Restoration project sees historic Cheshire silk skills revived

A Grade II listed silk mill, part of the Silk Museum in Cheshire which recently reopened is to begin the production of silk after 43 years.

Paradise Mill, which produced luxury silk goods until 1981, will once again be home to silk production, as restoration begins on two of the 19th century looms.

The museum reopened to the public last week, after a £309k National Heritage Memorial Fund backed restoration project saw it acquire a 125-year lease of the top floor of the mill.

Guided tours are expected to resume on 28th February 2024. Tour guides at the museum, Daniel Hearn, and Trish Halloran, alongside Rebecca Faragher, who is a trained weaver, are undertaking the conservation of the building’s handlooms, in work supported by funding from the Association for Industrial Archaeology.

Hearn said the restoration would require “considerable effort”.

“Establishing a strong foundation in acquiring these skills means we are taking the first critical steps in ensuring that this niche type of Jacquard handloom weaving remains operational within the extraordinary time capsule that is Paradise Mill.”

Silk weaving has now joined the list of Endangered Heritage Craft Skills. The Silk Museum has secured funding from The Radcliffe Trust to work up a plan for the conservation of the looms alongside creative placements for emerging craftspeople.

Director of the Silk Museum, Emma Anderson, said: “We need to revive and expand the technical knowledge of how to operate and care for them so they can continue to inspire future generations of weavers for years to come.”

The Museum is planning to return more of the collection of 26 Jacquard handlooms to working order in the future.