Sudbury’s Silk Mills

Gainsborough Silk Weaving Co.

In the heart of rural England in the valley of the Stour, in countryside immortalised in the paintings of Constable and Gainsborough, lies the picturesque medieval town of Sudbury. Home to wealthy merchants and clothiers since the 15th century and already a prominent centre for silk weaving, it was here in 1903 that craftsman Reginald Warner, inspired by the beauty of floral and emblematic designs in rich and harmonious colouring, laid the foundations for the Gainsborough Silk Weaving Company.

More than a century on, Gainsborough has flourished from its humble beginnings and is now recognised internationally for its exquisite fabrics, fine damasks, brocades and brocatelles. Awarded the Royal Warrant in 1980, Gainsborough has stayed true to Warner’s vision and original philosophy to create exceptional fabrics for the contemporary market. “We have done over 11,000 commissioned weaves since the company began. Many have been copied but thousands are one-offs,” says Neil Thomas, the technical director.

The dedicated design department splits its time between creating new commissions for clients and re-drawing restoration fabrics. A premium commercial market leader in commissions for royal palaces, British embassies, national museums and galleries as well as famous liners, historic houses and luxury hotels, Gainsborough also collaborates with designers such as Sir Paul Smith, Nina Campbell, Tom Dixon, Alidad and Giles Deacon, as well as couture fashion houses like YSL and Dior for their catwalk shows. 

Humphries Weaving

Humphries Weaving is a Distinguished British Manufacturer of Custom Jacquard Fabrics based in Sudbury, Suffolk; expertise and imagination drives every individual project.

Humphries Weaving has an international reputation for designing and weaving fine furnishings. They have an archive of over 45 years of client projects spanning historical restorations and the high-end decorator market.

They combine historical expertise and academic research with evolving weaving techniques to produce impeccable fabric design. They pride themselves on having the imagination to deliver a client’s vision; their patience, knowledge and expertise of colour, design and woven construction guides them to create accurate historic reproductions and innovative contemporary textiles.

Stephen Walters and David Walters

Stephen Walters has been designing and weaving the world’s finest fabrics since 1720. 

They are a family business.  This does not only mean the ten generations of the Walters family, who have steered the Company through the last 300 years, but also the sense of family that runs throughout the entire mill. 

Fashion business, Stephen Walters, uses a seamless blend of artisan traditions and advanced technical capabilities, to create contemporary, innovative jacquard woven fabrics for mens and women’s apparel, neckwear and facings for dinner jackets.  

David Walters is a division of Stephen Walters which specialises in high end interior fabrics for internally renowned design houses, wholesalers and manufacturers. 

Both Stephen Walters and David Walters work on a business to business basis and have a global customer base sending exceptional fabric around the world. 

Vanners Silk Weavers

Vanners has been in existence since around 1740, the three brothers who started the company being descendants of French Huguenots who were welcomed to this country when their own rejected them. Their successors began to move production from Spitalfields in East London to this area in the 1850s, where there was an even longer tradition of weaving.

Vanners settled on its present site in the centre of Sudbury around 1900, and merged with local weaving company Fennell Brothers at around the same time. The company was known as ‘Vanners & Fennell’ until 1960, and after that just ‘Vanners’. Whilst continuing to weave dress fabrics and umbrella silk, in the early 1900s it also added necktie silks, a rapidly growing market. They wove the first ‘logo’ on silk for ties (for a London club) and were early specialists in weaving repp stripes for army regiments, colleges and schools. 

For over fifty years Vanners has established itself as the specialist silk weaver, working with numerous international design houses. The heritage is that collective result of historical archives, tradition, innovation, partnership and experience

Since the early 1950’s Vanners has focused on fabrics for the exclusive, traditional, designer and luxury markets. Its production is divided between fabrics for fashion, interiors, and neckwear. The company’s fabrics are made using luxurious natural yarns – mainly silk, but also fine cotton, ultra-fine wool and linen.

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