Margaret McPhee

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Whitchurch Silk Mill

Bits and Bobs

Bits and Bobs

Whitchuch Silk Mill and Shop

Whitchurch Silk Mill

Set in rural Hampshire, in the small country town of Whitchurch, the silk mill is one of the last surviving working mills in England. It has been producing silk since Regency times and I recently had a chance to visit and learn a bit more about the mill.

Wool then silk
A mill has existed on the same site for hundreds of years producing initially wool and then silk. The current mill is thought to have been built by a local landowner, Henry Hayter, in ~1814. He leased the mill to a tenant, who remained in place when the mill was sold three years later to silk manufacturer and weaver, William Maddick, for £1500. Maddick originated from Spitalfields, a region in Londonís East End famed for its silk weaving.

Florence Nightingale's relatives worked in the mill!
The mill went on to pass through a succession of owners and tenants through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and counted Florence Nightingaleís relatives amongst its workers!

Powered by the beautiful River Test
The millís machinery, including knotting machines, warping mill and looms, was powered by a large wooden water wheel driven by water from the River Test. Notably the picturesque Test is one of the finest trout streams in England and a world site of Special Scientific Interest.

High fashion to protected historical site
Whitchurch Silk Mill once wove silk for the fashion house Burberry and also for Ede and Ravenscroft makers of the academic and legal gowns used in universities and courtrooms throughout the country. The robe-makers went on to buy the mill but financial constraints hit, and in 1885 they sold it to the Hampshire Buildings Preservation Trust, who raised the money to preserve and restore the historical site.
Five years later the Whitchurch Silk Mill Trust was founded to safeguard the Millís future and still runs the Mill today.

River Test flowing to the water wheel within the Mill

Historical accuracy for the movies and more
The Mill produces specialized and exclusive silk based fabrics, including taffeta, bombazine, ottoman, organza, ribbons, twills and satins. These beautiful and quality fabrics have been used for historical accuracy in numerous film and television productions such as Titanic, The Piano, Bleak House, and Jane Eyre, and also in cathedrals and a number of country houses and stately homes.

Winding Frame (winds hanks of thread onto bobbins)

The Creel (carries the bobbins during warping)

The warp beam on an old wooden hand weaving loom

Jane Austen's pelisse
Chawton, home of Jane Austen, is not so very far away from Whitchurch. When Miss Austenís great great great great nephew donated her pelisse to the Hampshire Museum Service, the Mill was asked to analyse and weave a replica silk fabric. The silk was then used to produce an accurate copy of the pelisse for display to allow for the safe preservation of the original under controlled conditions.

Tea and cakes
And, most importantly, Whitchurch Silk Mill also has a very nice gift shop and a small tearoom with lovely home baking. What better end to such an interesting visit than tea and cake!
You can find out more about Whitchurch Silk Mill at

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