Jobs under threat after Sudbury factory repossessed

Vanners in Sudbury

Vanners factory has been repossessed by administrators. - Credit: Gregg Brown

There has been another twist in the saga of one of Suffolk's oldest companies this week with staff being locked out of its 150-year-old factory.

Silk weavers Vanners of Sudbury was founded in 1740, moved to its current factory in 1870 and has provided silk for clothes for some of the most glamourous people including Adele and Michelle Obama.

However, it called in administrators at the end of 2020 and seemed to have been saved after the company was bought by Norfolk-based businessman Roger Gawn.

Roger Gawn

Roger Gawn bought Vanners in December 2020. - Credit: Steve Adams

After problems at the start of his ownership, especially when staff were not paid for several weeks, the company seemed to get back on its feet.

Last September Mr Gawn said he was negotiating to buy the factory from the administrators of the former company to ensure the future of the business.

However, this week the factory building was repossessed by the administrator after Mr Gawn's company failed to complete an agreement it had made to buy the premises.

The building will now be put up for sale - and the fate of the 30 employees working there is uncertain.

Vanners Silk in Sudbury is set to move to a multi-million pound purpose-built facility Picture: PH

Vanners has been in production for more than 280 years - since 1740.

South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge has been working to help the staff ever since the original company went into administration at the end of 2020.

He said: “The fact that the Vanners factory site has been repossessed by its administrators will be news that brings mixed emotions to many with an interest in this historic Sudbury business.

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"I have particular sympathy for staff still retained on site who now face further uncertainty. Indeed, I have personally had to deal with significant constituency casework arising from such matters, and have huge sympathy with everyone who has been detrimentally affected by events at the factory.

South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge.

South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge. - Credit: OFFICE OF JAMES CARTLIDGE

"Ultimately, whilst it is inevitably sad to hear of such a well known Sudbury silk firm being the subject to this kind of action, we at least have greater likelihood of an outcome for the site that moves it forward in one way or another."

James Lumb, managing director at Interpath Advisory and joint administrator of Silk Industries Limited (the original company), said: “As part of the sale of the business and assets of Silk Industries Limited to Vanners Silk 1740 Ltd in December 2020, we granted a 12-month lease to allow Vanners time to find new premises.

"In December 2021 we agreed heads of terms to sell the site to a company controlled by Roger Gawn, the owner of Vanners. After reaching that agreement, and despite regular reminders, the deadlines we set to deliver the sale were missed. Most recently, this was a deadline to exchange contracts on the sale on Monday 31 January.

“As is our statutory duty, we need to act in the best interests of the company’s creditors.

"Regretfully, having exhausted the opportunities to deliver a transaction with the company related to Vanners, we concluded that we had little option but to take control of the site and market it for sale to other potential buyers.”

The EADT contacted Mr Gawn and left a message asking him to contact us - but have not received a response.