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Weaving Silk Stories - research - Whitchurch silk mill

"The present mill was originally of two storeys, with high ceilings and double doors on one face...There has been suggestion of of a fulling mill, for finishing wool fabric, a washing and hammering process which partly felts the wool to bring up the knap and close up the texture. This would have needed high roof clearance and a lot of power. There is some suggestion that the extension on the end of the building...could have been for a second wheel. There is documentary evidence of a bankruptcy sale in 1816 when the owner of the mill, William Hayter, of Whitchurch, was described as ironfounder, brushmaker and turner. Building materials included in that sale indicated that at that stage an extra floor was put in and the window heights on the present middle floor and top floor shifted. "

- Whitchurch Silk Mill Past and Present 1988

"lt has sometimes been suggested that the new building was intended to be an iron foundry or a brush seems much more likely that it was a wool-processing facility of some kind, and that the Hayter's were converting it to mechanisation as a speculative venture. The site must always have been damp - too damp for the main building to have been a may have been undesirably damp, but wool-processing of many kinds requires water. The interest in the site shown by Thomas Bingham the woollen manufacturer in 1794 is significant; likewise that of Weston the yarn factor, with his London contacts in the textile industries, in 1816"

- Whitchurch Silk Mill Report on the documentary evidence up to 1886

The Mill's production of silk dates to the early 19th Century. I first visited Whitchurch Silk Mill to begin the research that would feed into my new collection Weaving Silk Stories, in the summer of 2022 when the wooden slats (floats) of the waterwheel were missing. Whilst they have always needed to be replaced every ten years or so Covid-19 lockdowns had left the wheel sitting still for weeks, causing the wood to have rotted faster than normal. Even without its floats however the wheel is impressive as you can see in the images below. It's connected to a series of cogs, gears, pulleys and belts that had been driving some of the winding machinery on the second floor of the building right up until that point.

What wonders and what inspiration!

"The weft is woven on looms on the ground floor, where there are three looms believed to date from 1890, the time of the first power installation. The bulk of the looms date from 1907 to 1927, the time when the mill was going over to a wider cloth..."

- From Whitchurch Silk Mill Past and Present 1988

And they can be viewed, still working, still weaving, to this day:

The Whitchurch looms c. 2022

"The Whitchurch weavers not only work in historic surroundings, they follow the steps of master weavers of past centuries - a lot of their work is reproduction designs of Victorian or earlier silks...Slow running, on split bronze bearings, the machines were clearly built to last and designed for easy replacement of fast-wearing parts....Loom speeds are measured in picks per minute, the number of times the shuttle is picked across the work. Whitchurch looms run at 120 picks per minute compared to modern loom speeds of from 400 picks per minute."

- From Whitchurch Silk Mill Past and Present 1988

I don't have a background in weaving so, from the start of planning Weaving Silk Stories, the collection, I have been playing catch up somewhat, learning all I can about weaving itself, the skill set and the possibilities as well as the history of the three venues that have become involved in the project. My education began on this visit to Whitchurch.

Image Beattie Stevens c. 1928

Stand and watch more modern machines and you will spot the lack of shuttles. The shuttle tends to be the main trouble spot:

"Stoppages are generally caused by the shuttles not going into the boxes on either side of the loom, so constant adjustments have to be made to this mechanism. The shuttle carrying the weft thread has to be accelerated from standstill out of one box, through the gap in the silk created by the harness into the other box and back again, twice in a second. The top speed of the shuttle must be at least 60 m.p.h...production rate is at the rate of about one metre per hour...Traditional weaves, such as the heavy black Ottoman silks made for barristers' gowns have been unchanged for many years, and gave birth to the expression "taking silk." Hoods for academic gowns are now woven with silk warp and rayon bring prices down." - From Whitchurch Silk Mill Past and Present 1988

To learn more about shuttles please click here

In 2004 ex mill director Ted Moss was recorded describing other reasons for pausing a weave, a major one being fluff causing two warp threads to stick together or a bump in the weave.

"The silk industry was not new in the early-19th century in this part of north Hampshire. A London 'silksman', that is, a silk broker, had owned a house in Church Street in Whitchurch in the 1750s but there is no evidence that he actually traded from there. Silk throwing had begun in Overton in the 18th century, possibly as early as 1769, according to the Hampshire Directory of 1792."

- Whitchurch Silk Mill Report on the documentary evidence up to 1886

The factory in Overton would be taken over in 1839 by two brothers but by then it would already have been coexisting with Whitchurch Silk Mill for over two decades. The history of the site itself is much earlier than is it's involvement in the production of silk weaving of course. Whilst it's true that the Domesday book:

"...records three mills in Whitchurch, of which two are probably on the sites of the present Town Mill and Fulling Mill...there is no sign in the medieval records of Winchester Cathedral Priory, to which the manor and borough of Whitchurch belonged, to indicate that the third mill was on the site of the Silk Mill...A mill was a valuable asset, and if a mill had functioned continuously on the Silk Mill site from the 11th century to the present day, it is impossible that it could have escaped notice. The Cathedral's property was surveyed in 1649, at the end of the Civil War, and again in 1810, and the only Whitchurch mills in those surveys were the fulling mill and the town corn mill."

The third mill vanished from the records during the 14th Century.

Whitchurch silk mill is built on land owned by the Dean and Chapter of Winchester Cathedral. The land is held by copyhold tenure (an old form of leasehold), which would be passed on to heirs or sold to a new copyholder.

"The Dean and Chapter of Winchester...records have been examined as far back as 1724 and it has been possible to trace the ownership of the Silk Mill site from then onwards. The records for 1730 and 1724 indicate that the site had previously changed hands in several years between 1693 and 1724, and the entries for those years have been examined, but without result."

Image showing workers in the mill ic.1928

Here then is an outline of the history of the site as it relates directly with silk production:

1813 - Copyholder Henry Hayter began building the mill with his son William. Following William Hayter's bankruptcy the previous year, the Mill buildings are advertised for sale by auction.

1817 - The Mill is bought by William Maddick

1844 - William Maddick sells the Mill to two Manchester businessmen, Alexander Bannerman and John Spencer.

1845 - William Chappell buys the Mill, later he acquires the land freehold.

1861-71 - James and Henry Chappell return home to help their father William Chappell Snr run the Mill during a period of economic decline. In 1871 William hands over to Henry but the industry is in a state of flux and decline.

1877 - Henry dies and his wife Adelaide (aged 48) takes over. She struggles to keep it running.

1886 - The Mill is no longer financially viable. The mill is sold to John Hide, local draper, for his son James. They run it until 1955. The Mill is weaving the 22 colour linings for the famous Burberry raincoats during this period.

1956 - Stephen Walters & Sons, silk manufacturers based in Sudbury step in to keep the mill operating.

1971 - Ede & Ravenscroft take over. They are makers of legal and and academic gowns so Ottoman silk becomes the mainstay product.

1985 - The mill is rescued by the Hampshire Buildings Trust who begin restoring the buildings.

1990 - The Mill opens as a museum.

"Between the wars Whitchurch was at it's busiest producing the silk...for raincoat linings, a close set weave that would breathe but resist water penetration...." John Hide, owner of Whitchurch Silk Mill from 1886 - 1911, "...married into the Burberry family, which had started up business in Basingstoke, and the mill wove the 54-inch silk gaberdine, very close set twill weave for linings for the famous Burberry raincoats....Entering the new warp from the roll to the loom is a laborious business. The weaver has to twist each thread from the old warp to the new warp on the loom. As there can be as many as 200 threads to the inch, you can see how it can take two or three days to twist a new warp. The twist has to be pulled through the harness and reed before weaving. Imagine the old task of twisting on more that 15,000 threads in the close -weave 54-inch warp of raincoat cloth."

-Whitchurch Silk Mill Past and Present 1988

Traditionally the thread used would have arrived at the Mill as hanks or skeins needing separation and detangling using a machine known as a partner. Today it arrives on plastic or cardboard cones and is transferred using the winding frame which was made Enoch Rushton in Macclesfield around 100 years ago. It has on it a needle-shaped glass object that moves slowly left to right whilst tiny ceramic reels guide the thread so it is wound evenly onto the bobbin. These images are all from the second floor where everything is still powered by the water wheel below. The third photo shows the creel onto which bobbins are placed once wound. This creel is 130 years old, one of the last of its kind. It can hold up to 504 bobbins. The bobbins need to be placed accurately to accord with the design.

"At Whitchurch they buy in undyed material from China as spun silk or "thrown silk", the filament silk straight from the cocoon..." It is then sent to the dyers to be dyed in the small quantities of colours they want. "..It comes in hanks and is first wound on to wooden bobbins which will provide both warp (lengthwise threads) and weft (the crosswise threads),. On the warping floor, hundreds of these are placed on the creel, a wooden frame holding steel spindles. Four hundred threads are needed to wind just two-inch section of warp, and they are fed fan-like through reeds to the warping mill, sections of two-inches at a time repeated until the full warp width, usually 36 inch, is wound."

- From Whitchurch Silk Mill Past and Present 1988

They no longer double handle the silk on site at Whitchurch Silk Mill but buy it pre-dyed, though since the pandemic, sources for this have become scarce.

Another visit I've made during the research for this project has been to the insect stores of the Natural History Museum to view specimens of silk moths. That is, both the giant more colourful wild varieties and the smaller, paler hard-working kind. You can see my images from that trip by clicking here

Images c.1928

Documents show that:

" 1838 the mill had 108 employees, including 39 children aged under 13 years."

-Whitchurch Silk Mill Past and Present 1988

In 1988 there were:

"...16 looms on the ground floor, normally running between three and six of which are running are running at normal levels. Staff includes four weavers and the production manager, one of them upstairs doing all the warping and winding. Nearly all weaving is done in silk, with occasionally a small amount of rayon to order. Space not used by direct production is not wasted . A tenant rents two looms from the mill and he often weaves cottons, Pasionelle boutique and designer knitwear takes up part of the workshop, and K.A.B. Textile designs produce silk furnishings. A shirt cutter is making ladies' blouses from silk..."

- Whitchurch Silk Mill Past and Present 1988

And today as a working museum there are twelve weavers employed.

"Mr Ted Moss and his wife Rita both worked at Whitchurch silk mill, Ted leaving it for a few years but returning (twice) and ending up a director...After leaving at the age of 65, he was persuaded to go back as manager and worked until he was 70. Then, after a Macclesfield man took over but eventually went home, Ted was called in again...having gone there as a "loom tackler" or apprentice on leaving school..." Ted was convinced that the silk mill was "...earlier a woollen mill, from bits and pieces which were still lying around the mill when he first went there. One was a tool for squeezing water out of wool when it was boiled."

- Whitchurch Silk Mill Past and Present 1988

Image showing workers in the mill c.1928 - Peggy Well, Rita Bingham, Rita Steven, Louise Vacher

In a recording made in 2004 before he died Ted can be heard talking about the Laverstoke Paper Mill as a source of possible alternative employment for local girls.

"In 1718 Henry Portal (a Huguenot refugee), acquired the lease of Laverstoke Mill. One of the conditions of the lease was that he had to rebuild the mill. A stone in the wall records that 'This House and Mill was built by Henry Portal in the year 1719'. In 1724 he acquired the privilege of manufacturing the paper for Bank of England notes. From then until the 1950s all the watermarked paper for these notes has been made at Laverstoke by the Portal family. Most of the remaining buildings date from the 1880s and later."

I began my research for Weaving Silk Stories presuming that I would be using only silk thread (along with paper of course) to make this new collection. I was excited by the link between paper and silk from the start - in that they are both milled. I had already visited the old Laverstoke paper mill close to Whitchurch Silk Mill which is now a gin distillery and museum.

But my inexperience in the area of silk weaving, as mentioned above, meant that, I will confess, I hadn't realised quite how fine the silk thread being used at Whitchurch (and at Paradise Mill in Macclesfield, one of my other partner venues) would be. It seemed, on first sight, almost impossible to me that it would be strong enough for the necessary tensions on the looms. A single strand, in certain lights, can become almost invisible. I quickly realised that it would be too fine to sew with on a sewing machine.

I've latterly asked someone capable of spinning thread to spin some to 3 ply for me to likewise experiment with, do view future posts and watch out for the result. Also, however, more reading about the history of the Whitchurch silk mill site has encouraged me to think that I might combine silk thread with other varieties and still remain true to the historical (and current) position. As you can see from the list below linen, worsted wool, metallic yarn etc have all been used as the weft threads, with silk always on the warp. Linen is the current alternative weft but as you will gather from some of the quotes in this post the Whitchurch Silk Mill site has historic links with other textiles (woof for example).

images show: silk taffeta x 2, twill, ottoman, herringbone

Whitchurch Silk Mill has woven:

  • Pure silk

  • Silk and linen

  • Silk and worsted wool

  • Silk and metallic yarn

  • Taffeta - a crisp, smooth, plain woven fabric

  • Twill - a textile weave in which the filling threads pass over one and under two or more warp threads to give an appearance of diagonal lines.

  • Herringbone - also called broken twill weave, describes a distinctive V-shaped weaving pattern usually found in twill fabric. It is distinguished from a plain chevron by the break at reversal, which makes it resemble a broken zigzag. The pattern is called herringbone because it resembles the skeleton of a herring fish.

  • Ottoman - a widthways-ribbed textile with pronounced, raised 'ribs' along its weft. Similar to grosgrain, Ottoman is known as a corded fabric, using a thicker yarn in the weft rather than the warp to create raised stripes running across the width of the fabric.

  • Satin - characteristically glossy, smooth or lustrous material, typically with a glossy top surface and a dull back

  • Satin striped fabrics

  • Organza - a thin, plain weave, sheer fabric.

  • Ribbons

Other types of silk include:

Sprigged silk

For more about the history of silk please see here

Hence the decision I have now made to include other types of thread and yarn as necessary into the Weaving Silk Stories pieces (certainly for the structural sewing) around and along with the silk, which I will concentrate on for the detailing.

As an aside the other types of silk I have found mention of, relating to that which the

Huguenot refugees were capable of making in the Eighteenth Century include: "...lustrings,

velvets, brocades...very strong silks known as paduasoys, watered silks, black and

coloured mantuas, ducapes, watered tabies, and stuffs of mingled silk and cotton..."

The weaver must pull each individual warp thread from a bobbin, by hand through a series of comb-like metal reeds using a reed hook. The gaps between the reeds are so fine that it takes extremely good eye-sight (not to mention patience) to complete this task. To learn more about the eye-sight loss suffered by silk weavers of yesteryear please see my post here. The threads then through a series of shafts which contain a row of heddles - wires with an eye in the centre very much like a sewing needle. They are pulled through another metal reed at the front of the loom where they are tied to the cloth beam.

loom at Whitchurch Silk Mill producing a stunning stripe

I'll confess that another thing I wasn't expecting was how inspired I would be not only by the history of silk production and the final material but also by the machinery itself, old and modern alike. The repetitious nature of not only the act of weaving but also of the parts of the machines used to create it proffers a beautiful sort of symmetry. The methodical lines of warp and weft in the weaving seem to me to concur with the rows of disks and plates on the machines used to prepare the bobbins (below). And the beautiful cogs and wheels (seen in the colour images earlier in this post) appear to me visually rhythmical.

The looms at Whitchurch Silk Mill are tappet and dobby looms, this compares to the jacquard card weaving looms at Paradise Mill in Macclesfield which you can learn more about in my Maccelsfield post here

To hear more about the different type of looms do listen to episode 4 of the Whitchurch Sill Mill podcast here

"Whitchurch has the only silk weaving mill in this part of England, largely thanks to the continuous family ownership for such a long period. It is probably the last in the country in regular production on such old machinery. In Suffolk and Essex survive the remains of the Spitalfields textile industry that moved out of London in the mid 19th Century to new power mills. Suffolk has a number of silk weaving mills with modern machinery. Courtaulds, formed by one of the Huguenot families, still operates in Essex..."

-Whitchurch Silk Mill Past and Present 1988

For more on the Courtaulds and other Huguenot families please see my Huguenot post here

Electricity was installed at Whitchurch Silk Mill in the 1920's. A small motor was used to drive a single power loom when the water level was low. You can read more about the history of power looms here

Whilst considering the ways in which Whitchurch has been part of a larger UK based silk producing/trading country we need certainly to consider its links with other key areas of the UK. And often the rise of the silk industry in a particular town or area occurred in confluence with the migrational movements of Huguenot families. But in fact at the very start of my research into this area I was encouraged to focus on three key 18th and 19th c. silk producing centres due to what I was coming to know about the life of just one man. Credited as the founder of the silk mill at Whitchurch )in 1817) that man was called William Maddick. The (silk) thread I've been able to follow through Maddick's personal history is tied to three points of a woven triangle: London; Hampshire; Macclesfield. The history of silk in the UK has a couple more points at least (as you can see from the quote above) but this triangle is paramount.

William Maddick, therefore, acts as a centre point in my research into the three primary venues locations for the exhibition of Weaving Silk Stories, the collection. It is his life's journey between these three areas that I have followed on my own silk road around the UK. Here is a just a little about his life:

From research I did on it had appeared to me that William Maddick was born in 1786. However one of the texts I refer to below suggests that he died at 86 in 1848 meaning he might instead have been born in 1780.

As an aside: it is possible that the preparation of the raw silk thread was the primary activity

at Whitchurch Silk mill at first. "There is no doubt that the business manufacture

of some kind, and the date 1817 was once thought to have been confirmed by its identification

as a 'silk factory' on Sheet 12 of the first edition Ordnance Survey map, which was surveyed

between 1808 and 1817, and first published in 1817. However, the map...was based on a

revision of 1824, in which details including the words 'silk factory' in Whitchurch were added

to the 1817 base map. The caption does not appear on the original field drawing of 1808.

Whitchurch Silk Mill may well have been in existence before 1817, but the map

date cannot be taken by itself as conclusive evidence.

- From Whitchurch Silk Mill Report on the documentary evidence up to 1886

"When William Maddick purchased the mill in 1817 he was already a successful silk manufacturer based in the City of London, close to the Guildhall. Evidence would indicate that he was the quintessential self made man, an astute businessman with trade connections to Macclesfield, Derby and later, Manchester. He was a man who seemed to have the ability to anticipate and react at the right time to the fluctuating silk market. His story takes us through the turbulent years of the early Industrial Revolution; the establishment of factory line production in Whitchurch and the economic challenges that beset the British silk industry as Parliament sought to deregulate the trade. Unfortunately it has not been possible to establish William Maddick's ancestry with any certainty, as many of the London church registers were destroyed in the Blitz. There are indications, however, that he may have been born in St Anne's parish, Soho, Westminster during the reign of King George III and his grandparents may have been William and Mary Maddick, haberdashers from Wapping. Records reveal that William was first in business in the Spitalfields district of London...The Huguenot society does not recognise the surname as being of Huguenot origin...William will have completed the standard, seven year apprenticeship to become a weaver and it seems likely that he served this apprenticeship amongst the weaving community of Spitalfields or Bethnal Green. The earliest document...dated 1800 places him in the Spitalfields district of London where he is in business as a weaver with a partner, James Ashley. Their 'Dwelling House' is shown as Primrose Street (Bishopsgate Street, Spitalfields)..."

- From Winders, Piecers, Warpers & Weavers The Story of Whitchurch Silk Mill by Jacqueline Browne

After William Hayter's bankruptcy, mentioned in the first quote in this post, a report into the history of Whitchurch Silk Mill tells us:

"The two copyholds were regranted to William Maddick of Love Lane, Aldermanbury, for £1,500. Maddick was described as a silk manufacturer...ln London trade directories between 1802 and 1828 he was listed at various addresses...His first premises had been in Primrose Street...He was originally a weaver of black silk, and as such he was admitted to the Weavers' Company in 1804.However, a court case in which he was involved is instructive. ln 1811 he was living and trading in Love Lane, and intended to send a parcel of silk by wagon to Macclesfield, the prominent silk-manufacturing town. The parcel was stolen before it left his premises, and the thief was caught and sentenced to death..."

To see the full report of this case at the Old Bailey, London's central criminal court between 1674 and 1913, please click here

"...The weight and value of the silk were such that it must have been raw silk rather than finished fabric, and in any case there would have been no point in sending woven silk to Macclesfield from London, as the traffic would rather have been in the opposite direction. The description of his premises in the court proceedings shows that they consisted of his private house and a warehouse, not a weaving shop. We may therefore conclude that he was sending the silk to be thrown and/or woven, and was diversifying into silk broking. He was still at Love Lane when he bought the copyholds in Whitchurch. He could have heard about their availability from Warwick Weston, whose address in Gracechurch Street was not far from Love Lane, or from William Hayter himself. Hayter had moved from Whitchurch to Basing Lane, which was only a few hundred yards from Maddick's house. Maddick did not appear at the Whitchurch court in person; the formal admission was granted to Joseph Phillips, who thus provided an element of local continuity from the previous owners and may well have been running the business on the ground."

- From Whitchurch Silk Mill Report on the documentary evidence up to 1886

"The Love lane address reveals an interesting link between William Maddick and the famous Strutt family of Derby who were the registered copyholders for the Love lane premises. The Strutts were highly successful mill owners and Jedediah Strutt, a financial backer and business partner of Richard Arkwright, was among the first generation of self-made industrialists to arise in Britain. He was the inventor of the Derby Rib machine that was to revolutionise the silk stocking 1817...Strutt's and Arkwright's inventions had seen the spinning and preparation of thread move into a factory setting and...mills were springing up across the country...Maddick owned...a mill in Macclesfield. Wages were cheaper outside London and with the improving roads...Macclesfield was becoming a centre for the throwing and spinning of silk."

- From Winders, Piecers, Warpers & Weavers The Story of Whitchurch Silk Mill by Jacqueline Browne

That said "one month after after purchasing the copyhold and mill buildings in Whitchurch Maddick's Macclesfield silk manufactory was up for sale:

"The only surviving record of the operating potential of the [Whitchurch] Silk Mill site in the early 19the century is found in the sale advertisement placed in the Morning Chronicle newspaper dated 26th February 1820. It confirms that had the Mill ever worked to its full capacity, it would have been a sizeable manufactory by the standards of the day. In comparison Maddicks' Macclesfield Mill, described as a compact factory, accommodated just 700 swifts and 720 spindles."

- From Winders, Piecers, Warpers & Weavers The Story of Whitchurch Silk Mill by Jacqueline Browne

It seems he was scaling up and continued to do so into the 1820's, despite freshly building turmoil in the industry. In fire insurance registers from the 1820s there are 176 different silk businesses, only about half were insuring capital valued up to £1000 and only 12% for more than £5000. The capital estimated necessary for a weaver to set up in the late 18th century in and around Spitalfields is estimated as having been between £250 and £2000. The initial value of his first partnership was £500, but by 1815 Maddick had begun trading as a silk merchant (mercer) and was insuring capital of £8000. By the time he purchased Whitchurch Silk Mill toward the end of the second decade of the 19th century he was therefore already in the top tier of London silk businesses in London and the business was still growing. As workers were turned off the land by the enclosure acts and hand loom weavers began looking for jobs in water powered mills Maddick had expensive works done at his new mill, including increased through flow of water by excavating the river bank. And whilst there are indications that upon completing the works he had at first intended to sell the mill on, over the next decades there are several locally based men named as tenants, who were probably managing the mill for him. By 1821 he had a new partner and a retail space in Cavendish Square, London, he also owned additional business and residential buildings. He was living therefore in London whilst he was the owner of Whitchurch Silk Mill, there is no conclusive evidence he even visited the Mill, though it is assumed he would have. "These were the boom years and likely Whitchurch Silk mill was fully staffed winding thread onto bobbins and with hand looms in operation." But by the end of that decade silk manufacture was again, as so often in it's history, subject to industrial, political and individual turmoil such that in "...1832 the government appointed a Special Committee to inquire into the State of the Silk Trade...leading manufacturers of the day were questioned..." these included John Brocklehurst, MP for Macclesfield whose firm was the largest silk manufacturer not only in that town but also in Britain.

As an aside John Brocklehurst gets a mention again in my research into

Paradise Silk Mill and The Silk Museum, Macclesfield,

who I am also working with on this project, to read more please click here

- From Winders, Piecers, Warpers & Weavers The Story of Whitchurch Silk Mill by Jacqueline Browne

Please click Hansard report to read the facts and figures behind the reasons for the Special Committee.

The silk industry in Britain, and the individuals involved at every level, saw large rises and falls in fortune throughout the Eighteenth Century, and this was not the first government intervention. The result this time was that twenty nine of the 70 mills in Macclesfield would close but William Maddick had somewhat cushioned himself and Whitchurch Silk Mill would also weather these uncertainties.

Maddick's next (and final) major business venture likely began around 1830 and involved working with his son William (who had been trained as a manufacturing chemist), from premises in Manchester. They had gone into the manufacture of alum (an essential ingredient in the textile industry used for fixing natural dyes to fabric).

It is unclear when William Snr moved to Manchester. Certainly by the time of the first national census in 1841 he was listed as a resident of Beswisk and as a manufacturing chemist with no further references made to his being involved in silk. And its clear that by:

"...1844 the Silk Mill no longer featured in the Maddick family's future plans. William Maddick was by now an elderly man...The mill was sold to Alexander Bannerman and John Spencer, two Manchester business men, for £1,950, a very respectable return given the depressed state of the economy...William Maddick was one of the success stories of the early Industrial Revolution Through his own energy and resourcefulness he had successfully moved up the business and social ladder, becoming one of the new breed of highly respected, middle class merchants, mill and factory owners, far removed from his early life as a working class weaver operating a handloom in a Spitalfields workshop. He succeeded in steering his business through the boom and bust years that characterized this period and his financial success enabled him to retain the copyhold for some twenty seven years bringing some security for the Silk Mill after its inauspicious start.""

- From Winders, Piecers, Warpers & Weavers The Story of Whitchurch Silk Mill by Jacqueline Browne

I want to finish this post with a picture of the Waterloo clock which sits on the face of Whitchurch Silk mill and has been keeping time for over 200 years. It was made by the prestigious London company, Handley & Moore. The dial is three feet tall, and the mechanism is powered by heavy weights and ropes that pass along the ceiling of the second floor of the Mill where the housing for the pendulum can also be found. The clock chimes every hour by striking it's bell.

Clocking in and out is such an importantly symbolic act in the history of industry and mills were the heart/the start of the industrial revolution in Britain. To see a punch card time-keeping system still in place have a look at my post about Paradise Mill, Macclesfield here. Certainly, at this early stage of research and design for Weaving Silk Stories, the collection I believe clocks/time keeping will feature.

For a complete (brief) history of silk production worldwide please click here

William Maddick's story began in Spitalfields and the City of London, similarly a more detailed history of silk production in the UK has to travel to this area. To read my related research please here. I will be adding to all the posts connected with Weaving Silk Stories over the length of the project so please check back.

And do have a listen to the Whitchurch Silk Mill podcast here


The Weaving Silk Stories collection will be shown at Hampton Court Palace from September 2026 - March 2027, at Whitchurch Silk Museum from April 2027 and other venues to be confirmed

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