Keep the Wheel Turning

by Sue Tapliss in Whitchurch, Hampshire, United Kingdom

We did it
On 22nd September 2021 we successfully raised £4,765 ( + est. £1010.00 Gift Aid ) with 43 supporters in 28 days

The waterwheel which is at the heart of this Georgian Mill is in need of restoration, please help us preserve our living weaving heritage.

by Sue Tapliss in Whitchurch, Hampshire, United Kingdom

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. 

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The Waterwheel

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.   

Thank you.   

#SupportOurMuseums

Rewards

This project offers rewards in return for your donation.

£100 or more

13 of 30 claimed

Sponsor a float

Donate £100 and you can sponsor one of our 30 “Floats” which are sometimes called paddles, these push through the water and drive the wheel. You will become a 'Float Champion' and have your name listed on the waterwheel panel and website for up to 15 years, plus a personal thank you email, regular updates about the project from the Mill Team and a ticket for four to visit the Mill.

£10 or more

A start

A £10 donation provides a lovely start for our campaign to restore and care for our wheel. A start is a wooden peg that fixes the wooden float to the cast iron wheel. These hold everything together. A personal thank you email and regular updates about the project from the Mill Team.

£30 or more

A really good start

A £30 donation provides a lovely start for our campaign to restore and care for our wheel. A start is a wooden peg that fixes the wooden float to the cast iron wheel. These hold everything together. A personal thank you email, regular updates about the project from the Mill Team, a ticket for two to visit the Mill and a 10% discount in the shop on the day of your visit.

£75 or more

5 of 30 claimed

Sponsor a backboard

Donate £75 and you can sponsor one of our 30 “Backboards”, which attach to the cast iron waterwheel. You will become a 'Backboard Champion' and have your name listed on the waterwheel panel and website for up to 15 years, plus a personal thank you email, regular updates about the project from the Mill Team and a ticket for two to visit the Mill.

£200 or more

2 of 5 claimed

Waterwheel Tour

Be one of the very few to have a hard hat tour with our Waterwheel Keeper. An extremely rare opportunity to get up close to our waterwheel and to have a personal tour for a maximum of 4 people of the works in progress and a tour of the Mill. You will become a 'Waterwheel Champion' and have your name listed on the waterwheel panel and website for up to 15 years, plus a personal thank you email and updates about the project from the Mill Team.

£1,000 or more

1 of 1 claimed

In full flow - restart the waterwheel

You will start the waterwheel on its first day back in full working order. We will give you & 3 friends a tour with our Waterwheel Keeper. An extremely rare opportunity to get up close to our waterwheel. You will receive training in how to start the wheel and be the first to start it for the public at our starting ceremony. As a 'Waterwheel Champion' your name will be listed on the waterwheel panel and website for up to 15 years, plus updates.

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