Suffolk

Sudbury silk: Loved by royals and celebrities

The Queen's coronation Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Sudbury silk lined the Queen's robes at her coronation

A festival to celebrate the success of a town's 250-year-old silk industry is taking place for the first time.

Silk woven in Sudbury has been worn by the Queen at her coronation, royal brides, former US First Lady Michelle Obama and singer Adele.

The first silk business moved to the Suffolk town from London in the 1770s and continues at four mills.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury said the area is "the oldest continuous weaving town in the UK".

Image caption Princess Diana's wedding dress used silk from Sudbury
Image copyright Sudbury Silk Stories
Image caption Neil Thomas at the Gainsborough Silk Weaving Company
Image copyright Babergh District Council
Image caption Cottages built for silk workers in Cross Street, Sudbury

The festival has been funded by Babergh District Council with £36,400 from the National Lottery Heritage Lottery Fund.

A number of events are taking place at various venues to "showcase the work and heritage of an industry that has shaped the town".

Gainsborough's House museum is offering free entry to an exhibition of four Vivienne Westwood costumes as part of the festival.

The ensembles from the designer, who found fame working with the Sex Pistols in the 1970s, have not used Sudbury silk, but the museum said they represent how silk was used in 17th and 18th Century fashion, an era which inspired Westwood in her post-punk period.

Image copyright AK Purkiss
Image caption An item by British designer Vivienne Westwood on display for the festival

Much of the silk industry moved to Sudbury as it had good access to London, lots of space and good sources of power for new machinery.

More than 110 tonnes of Chinese silk thread is imported to Sudbury each year.

Local students interviewed past and present employees of the Sudbury silk industry for a film which will be shown at the festival.

More than 300 people currently work in the four silk mills of Sudbury: Gainsborough Silk, Humphries Weaving, Stephen Walters and Vanners.

One employee said they were "proud" to work in an industry which has a "very, very important history" and produces a "precious fabric".

Image copyright Babergh District Council
Image caption Silk mill staff at Vanners from the early 1900s

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