Leek is the principal town of the Staffordshire Moorlands and is the most important centre on the south-western edge of the Peak District. It stands on a hill in a large bend in the River Churnet and is locally known as the `Queen of the Moorlands'.
Since the 1670s, the silk industry was of great importance in the area. During the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Leek evolved from a quiet, rural town into a centre of silk weaving and dozens of large mills were built, one of which can be seen looming above the road to Macclesfield. Silk dyeing was also important, bringing William Morris to the town on numerous occasions. Leek boomed, the population increased and thousands were employed in its large millls, however, the silk industry declined rapidly from about 1970. Silk weaving is no longer carried out, yet around fifteen mills survive today, converted into flats, antique stores and engineering works.
In Secret Leek, local author and historian Neil Collingwood takes the reader off the beaten track into the lesser-known details of the town's history. From tales of famous people, unknown facts and architectural gems, this new book will prove to be a must-have for everyone's bookshelf, appealing not only to those with a keen interest in the history of Leek but also to the casual reader who wishes to learn more about this fascinating and historical corner of Staffordshire.
Neil Collingwood was born in 1956 in Leek, Staffordshire. He developed an interest in local history following a period working as a museum attendant at Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Museum after obtaining his degree in Applied Biology. He soon discovered the archive collection of old photographs that the museum held and asked for permission to catalogue them on computer. Neil has given many talks on Newcastle-under-Lyme using both old photos and his own.