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Home > News > Searching for Silk Stories

Searching for Silk Stories

Posted by on 5 March 2019 | Comments

Thanks to National Lottery players a new project has launched, aimed at bringing Sudbury’s silk heritage to life and showing how silk shaped and continues to shape Sudbury.

Sudbury Silk Stories, funded by Babergh District Council and £36,400 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, is looking for the stories of current and former employees of Sudbury’s silk industry. It will explore the history and changes that have taken place in the local industry, which continues to produce some of Europe’s finest silk. The project will record and share the experiences of silk mill staff, to create both a short film and an archive of interviews for the local community and for visitors to learn from.

Sudbury residents and former silk industry employees can leave their stories of the industry at the Sudbury Silk Stories Memory Box, to be installed in Sudbury Library on Market Hill later this month. They can also contact the Project Coordinator to speak about their experiences in more detail via the Babergh website, or by leaving their contact details in the Memory Box.

Led by Babergh District Council and supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the project will be recording interviews with local people associated with silk businesses in Sudbury over the coming months. The Sudbury based charity the Offshoot Foundation will team up with Ormiston Sudbury Academy and Thomas Gainsborough School, going into the mills to film interviews. The interviews will feature in full on the Sudbury Silk Stories website and clips will be included in a 10 minute film about the Sudbury silk industry screened in the town on 1 August and later at the Sudbury Silk Festival.

Babergh District Council have also joined forces with Gainsborough’s House Museum and the Sudbury Ephemera Society to expand the project to include an education resource for local schools and a collection of photographs and letters relating to Sudbury’s silk history.

Cllr Margaret Maybury, Babergh District Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities, said: “It is a joy for me to be able to put this project into motion knowing some of the very talented and skilled people who have and are working within the silk industry.  It is a fact that historically Sudbury’s reputation as a silk town is well known, but so few people are aware of just how active the industry is today. The wealth, prestige, skill and knowledge the industry has earned over the generations has shaped the town and is continuing to do so.  Top fashion houses, royalty and celebrities from Great Britain to Milan to New York, work, use, and choose Sudbury silk.   This is a real opportunity to celebrate this remarkable industry local within our community.”

Robyn Llewellyn, Head of The National Lottery Fund, East of England said,” “We’re delighted to support Babergh District Council to celebrate the fascinating heritage of the silk industry in Sudbury. The project provides the opportunity to gather stories about the people who worked in the industry and those who have worn Sudbury silks. Thanks to National Lottery players, local people can explore and play a part in preserving a significant part of this intriguing story.”

The town has a rich history of silk, dating back to the 1770’s when silk weavers moved from Spitalfields to Sudbury and it currently has four thriving silk businesses, making it the UK’s largest silk producing town. It is one of East Anglia’s hidden gems and has a rich unspoken history; not many people realise the significance of silk in Sudbury, yet silk was woven there for both the wedding dresses of the Princess Royal and Princess Diana as well as Adele’s dress for the Brit Awards and Michele Obama’s dress that she wore when she visited the Queen. Silk woven in the town is also used in many of the major historic palaces and important buildings of England. Sudbury’s rich tradition will also be celebrated through the Sudbury Silk Festival in September.

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