At the heart of Whitchurch Silk Mill is our historic waterwheel that has been turning through the centuries to drive the Mill. However, like much of the rest of the world, in 2020 the wheel fell silent as it wore through its bearing.
The Mill is the last example in the country of a silk mill that still produces silk using historic machines and training highly skilled weavers to use these pieces of living history. It is Britain’s oldest working silk mill, and each year is visited by thousands of visitors who discover our role in the nation’s industrial silk evolution.
Over the last few years, we have restored this vital piece of the Mill’s history. We have removed the corrosion from the Governor, created patterns for the mechanism that operates the sluice, recast these using traditional methods and machined a new bearing from a block of bronze, and restored parts of the wheel house too that were rotten.
The last part of the project is to replace the timber floats (paddles), and backboards and starts with green oak. We have almost completed this.
Each piece of timber has been specifically cut to fit the old wheel – no socket was identical, so each of the 90 oak starts was individually shaped. Similarly, each float (paddle) had to be modified to accommodate the drop-in ceiling height over time.
After a lot of time, effort and care, the wheel is almost finished.
How can you help?
Please sponsor a Float or a Back Board
During this project, we offered sponsorship of the Floats and Back Boards. Lots of these have been sponsored, but we have a few left. Would you like to sponsor one of them?
Sponsor a float
Donate £100 and you can sponsor one of our 17 remaining “Floats” which are sometimes called paddles. These push through the water and drive the wheel. You will become a ‘Float Champion’ and have your name listed on the waterwheel panel and website for up to 15 years, plus a ticket for four to visit the Mill.
Sponsor a backboard
Donate £75, and you can sponsor one of our 25 remaining “Backboards”, which attach to the cast iron waterwheel. You will become a ‘Backboard Champion’ and have your name listed on the waterwheel panel and website and a ticket for two to visit the Mill.
Deadline for sponsorship: 11th April or when all the backboards and floats have been sponsored