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Do you have any stories relating to I & R Morley? Do you have any images or contributions you'd like to make to the digital archive? You can call us on 0115 837 24 26 or get in contact with us via email, facebook or twitter to help us rebuild the Morley legacy.

Flying Wheel


Backlit is a two storey independent art gallery located in the heart of Nottingham, UK. It provides affordable studio spaces for contemporary artists; supporting early career graduates, emerging artists and international touring practitioners. Backlit provides a dynamic public programme of national and international artists including original artist commissions, workshops, screenings and live debates. It has a strong working relationship with regional and national organisations and universities. It is committed to supporting community-engaged projects and provides unique critical sessions for artists working in the city.

backlit team

Samuel Morley commissioned Alfred House, Backlit’s current premises, the site once home to I&R Morley, textile manufacturers. Morley described as; entrepreneur, philanthropist, Member of Parliament, social reformer was also a model employer and ardent abolitionist. Morley also funded many organisations across the city of Nottingham and took particular interest in the Old Vic theatre in London after Emma Cons re-opened it in 1880. The Old Vic provided "penny lectures” by eminent scientists and pioneered adult education. Enthusiasm grew for “penny lectures” which, led to the opening of the Morley Memorial College for working class men and women in 1889.

Backlit’s project focused on its site-specific historical past, profiling a figure that is largely forgotten in Nottingham, by linking his forward thinking ideas with local communities.

The Samuel Morley Programme 2014 - 2015.

The main aim of the Samuel Morley Programme was for the people of Nottingham to reconnect with this forward thinking philanthropist, by including their personal histories into the social tapestry of his legacy. The project has raised the profile of Samuel Morley and Nottingham’s rich industrial past, uncovering past stories and experiences, whilst at the same time creating new perspectives and understanding for all.

House of The Flying Wheel exhibition Morley College, London.

A 21st Century portrait of Morley, through the eyes of contemporary artists.

Originally shown at Backlit in the summer of 2014, the exhibition toured to The Morley College Gallery, London in January 2015 to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the college. Featuring works by Darren Banks, Mark Davey, Tracey McMaster, Yinka Shonibare MBE, and Julian Wild.

Threads Digital Archive and Virtual Reality experience

Backlit has digitized its collection of Morley related ephemera in a visually and emotionally directed archive. The Morley Threads archive features videos, oral histories, images and historical information online for future generations to enjoy and learn. The immersive in-house experience allows viewers to interact with the buildings history as an old textile factory built by renowned hosiery manufacturers I & R Morley.

morley planning

Morley Threads Archive

Morley Threads is an intuitive and nonhierarchical archive, for users to explore various facets and connections of the Morley legacy. Backlit have worked with creative digital agency Kind to build a dynamic online platform. Morley Threads weaves pivotal historical junctures in industry and textile manufacturing, human rights and education that still holds importance today.

‘House of the Flying Wheel’ Virtual Reality experience

This in-house concept provides an innovative immersive virtual environment using contemporary gaming technology. Backlit visitors are able to step back in time through a reimagined setting of the original factory in the late 19th century. Built by Hot Knife Digital Media Studio, this experience allows users to explore areas of the working factory floor in the search of archive object.