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Leon Burman

Princess Diana’s Wedding Veil

By admin 15.11.2022

Chance encounter lifts the veil on Whitchurch Silk Mill’s role in the 1981 Royal Wedding

When Lady Diana Spencer walked down the aisle in her bridal gown in 1981, few knew that Whitchurch Silk Mill’s skilled weavers had helped to wind the silk for her dress. In the 1980s, they proudly celebrated their role in this national event by displaying a certificate and sample of silk in the Mill’s Shop. Sadly these were lost years ago.

A visitor to Mill with close connections to Elizabeth Emanuel, one-half of the husband-and-wife team who designed Diana’s wedding gown, was moved by this story. Shortly after the visit, Elizabeth gave a hand-drawn illustration of Diana Spencer in her wedding gown to the Mill. This unique work of art is now on display in the riverside café in the Welcome Building.

In 1980 the Royal Family announced that Lady Diana’s wedding dress would be made entirely from English Silk grown at Lullingstone Silk Farm. They had produced the silk for Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II coronation robes and her wedding gown in 1947. Lady Zoe Hart Dyke established the UK’s first silk farm in the 1930s, it had 30 rooms of moths with about 20 acres of mulberry bushes to feed them. It later moved to Sherborne, Dorset.

The silkworms didn’t produce enough for Diana’s huge silk taffeta wedding dress, so some imported silk was used. The English silk was taken to all the remaining Silk Mills in the UK to be wound, including to Whitchurch Silk Mill. Stephen Walters & Sons in Sudbury, Suffolk, wove the raw silk into two 41m rolls of fabric. But Whitchurch Silk Mill still has an exciting yarn to spin as it continues to wind, warp and weave silk taffeta on machinery dating from the Victorian period.

Whitchurch Silk Mill is open Tuesday – Sunday, all year round, including Bank Holiday Mondays.

illustration of princess diana's wedding veil and dress

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