Archive for November, 2012

Silk Weaving in Sudbury

The Foxearth and District Local History Society on Tuesday 13th November gave a warm welcome to David Tooth, Chairman of the internationally famous Sudbury company of silk weavers – Vanners. The 20 or so members and guests present heard how silk was discovered at least 4,500 years ago in China and how it was at first highly prized and available only to the very rich. It was regarded as valuable as gold and used for trading. China had a virtual monopoly of silk production for over 1,000 years until around 300 AD when the craft spread to Japan and -via the Crusades- to Western Europe , particularly Italy and France. The suppression of Protestantism in the latter country in the 1680s led to substantial migration by the Huguenots to London, principally to Spitalfields, where textile manufacture, especially silk weaving, became the largest single occupation. Eventually the strong weaving tradition in East Anglia attracted some Huguenot families to settle there.

David described how Vanners – a name of Huguenot derivation –came to Suffolk in 1860 and to Sudbury at the beginning of the 20th century. The company soon became well-known for its production of flags and banners. Originally a highly labour intensive industry it now benefits from computer technology although there is still much that  depends on the hands-on approach – for example the design work. The factory has three warping machines, about 50 looms and around 350 individual colour recipes and is in full time production. However to put the industry in context silk manufacture is only about 0.2% of total UK textile production..

Among the samples of woven silk and patterns that David brought along, were actual silk cocoons which the audience were delighted to handle. David described how the silk moth caterpillar, after consuming enormous quantities of mulberry leaves, spins a cocoon of a single thread that could be 1,000 metres long and of almost microscopic thinness. To produce a weavable thread is a delicate operation (now, of course, mechanised) involving the twisting together of a number of the cocoon threads. The finished silk is a wonderfully smooth and exceptionally strong fibre,  easy to dye, and  resulting in high fashion, beautiful woven creations.

This was a most interesting insight into an age-old craft and David was warmly thanked by Chairman Alan Fitch for his talk.

The next gathering of the Society will be the annual Christmas Dinner at the Hare Inn, Long Melford on 11th December. Menus were distributed and arrangements for booking explained.

Ken Nice

Foxearth Church – Christmas Songs of Praise

                               Sunday 16th December  4pm

Come along and join in a candle-lit celebration of the festive season.

Well-known carols, mulled wine, readings, mince pies and fruit juice.

                                   EVERYONE WELCOME


If there is a particular carol that you would like to have included please let one of us know.

The church’s historic “Father” Willis organ is nearly 150 years old and in need of expensive renovation so at this event there will be a collection for the organ fund. It is important that this beautiful instrument is preserved for future generations so if you are unable to come along to the “sing along”perhaps you would please consider making a donation to the cause; this would be most gratefully received.

Phil Cox and Malcolm Graham, Churchwardens, Ken Nice, Organist.

Chalara Dieback of Ash

There has been a heightened level of press coverage and speculation about the extent and potential impact of a fungal disease Chalara fraxinea on the country’s native ash tree population. Whilst the disease has been identified on trees in a number of sites in East Anglia it is still unclear how quickly it will spread and how devastating it will be; the evidence from some parts of the continent are clearly alarming and it could be a repeat of Dutch elm disease but on a potentially greater scale, since ash trees make up to 30% of the native tree stock. Essentially the disease causes leaf loss and crown dieback in affected trees and it can lead to tree death.

Whilst the situation is still unclear and subject to further advice and official updates, Braintree District Council  suggest that any enquiries from landowners or other concerned/interested members of the public are directed to the advisory information on the Forestry Commission’s website Chalara Dieback of Ash – which has a helpful Questions and Answers section and phone numbers and is available on the following link, which should be copied into your web browser -