Whitchurch’s world famous Silk Mill, built on the River Test in 1815, has ceased production of its renowned silk fabrics in order to avoid insolvency. This could be a major change to how the town’s major tourist attraction operates, and attracts visitors.
The Mill was the oldest working Silk Mill in the UK with fabrics having been woven since 1817. However we now learn that there is a reported £80,000 annual loss at the Mill, of which £20,000 was on the silk production.
Wide use of the fabrics
The Mill had worked with many organisations, including country houses, museums, and film companies. Fabrics have been used for interior designs, legal gowns, and period costumes with the Mill once producing the silk for the famous Burberry raincoats. Many leading TV productions have used the Whitchurch silk, including Pride and Prejudice and Downton Abbey, while it is also featured in the films Titanic and the Madness of King George.
With the soon-to-be opening visitor centre at the Laverstoke Gin Distillery there could be opportunities to build on the tourism synergy of the two sites and approaches have been made to consider cooperation. However, if the Whitchurch Mill were to be simply a static Museum it could mean the loss of a very special status as a ‘Working Mill’ that could affect its attraction to visitors.
“…would have been forced to close”
In an article published in the Whitchurch Parish Magazine the Trustees said that the production of silk led to an annual deficit of about £20,000.
They went on to say that “These losses could no longer be financed and unless eliminated immediately the entire Silk Mill would have been forced to close.” They said the decision to cease silk production was taken “with considerable reluctance”.
Councillor Keith Watts who is a Trustee of the Mill said:
“Now that Whitchurch Silk Mill is not trading as a supplier of fabric to order I am working with other trustees to agree a strategy that will secure the future of the Mill according to its Charitable Objects, which do not include the sale of woven fabric.”
For now it would seem the Trustees have managed to keep the Mill open, but as an important heritage site in the town all efforts should be made to ensure its continuing existence.
This website has offered its full support and is awaiting a response.