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Podcast and Whitchurch Voices

Whitchurch Silk Mill Podcast follows the fascinating journey from thread to woven cloth at the Mill, focusing on the weaving process, our efforts to preserve traditional silk weaving skills on looms dating back to the 1890s, and our design process.

Every episode will include chats with the Mill’s own weaver/tacklers and interviews from experts on the wider topics of weaving and silk, sustainable textiles and how silk made at the Mill is used.

Episodes available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn and all your usual podcast hosts, as well as

Whitchurch Voices

Thanks to funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, we were able to work with members of the local community to gather a number of memories from previous Mill employees and Whitchurch residents to build this oral history project. We are happy to be able to share these recollections with you on this page.

Geoff Hide “My great-grandfather bought the Mill for his son my Great-Uncle James who ran the Mill from aged 18-89.  He wasn’t married, but he was married to the Mill.  None of the family ever worked in the Mill – it was Uncle James’ Mill.”
Alan Day was born in Great Lane, Whitchurch, off Bell Street in 1938. He recalls a lot of changes to the town through his lifetime and the residents of Great Lane.
Joan Baverstock worked at the Mill for 25 years. She talks about producing different types of silk for a wide range of different customer including West End shows like Cats and Phantom of the Opera.
Tracy Mason began working at the Mill in 1987 and recalled that at the time the Mill was undergoing a lot of building work – leading her to make a lot of cups of tea for the builders!

If you have any memories or stories that you would like to share with us and contribute to our oral history project, please get in touch on 01256 892065 or email

Introducing… Ellie Fisher of Elka Textiles

Ellie was kind enough to join us as an interviewee for two episodes of our podcast, where she discusses sustainable textiles and teaching loom weaving. Elka Textiles produce bespoke hand woven textiles for fashion and furnishing, inspired by her childhood living abroad and travelling and the colours and patterns of Middle and Far Eastern markets.

She completed both her BA in Textile Design, specialising in woven textiles, and MA in Design for Textile Futures at Central St Martins College of Art and Design, graduating in 2006. After graduating, she moved back to Winchester where she set up her weaving business and is now working alongside her mum, Claudia, who produces naturally dyed yarns. Ellie’s interview’s feature in Episodes 3 and 4 of the Whitchurch Silk

Introducing… Robert Ely of Papilionaceous

Silk ribbon weaver Robert Ely is our special guest for Episode 5 of the Whitchurch Silk Mill Podcast. Robert Ely studied hand weaving at West Surrey College of Art and Design, graduating in 1989, and in 1995 his connection with the Whitchurch Silk Mill began as he completed a short internship here to study weaving shed operations. In 1996 he began to design and weave jacquard silk ribbons for his new studio, called Papilionaceous. At first Robert intended to weave silk for bow ties, which in French are ‘papillon’ – the butterfly – and so Papilionaceous, a word meaning butterfly-like, was born.

The studio relocated to Dartmouth, Devon in 2001. Robert is now able to devote more time to the artistic side of his work, designing and weaving wall pieces assembled from multiple woven silk ribbons and inspired by local Devon land and seascapes. As with any other form of weaving, the appearance of the finished piece is a combination of weave structure and yarn colour.

The ribbons are woven on a narrow fabric jacquard loom which weaves at a width of 4cm on a jacquard loom which allows greater control over where the structures and colours are used. Robert starts with an idea of what the overall layout of the piece will be, and then designs and tries out small areas in isolation before weaving increasingly longer lengths of ribbon to see how each strip works with its neighbours. The final step in this process is to weave a complete length of each ribbon which can then be mounted and framed for display. Through this process the finished piece evolves over a considerable length of time.

Introducing… Josephine Willis

One of our special guests on episode 5 of the podcast is Jo Willis, a milliner based in Bath specialising in period millinery for productions. Having studied History of Drawing and Printmaking at Camberwell Art School followed by a post graduate course at Manchester University in Museum and Art Galleries Studies, she eventually specialised with an HND in Theatrical Costume at The London College of Fashion. After working as an assistant to a number of costume makers, principally for the theatre and ballet, she was lucky enough to get the job of milliner at the world renowned costumiers, Cosprop in London which has lead to her work appearing in a large number of productions, a number of which are listed below. You may recognise Rose’s boarding hat from Titanic, which is trimmed with Whitchurch silk ribbon.

Jo’s process for each hat starts with research, looking at lots of images of the hats from the period, getting used to the styles and the subtleties in paintings, portraits, or photographs of the time. Her design process starts with her playing around with bits of cardboard to form the hat until she’s satisfied the shape will work in material.

Sense and Sensibility 1995
Vanity Fair 1998
A Portrait of a Lady 1996
Titanic 1997
Oliver Twist 1999
The King and I 1999
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets 2002
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban 2004
The Kingdom of Heaven 2005
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix 2007
Persuasion 2007
Sense and Sensibility 2008
Lark Rise to Candleford 2008
The Duchess 2008
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince 2009
Ammonite 2020


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