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History project of Sudbury silk industry gets underway

PUBLISHED: 05:30 09 March 2019 | UPDATED: 12:16 11 March 2019

A worker at Vanners Silk in Sudbury inspects and rolls fabric Picture: PHIL MORLEY

A worker at Vanners Silk in Sudbury inspects and rolls fabric Picture: PHIL MORLEY

The story of Sudbury’s silk industry is to be recorded for posterity thanks to a National Lottery grant.

A silk worker operating a loom at Gainsborough Fine Weavers & Dye House  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNA silk worker operating a loom at Gainsborough Fine Weavers & Dye House Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Sudbury Silk Stories is a £38,400 scheme by Babergh District Council to record the memories of silk workers past and present and to also explore the history of the industry.

Most of the funding comes from a £36,400 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, with the council making up the rest.

The project will record a short film and an archive of interviews for future generations to learn from.

Sudbury charity the Offshoot Foundation is to work with Ormiston Sudbury Academy and Thomas Gainsborough School, going into the mills to film interviews.

Gainsborough Fine Weavers & Dye House in Sudbury was founded in 1903. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNGainsborough Fine Weavers & Dye House in Sudbury was founded in 1903. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

They will feature on a Sudbury Silk Stories website, while clips will be included in a 10-minute film about the industry to be screened in the town on August 1 and at the Sudbury Silk Festival in September.

The council is also working with Gainsborough’s House Museum and the Sudbury Ephemera Society to expand the project to include an education resource for local schools and a collection of photographs and letters.

Margaret Maybury, Babergh District Council’s cabinet member for communities, said: “It is a joy for me to be able to put this project into motion knowing some of the very talented and skilled people who have and are working within the silk industry.

“This is a real opportunity to celebrate this remarkable industry local within our community.”

Silk samples at Vanners Silk in Sudbury Picture: PHIL MORLEYSilk samples at Vanners Silk in Sudbury Picture: PHIL MORLEY

Robyn Llewellyn, head of the National Lottery Fund, East of England said: “We’re delighted to support Babergh District Council to celebrate the fascinating heritage of the silk industry in Sudbury.”

The silk industry in Sudbury dates back to the 1770s when silk weavers moved from Spitalfields in London to escape strict rules introduced by local magistrates.

There are four businesses in Sudbury, making it the UK’s largest silk producing town – Gainsborough Silk Waving Company, Vanners Silks, Stephen Walters & Son, and the Humphries Weaving Company.

Sudbury silk was used for the wedding dresses of the Princess Royal and Princess Diana, as well as singer Adele’s dress for the Brit Awards and the dress worn by Michele Obama when she visited the Queen.

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