November has been a busy month for our members. First on our Calendar was a trip to the Odeon in Andover for a National Theatre Live production of the Alan Bennett play Allelujah! Some of us met up at various times of the day, depending on whether we attend the Breakfast Club, Lunch Club or Supper Club for a chat and a good meal and the Reading Group met earlier than planned as there is a short hiatus whilst the Andover library is closed to complete the ongoing refurbishment. They are still planning to meet in January, even though they have no book to review.
Jill Reynolds, who co-ordinates the offerings of our members who keep busy with their knitting needles, had received an email announcing that our latest parcel of colourful jumpers and blankets had arrived in a rural north-east Romania. There were photographs of the children from a Roma Community called Racauti wearing the jumpers – which makes it all worthwhile.
We heard that Carol Pratt was brilliant at the recent Anton Danebury Group Meeting at the end of October; she had read out the poem Kate penned for our own Annual Meeting. Instead of a guest speaker, each Institute had been asked to perform “an item” to showcase home-grown talent. It proved to be a popular meeting.
Our own guest speaker this month was Deborah Wheeler from the Whitchurch Silk Mill. She has various roles, including running a craft group, acting as a tour guide and occasionally being duty manager and has been involved since 1984.
First, Deborah took us through the history of the mill, which is apparently a little sketchy, but whilst it has been used for silk production since the early 19th Century, before that it was believed to have been one of three grain mills in the town.
There have been various owners throughout its chequered history including William Maddick who constructed the Mill we know today, including squeezing in a third floor in the middle (no planning consent issues in those days) and installing the Clock Tower to commemorate the Duke of Wellington’s victory at Waterloo in 1815.
Unfortunately, the Mill has seen its fortunes decline at times, so it has twice been closed for refurbishment whilst they re-thought their business model. The most recent has seen the installation of a lift and the re-siting of the café. Whitchurch is now the last hand weaving silk mill in Europe as the process has been widely mechanised.
The mill currently takes orders from, amongst others, private individuals, theatres, the film industry and the National Trust. During WWII it supplied the silk used to insulate electrical cables. They have a range of colours they can chose from, but if a particular shade is not available, they can bespoke dye it with a company in Suffolk.
Deborah explained the various processes the raw material, which is sourced from China, must go through before it is finished and brought along several illustrative photographs and other items, including samples of the different types of silks. It was fascinating and don’t be surprised if you hear about a future planned outing by our members to Whitchurch Silk Mill.
On the last evening of the month several of us attended the village pantomime to support two of our members who were amongst the cast. We cheered enthusiastically when they made their appearance.
Our next meeting is on 13th December (7.30 p.m. in the Village Hall) when we will have a quiz with festive refreshments. Each member has been asked to bring along a contribution.
08 December – Breakfast Club
08 December – Walking Group
13 December – Monthly Meeting 7.30 p.m. in The Village Hall
08 January – Reading Group
19 January – Lunch at Esseborne Manor Hotel