Last week the local newspaper the Basingstoke Gazette reported on the Whitchurch Silk Mill. The article included much of what had already been reported locally here and in the Parish Magazine, with the Chairman of the Trustees, Howard Birtwistle, confirming silk production had ceased and claiming that the downturn was due to the economic climate with an annual operating deficit of around £80,000.
Included was a confusing statement reporting that the Manager at the Mill did not know when production of silk had stopped. The General Manager, Stephen Bryer, who is also the Company Secretary, has also told this website that “I have nothing more to add to the statement already provided to the parish magazine”.
See our Report on that HERE
Could history be lost forever?
In a very concerning twist that is circulating widely in the town it is understood that a ‘clear out’ of documents at the Mill is presently underway although it is not known whether this is linked to the present financial situation. However it is believed a similar exercise was undertaken in the 1950’s and a lot of historical material was sadly lost forever.
Some are hoping that at least a qualified historian is involved this time to ensure no important records are consigned to the shredder. The Manager has told us “We are just undertaking ordinary house keeping” to allay fears.
Importance to the Town
The Mill’s future is important to many people who wish to see the Mill succeed as both a visitor attraction and as a producer of woven silk fabrics. Many fondly remember the days when it was possible to visit and enjoy tea and cakes in the tea room whilst looking out over the lawns, and the Mill was once a regular stop for cycling groups out on their Sunday club rides, but today the cycle racks remain empty.
The Mill brings much needed custom to local businesses and its history is ingrained within the town’s social fabric, many local people having worked there. Last year the Mill’s most experienced weaver, Joan Freuen. retired after nearly 25 years service.
What is the future?
With comments being made throughout the media including newspaper websites and social networking pages, many believe a statement from the the owners and fund providers on the future of the Mill is overdue.
The Trustees as listed on the Charity Commission website (as at 25th June 2012) are:
Mr Sandy Copland,
Mr Michael Woodhall
Mr Howard Birtwistle (Chairman)
Mr David Graham Munro Scott
Cllr Keith Watts
The Company Secretary is Stephen Bryer
28 Winchester Street, Whitchurch, RG28 7AL
Contact details of the Directors are available through Companies House for £1 (AR01 type document)
Whitchurch Silk Mill Trust, Company no. 02506000
Whitchurch Silk Mill (Trading) Limited, Company no. 01968546