Searching for Dorset Buttons

I have always been fascinated by Dorset Buttons - they are beautifully delicate and hark back to an industry long since gone, but thankfully Shaftesbury Abbey Museum is hoping
to change that. They are currently researching the history of this once hugely important Dorset craft industry and hope to revive Dorset Button making, by forming a local co-operative for the benefit of the area.

The Dorset Button Industry started in Shaftesbury in the 1620s by Abraham Case and became a major cottage industry throughout Dorset, creating employment and income for many families. By the 1780s approx 4,000 men, women and children were worked in the industry. 

Dorset Knob Button via Henrys Buttons

Dorset Buttons are woven thread buttons: originally thread was wrapped around a ring
of sheep’s horn but this was replaced in the 18th century with a metal ring. The early buttons were called ‘high tops’ and ‘dorset knobs’, and by the mid to late 1600s,
over 31 different styles of buttons were being made.
Birds Eyes Buttons via Henrys Buttons
The handmade dorset button industry collapsed with the introduction of button making machines in the 1850s, which were first displayed at the Great Exhibition of 1851.
revolutionary industrial process was devastating for the Dorset Button Industry -
caused mass unemployment and extreme hardship, whereby the British government funded the emigration of hundreds of families to Australia and Canada,
and in turn, a uniquely British craft was lost.

Singleton Buttons via Henrys Buttons

So, the question is - can you help? One of the aims of Shaftesbury Abbey Museum
is to create a directory of all organisations and individuals that hold collections of Dorset Buttons.
The Dorset museums have collections, as do the Museum of London and
the V&A but if you have, or know of a collection, then do please contact
Annabel Turner, from
Shaftesbury Abbey Museum here.


  1. I love making Dorset Buttons ! And enjoyed participating in the 'Singleton Challenge' All the buttons were sold on ebay and the money will go to the Dorset History Museum
    I am keeping the art alive by teaching my Students at The Wakefield and five Towns Recovery College How to make these ! Krissy [Buttony]


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