Whitchurch Silk Mill, including its machinery, is
owned by Hampshire Buildings Preservation Trust and
is looked after and run by the Silk Mill Trust. It is a registered charity.
The knowledge that weaving had ceased in December
2011 and was not likely to resume, and that the mill
may even close owing to a financial crisis, had
caused alarm affecting the village and all those
with an interest in the mill as an important working
example of its industrial heritage as well as the
employment of weavers. We learned about it
immediately prior to our meeting at the Silk Mill in
June and were later advised that a meeting had been
organised in order to determine what the community
at large would choose to see happening to the Silk
Mill and the importance with which it is held in the
HMG was represented by John Silman, Dave Plunkett,
Basil Hunt, Carol O’Shaughnessy and Eleanor Yates.
Our members Pam Moore and Phil Turner were also
there representing the HBPT. They were among the
109 people attending, including some County,
Borough, and Town Councillors, members of Hampshire
Mills Group, Trustees of Hampshire Buildings
Preservation Trust (HBPT), Friends of the Silk Mill,
community groups and local businesses.
A statement was read from the Chair of the Trustees
of the Silk Mill, Keith Watts, who was unable to
attend, followed by John Silman (President of
Hampshire Mills Group), Bill Fergie (Chairman of
Hampshire Buildings Preservation Trust), Eric Dunlop
(Borough Councillor), Stephen Bryer (General Manager
of the Silk Mill), Angela Hurley (Friends of the
Silk Mill), Tom Thacker (County Councillor), Sir
David Mitchell (former Trustee and former MP), Barry
Thomas (local shop owner), who all introduced
themselves briefly and explained why they were
present. Stephen Bryer (General Manager of the Silk
Mill), read out a statement where he questioned the
validity of the appointment of the new Trustees
which will be addressed when they meet.
On arrival we had been asked to leave our names and
contact details and given post-it notes on which to
write responses to these two comments:
1. ‘What does the Silk
Mill mean to you? and
2. ‘What would you
like to see the Silk Mill doing in the future?’
Our written responses were then stuck to the walls.
Later, all attendees were invited to add further
thoughts to the post-it notes which have since been
sorted into groups for analysis which has been
published by Clare Isbester & Lynn Parnell. Their
analysis, in brief, is:
1 The largest single group of responses referred
to the Mill being important for our heritage,
history and tradition. The second: that the
Mill is the heart of Whitchurch and a unique place.
The third: the Silk Mill attracts visitors and
tourists to the town and ‘puts Whitchurch on the
2. The largest group of responses was from people
wanting to see the resumption of commercial
production of silk and demonstrated the need for
production to be commercially viable. The second
largest group wanted to see a vibrant and
interactive heritage site. Many respondents felt
that the commercial weaving of silk was inherent to
the success of the heritage site. Thirdly, many
indicated dissatisfaction with information provided
by current Trustees and Management, and a feeling of
disengagement with the local community, especially
with many of whom may be able to offer real help.
The continued support by HMG, in association with
the Friends of the Silk Mill, to the Trustees is
if the Silk Mill is to regain its former
prominence and attract visitors and produce revenue.
Many see the development of Laverstoke Mill’s Gin
Visitors’ Centre just a few miles away as an
opportunity to increase visitor numbers to
Whitchurch and the Silk Mill.
Notes supplied by Eleanor Yates and the Feedback
from the Meeting report. Go to the village
local media for current updates on the situation.