.

1928: Published his concerns of ‘The Artificial Silk Menace to the Wool Trade’ and how wool manufacturing is polluting Yorkshire’s rivers. Travels in Germany and France.

1930: Gave a radio broadcast to the BBC of a review of the wool trade from the 18th century to the present time.

February 1930: Lectured again in Sydney.

Summer 1931: Invited to Kashmir by the minister of the Maharajah of Jammu and Kashmir. He left London on 25 June and arrived in Jammu on 16 July. This invitation meant he had to postpone another invitation to Canada. Barker’s original intent was to survey the sheep-breeding and wool-growing, but saw an opportunity to investigate the home and cottage industries, including the production of pashmina, carpets and shawls.  He later published “A report on the Cottage textile industries of Kashmir and their prospective development”.

1933: Retired from Chair of Textile Industries, University of Leeds His farewell speech is published in the 1934 Journal of Textile Science, in which he describes the department as holding such a world-unique position’. I would suggest that while it is the University’s function to create beautiful clothing for the mind, it is the special function of the Textile Department to create beautiful clothing for the human body.

On retiring, he was offered a position at Chiao-tung University, Shanghai, arriving there in October 1933 with his son Kenneth Crookes Barker. In 1934, after several months touring Barker published a report on the textile industries of China and Japan.

Barker met former ‘international’ students of the University of Leeds, who assisted his tours of Chinese manufacturing. Professor Lo Ting Yu of Peiping University had studied at Leeds University in 1908-10, during which time he had donated ‘Chinese silk fabrics and embroidered silks’ to the Textile Museum (along with fellow student Wong Ka Luen). One of Barker’s recommendations was that Shanghai should have a textiles museum:

‘The possibilities of Shanghai as the most wonderful “emporium” of the Far East might then be exploited in the interests of the Chinese Textile Industries.’

1930s: Father and son amassed a quantity of traditionally decorated Chinese textiles, from which the present day Qing Dynasty Collection is built.

1937: Barker lent his collection of Chinese silks and scrolls to the department to display at the graduation reception.

1938: Barker emigrates to Australia and set up a spinning and weaving business ‘Barker’s Textiles’ with his sons in north Melbourne, with a second mill in Portland (the business closes in 1951).

Late 1940s onwards: A Barker prize for undergraduates was established.

In 1955 to 1960 Barker is referenced as an annual donator to the department (now residing in Merino Cottage, Portland, Victoria, Australia).

1964: Barker died aged 96.

Barker was also interested in camping, and published on ‘motor camping’.

Several of Barker’s publication on the international wool industry, together with his papers and correspondence are in Leeds University Library.


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