Whitchurch Silk Mill


Heritage Category: Listed Building

Grade: II*

List Entry Number: 1092645

Date first listed: 10-Jan-1953

Date of most recent amendment: 10-May-2016

Statutory Address: Whitchurch Silk Mill, 28 Winchester Street, Whitchurch, Hampshire, RG28 7AL


Ordnance survey map of Whitchurch Silk Mill
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Statutory Address: Whitchurch Silk Mill, 28 Winchester Street, Whitchurch, Hampshire, RG28 7AL

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Hampshire

District: Basingstoke and Deane (District Authority)

Parish: Whitchurch

National Grid Reference: SU4625247901


Water-powered sawmill and furniture factory, built in 1813-15 by William Hayter, converted to a silk mill in 1817-19 by William Maddick.

Reasons for Designation

Whitchurch Silk Mill is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural interest: a handsome, early C19 pedimented mill building, with its original attached manager's office and wheel housing, adapted structurally and converted to a silk mill in 1817;

* Fixtures and fittings: an operational water-powered silk mill where fittings include late C19 looms and winding frames, and a clock dated 1815;

* Historic interest: the evolution of the mill site reflects its changing function and methods of production in response to demand and a fluctuating economy, from the early C19 to the C20; * Documentary evidence: a well-researched site with an abundant documentary record.


Whitchurch mill was built in 1813-15 as a water-powered sawmill and furniture factory by William Hayter, ironfounder, brushmaker, dealer and chapman and converted to a silk mill in 1817-19 by William Maddick, silk manufacturer. The mill stands between the River Test and a stream to the north on land held by Henry Hayter from the Dean and Chapter of Winchester Cathedral.

DEVELOPMENT AND OWNERSHIP In 1813 the copyhold was acquired by Henry Hayter, a local ‘ironmonger, glass and hardware man’ (Deveson et al 2015, p.1) and was subsequently developed and managed by his son William until bankruptcy forced the auction of the site in 1816. As well as the buildings and fabric, the sale included an iron foundry and forge bellows, wagons and carts, eight cart horses and harnesses, ploughs and drills, and a quantity of materials for brush and cabinet making, including mahogany, giving an indication of the Hayters’ range of trades and stock of materials and the functions of the various buildings at the mill. Particular mention was made of the waterwheel, and of the clock, which was installed in 1815.

Although it had been intended to demolish the buildings, in 1817 the property was assigned to William Maddick, a well-established silk manufacturer based in London. The mill was originally a two-storey building with tall, central cart entrances to a drive-through loading bay, a similar arrangement to that of a barn. Maddick converted the building into three storeys and filled in the open central space to provide floor space for heavier equipment on the lower and middle floors, with lighter weight water-powered winding equipment on the top floor. He also increased the water supply to drive more spinning and winding machines, creating a channel to the mill stream controlled by a series of sluices, although it was not until later in the C19 that the looms were water-powered. Maddick’s retained the copyhold for some 27 years, with tenants or managers continuing to run the business in Whitchurch.

After a brief interlude, in 1846 the Dean and Chapter sold the freehold of the mill to the resident manager, William Chappell, who developed a highly successful business, with production reaching its peak in the late 1850s. He achieved full employment and was trading extensively in London, Essex and the Midlands, in particular Coventry. Whitchurch Silk Mill was then the sole surviving mill of its type in Hampshire. The core business was still silk throwing, but records now suggest weaving was also being undertaken on site. The building at the core of the later C20 visitors' centre was used as a weavers' shed and a small weaving shed was added to the long riverside range which had formerly housed the foundry. The Cobden/Chevalier Free Trade Treaty passed in Parliament in 1860 however heralded a sharp decline in the silk trade and marked the beginnings of a downturn in the mill’s fortunes.

In 1886, the business was sold to John Hide, a shopkeeper and draper. His family connection to Burberry’s began a long and lucrative association with the firm and ensured the mill's survival. Weaving fabrics on power looms now replaced the previous throwing business, and the ‘outbuildings’ were by now used for other purposes - Hide was also dyeing silk in the building alongside the millpond (later the C20 visitors' centre). By 1921 Whitchurch Silk Mill was the sole representative of the silk industry in Hampshire. It remained in the Hide family until 1956, when it was acquired by Stephen Walters. At that time there were 15 looms on the lower floor. He managed the mill until 1971 when it was bought by Ede and Ravenscroft, robe makers.

When it finally closed for business in 1985, the mill was bought and restored by the Hampshire Buildings Preservation Trust, its current owners, and the Whitchurch Silk Mill Trust was established in 1990 to secure its future as a working mill and museum. Today (Dec 2015) weaving continues, using late C19 and early C20 tappet and dobby looms installed between 1890 and 1960. (See Mill inventory)

THE SITE As well as the principal mill building the site included a range of buildings against the river on the north-western boundary of the site, a weaving shed, store and cottages to the south-east of the mill, a small counting house or office at the entrance, and a residence which replaced it in 1820, built as a manager’s house (24 Winchester Street, separately owned). The northern range, described in the sale notice in the Hampshire Chronicle in March 1822 as 'erected but a few years since’, and built by Hayter c1815, were similar to buildings at Taskers’ Ironworks, Upper Clatford (Hants), and would have comprised a foundry, and probably stabling, cart sheds, a tack room and storage. In or just after 1822 it was reduced in length and by 1846 the two-storey eastern section had become a weaving shed. The footings of the rear wall of the demolished range forms the retaining wall to the mill stream. By 1873 the surviving range had been extended eastwards by a bay to make four cottages, which in turn were converted into two cottages, Tacklers Cottage and Weavers Cottage, in 1988. (In separate ownership).

To the east of the mill building, near the site entrance, was a small counting house or office. It occupied a similar footprint to the weather-boarded outer wings of the mill and may have been of similar construction. Although it was shown on the copy of the 1839 plan (based on a survey of 1819), it must have been demolished by 1820 to make way for 24 Winchester Street.

The building to the south-east of the mill building (latterly the visitors' centre) comprised a single-storey block built by Hayter, to which an upper floor and offset wing to the east were added by Maddick. These were also shown on the 1839 copy of the earlier plan and were marked on the 1886 sales plan as stores and a pair of cottages, and are recorded in historic photographs of the site (Browne, 2015, p. 54). The cottages were demolished in 1949, but a photograph taken in the 1930s shows the gates at the entrance to the mill and the two-storey range behind it. Part of this building and its reused metal windows are incorporated in the current single-storey shop and visitors' centre, which occupies the same footprint as the original building.

The same plans show the rectangular footprint of 24 Winchester Street, described in the Morning Chronicle of 6 April 1821 as newly built (Deveson et al, 2015, ii) and to which in the 1850s another cottage was attached.

The site was enclosed by iron gates and railings which remained in place until the 1940s. The piers survive though reduced in height.


Water-powered mill, built in 1813-15 as a sawmill and furniture factory by William Hayter, ironfounder, brushmaker, dealer and chapman and converted to a silk mill in 1817-19 by William Maddick, silk manufacturer.

MATERIALS: soft red and grey brick in Flemish bond on a stone base, the principal, northern elevation in good quality red brick, the southern elevation in mixed red, grey and brown brick, some vitrified. Timber-framed and weather-boarded wings. All have kingpost roofs clad in Welsh slate.

PLAN: it is rectangular on plan, laid out on three storeys in five symmetrical bays. The mill was built as a two-storey building with a central drive-through ground floor loading bay but was converted to three full floors, to house weaving looms on the ground and first floors with a powered winding floor above. The structure attached to the northern end houses the water wheel and its gearing. Attached to the southern end is a two-storey wing, of similar scale, housing the mill manager’s office.

EXTERIOR: the symmetrical northern elevation, beneath a low-pitched hipped roof, and with a central pedimented bay, is in a restrained Georgian idiom used to distinguish industrial buildings. The original two-storey arrangement is evident in the patched brickwork between the floors; the cill level of the ground floor windows remains unchanged; on the ground floor the central bay has a pair of windows, replacing the cart entrance. Windows are small-paned iron fixed lights beneath shallow cambered red brick arches. Ground floor and first floor windows are of 6 x 4 lights, the upper floor of 6 x 3 lights, set high under the eaves. Most windows incorporate the upper, cambered 6 x 3 light sections of Hayter's 1813-15 windows and/or the rectangular 6 x 3 light lower sections. The main elevations have brick cogged eaves except for the pediment which is rendered above a dentil cornice; within it is the clock face of the 1815 Handley and Moore clock.

Centrally placed on the roof is an open-sided lantern which housed the bell. It is constructed of timber on a square base with square piers at the corners and a cambered arch with a keystone on each face, and is surmounted by an ogival, domed roof with a tall finial and weather vane.

The southern elevation echoes the northern façade but in simplified form, without the prominent pediment. Windows are similarly arranged, and apart from one replacement, reuse components of the earlier windows. Likewise, the original two-storey arrangement is evident in the brickwork. There is a single stack at the south-east angle, and a single, inserted casement in the eastern gable wall, beneath the eaves.

At each end is a timber-framed and weatherboarded wing, contemporary with the mill building, also with slate-clad, half-hipped kingpost roofs. The western wing encases the water wheel and its gearing, with the crown wheel at upper floor level within the space currently described as a carpenters’ workshop. It has a fixed 3 x 3 three light window to the north and south, and the upper floor is reached by external stairs on the south elevation. The eastern wing is of two full storeys, with an outshot to the south. The entrance, on the north elevation, has a ledge and plank door beneath a simple canopy on shaped brackets. Adjacent to it is a horizontally arranged two-light window with leaded lights beneath a cambered head (probably 1817-19). On the upper floor is a 3 x 3 pane fixed light. In the eastern gable wall is an eight over eight pane sash window replacing the original which is thought to be reused in the shop building.

INTERIOR: the ground floor (weaving floor) has two arcades of cast iron piers supporting the floor above and a plank floor. Mounted on the floor are late C19 and early C20 tappet and dobby looms, installed between 1890 and 1960 and other machinery and hand looms acquired for the museum.

Now seen at first floor level, the rear arches and lintels of the former cart and window openings of the two-storey arrangement remain in place. At the eastern end of the building a pine stair with square newels and balusters rises from ground to first floor level within a matchboard clad stair well. A winder stair rises to the upper floor. A hatch at each level at the eastern end of the mill building, and winch mechanism, allows the warp beam, on a beam trolley, to be winched from the winding floor to the weaving floors below. On the third floor are water-powered winding frames, driven by a historic line shaft, reconstructed in the 1980s, a warping mill with a rare boar shaped creel, installed in 1890, and a museum collection of hand weaving equipment and tools associated with silk weaving. In the roof space is a clock, inscribed Handley and Moore, London, 1815, housed in a pedimented wooden case.

The timber framed structure of the wheel house is of varied scantling suggesting repair and replacement and has a kingpost roof of similar construction to the main roof. A ledge and plank door gives access to the second floor of the mill.

Within the wheel house is a cast iron breast-shot wheel, installed c1890, with replaced timber paddles; the crown wheel is also of timber. The mechanism is in full working order, with perishable components repaired or replaced as required.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 139417

Legacy System: LBS


Books and journals
Browne, J, Winders, Piecers, Warpers and Weavers, The Story of Whitchurch Silk Mill , (2015)
Bryer, Stephen , Whitchurch Silk Mill. A brief guide to Whitchurch Silk Mill and its History , (2009)
Pevsner, N, Bullen, M, Crook, J, Hubbuck, R, The Buildings of England: Hampshire: Winchester and the North, (2010), 555
Deveson, A, Pearce, M, Bullen, M, 'The Origin and Remodelling of Whitchurch Silk Mill' in Hampshire Studies , , Vol. 17, (2016), forthcoming

End of official listing