Visit to Whitchurch and Laverstoke Mills Tuesday – 23rd February 2016

Guided tours of two heritage mills – Whitchurch Silk Mill and the nearby Bombay Sapphire Distillery, with its modern glasshouses designed by architect Thomas Heatherwick. Opportunity to sample products.

Photographs from these visits are available:

Leaving mid-morning, we will travel by coach through the Hampshire countryside to Whitchurch to see the oldest working silk mill in the country still in its original building. The mill itself, picturesquely situated on the River Test, dates from Georgian times, while the silk weaving machinery and looms are Victorian. The mill has produced fabrics for National Trust houses and for BBC period dramas. We shall have a tour and an experienced weaver will demonstrate silk weaving.

After lunch at the mill and an opportunity to browse in the shop and perhaps buy some silk products, we will go a short way up the river valley to Laverstoke, where there has been a mill for more than a thousand years. Paper was made here for nearly 250 years until 1963. For much of that time the mill supplied paper for Bank of England notes and was the venue for four Royal Visits. Much expanded, the mill includes some 40 buildings.

After a period of disuse and the threat of housing development, in 2010 the Bombay Sapphire Distillery bought the mill and engaged designer Thomas Heatherwick to help conserve, restore and convert it. Heatherwick’s iconic glasshouses for the botanical elements that go into gin are now juxtaposed with restored Victorian and Georgian architecture, all enhanced by the river setting.

Our tour will show us the heritage, modern architecture and the distillation process and, of course, provide an opportunity to sample the product.