The rise of the woollen trade in the north of England badly affected the industry in Chard but in 1819 the manufacture of lace arrived from Nottingham encouraged by the activities there of the Luddites. Soon there were mills in and around Chard producing bobbin lace net which was exported worldwide.

In 1842 Chard nearly experienced its own Peterloo Massacre when a walkout by lace mill workers following a cut in wages led to some angry scenes and the Mayor called in the Ilminster Yeomanry.
An agreement between workers and millowners led to the Yeomanry withdrawing from the town but an angry mob followed the soldiers throwing stones. The officer in charge later said that, had he known his troops were under attack, he would have ordered them to fire adding:

“it would have been poor consolation, in revenge for a pelting, which after all did no serious injury, to have left 50 or 60 of the mob dead in the street.”

The industry continued throughout the rest of the 19th century and into the middle of the 20th century when the last mill in the town finally closed although net is still made in one of the nearby villages.
A thriving engineering industry grew up alongside the lace mills and several of the firms which developed from this are still operating in Chard today.

A Brief History of Chard

People have been living in the Chard area since prehistoric times and villas nearby at Tatworth and Wadeford show that Romans lived here too, but the first written mention of the town was in 1065 just prior to the Norman invasion. A little over twenty years later the Domesday Book recorded details of the settlement which was then a large, though not rich, manor.

In the middle of the 13th century the lord of the manor, the Bishop of Wells, drew up a charter founding a new borough of Chard.
The site of the original village, now known as Old Town, was near St Mary’s Church but the new borough was created a little distance away on what is now the A30.

Like many towns in England Chard became closely involved in the wool trade. By 1300 the town was important enough to send two members to the King’s Parliament but this proved to be a costly privilege and soon stopped.

Much of Chard was destroyed in a devastating fire in 1577 but it was soon rebuilt and the wool trade continued to flourish.

The town was briefly affected by the Monmouth Rebellion of 1685 as the Duke’s army marched through on their way to their defeat at the Battle of Sedgemoor. Chard citizens escaped lightly in the retribution of Judge Jeffrey’s Bloody Assizes although twelve rebel strangers were brought to the town and hanged.