Skip to main content
Social and Industrial History


Social and Industrial History

The Herbert's Social and Industrial History collection charts the history and development of Coventry and the lives and experiences of its people, past and present. It covers all aspects of life in Coventry.

Social and Industrial History overview

This collection charts the history and development of Coventry and the lives and experiences of its people.

George Eliot collection

Who was George Eliot? George Eliot was the pen name chosen by Mary Ann Evans, a Victorian writer. She chose a male pen name so that her works were taken seriously, in response to an 1856 essay she wrote for the Westminster Review, ‘Silly Novels by Lady Novelists’.

Toys and Games

This collection includes some wonderful 19th century dolls and a wide range of toys including popular favourites such as Lego, toy trains, Action Man and a space hopper.

Silk Ribbon Weaving

Ribbon weaving was Coventry's main industry from the early 1700s to the 1860s. During this period about half its population made a living from ribbon weaving and Coventry was the main centre of ribbon production in England.


Explore our fine collection of Coventry-made clocks and watches.


The Herbert has probably the finest collection of woven silk pictures and bookmarks in the country. A few silk pictures were produced in the 1850s and 1860s, but they were made famous by the firm of Thomas Stevens of Coventry, which made their first silk pictures or Stevengraphs, as they called them, in 1879. From then until the early 20th century Stevens produced around 200 different designs.

Costume and textiles

The particular strength of the costume collection is women’s dresses from 1800 to the 1920s. The overall collection covers the main changes in women's fashion from 1800 to the 1970s. It also includes more up-to-date items such as goth clothing from the late 1990s.