Who we are
The Mill is the last example in the country of a silk mill that is still producing silk using historic machines and training highly skilled weavers to use these pieces of living history. It is Britain’s oldest working silk mill and each year is visited by thousands of visitors who discover our role in the nation’s industrial silk evolution.
At the heart of Whitchurch Silk Mill is our historic waterwheel that has been turning through the centuries to drive the Mill. However, like much of the rest of the world, in 2020 the wheel fell silent.
As we kept busy in our homes, the mill and its wheel patiently awaited our return. Now that time has come, unfortunately, the wheel has not come through these events unscathed.
We now need your help to restore this vital piece of the Mill’s history.
The restoration in 2014
In 2014 restoration work was undertaken. The old timber was removed from the floats (paddles), backboards and starts to be replaced with green oak.
Replacing the timber was a significant undertaking as each piece had to be specifically cut to fit the old wheel – no socket was identical, so each of the 90 oak starts had to be individually shaped. Similarly, each float (paddle) had to be modified to accommodate the drop-in ceiling height over time.
After a lot of time, effort and care, the wheel was restored. This restoration under normal circumstances would have lasted another 10-15 years.
Unfortunately, due to the lack of use over the last 18 months of the pandemic, the lifetime of this restoration has been cut short.
How you can help
- The wheel needs urgent repair to keep it turning, and to keep the authentic heart of the mill’s history alive.
- We need to again replace the 'starts' which attach the planks to the iron frame, and the 'floats' which make up the paddles.
- We also have to replace the bronze bearing which supports the end of the axle of the wheel and allows it to turn freely.
- This restoration will cost £6,000. We now need your help to raise this sum.
The waterwheel provides a vital insight into water power and the industrial heritage of Whitchurch and the River Test. It powers the historic machines we hold and use to weave silk fabric. It brings to life the advancements of engineering since the Georgian era, which hold a unique role in Britain’s engineering history. That is now at risk.
Please help us keep the wheel turning and donate whatever you can, or help to share our fundraising campaign. We are offering a number of rewards in return for your very kind support.