Thursday, 16 February 2012

Visit to the Mill

We often drive up (and down again) the A34 past Whitchurch. Pretty much every time, since I started spinning that is, I have thought to myself  "we really should go to Whitchurch Silk Mill one day". I then forget about it until the next time we drive up, or down, the A34.

So this week is half term and on Tuesday Alex had the day off, so on Monday I was thinking of something reasonably local that we could do. Nothing too much as we are all still fending off colds - mine has almost gone after being back and forth, Imogens keeps bouncing back at her, and Alex is full of his cold right now.

So amongst my thoughts, Whitchurch popped into my head. Suggested it to Alex and he was agreeable so that's where we headed Tuesday morning after a relaxing lie in.

Whitchurch Silk Mill is a 19th century water mill that continues to weave English silk fabrics using 19th century machinery. More of it's history can be read here.

You enter through the shop and out around the mill to the river feeding the water wheel. The first place you see is the carpenters workshop, above the water wheel and all the cogs that would provide power to the mill. You move on then to the bobbin rooms, each area having a video to watch about silk and the mill.

 A beautiful sight all those bobbins in a row and the skeins being wound
An attempt at a panoramic - looks nice even though the joins aren't smooth

The room was full of machinery which wound the skeins of silk from skein winders onto the bobbins. A beautiful sight with an array of lovely bright colours of the dyed silk.

 Gorgeously soft and bright silk skeins
 Warps being made and on display

The bobbins are put on a piece of equipment that looks like an upturned boat called a Creel and the threads are drawn from their to create the warp. An astonishing sight, all those tiny thin but very strong threads.

The Creel - we counted 180 bobbins in here and this is only part of a warp!
See the fine threads off to the left becoming the warp?
Boxes and baskets of bobbins around the room

You then proceed downstairs through the cafe and interactive area where you can have a go at weaving, look at fibres of all kinds - wools, plant fibres, silks, other animal fibres under a microscope; and of course the Victorian dressing up box - something Imogen always enjoys pausing at to dress up.


You then see the working looms downstairs weaving fabrics now, and all around are samples of their wares throughout the ages. In the cafe there are lots of pictures of fabrics they have woven and where they can or could be seen, including beautiful blue silks that adorned Queen Victoria's train carriage. In more recent years they have produced cloth for many shows and reproduction television shows, including the recent Downton Abbey series.

The working weaving looms
A sample of the rainbow to look at and feel

A lovely place to visit, our gift aided entry today also gave us a card for free return entry for a year. The outdoor area was lovely too, beautiful snowdrops on the banks of the river, crocuses amongst the lawn and Herons along the river too. You can see one in the pictures below but the closer you got, they flew away, can you see it in the second photo? There was a white one too - is that an Egret? You can see how they thrive here with the trout we spotted in the river.
Heron on the river and in flight

A lovely visit, one we shall return to no doubt. A recommended place to visit especially for anyone interested in textiles and weaving.


  1. Oh My! I wish I could visit such place like this!

  2. Sounds wonderful. Imogen looks fab in those dressing up clothes, and I love the new header picture xxx


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