Historic silk makers Vanners unveils plans for multi-million pound move

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

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

Silk production in a Suffolk market town is set to enter a new era as a traditional manufacturer gears up for a move to a new site.

Vanners Silk's archive Picture: PHIL MORLEY

Vanners Silk's archive Picture: PHIL MORLEY

Vanners - which has an 80-strong workforce - is one of four silk makers in Sudbury whose industry is woven into the town's rich history.

Now it plans to move from Gregory Mills to a new site in the town and has unveiled plans for a 25,000sq ft two-storey building, expected to cost around £2m.

MORE - Festival to commemorate silk industry in SudburyManaging director Laura Gore said the location is still being finalised, but the firm has different sites in mind - all in Sudbury. The intention is to move the whole operation - and the entire workforce - across as smoothly as possible within the next 12 to 18 months or so.

The luxury silk business, which has a turnover of around £5m to £6m, believes the move will ensure that it continues to be at the cutting edge of textile dyeing, weaving, design and luxury production for many years to come.

The historic home of Vanners in Sudbury Picture: GREGG BROWN

The historic home of Vanners in Sudbury Picture: GREGG BROWN

Originally started by exiled French Huguenots, the firm, which was started in the late 1800s, has been owned by company chairman David Tooth for the past 40 years. Although he is not related to the founders, it continues to have a family feel, said Ms Gore.


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The reasoning behind the move was the need to change with the times, and provide room for parts of the business, such as tie-making, which had been brought in-house from a site in Basildon in June, she explained. Once vacated, its historic home will be sold.

"We are looking really just to be more efficient," she said. "I think everyone is very excited. We have announced it to the full team today - there has been a lot of excitement."

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This year's silk festival in the town had shown how much interest there is in its silk-making history, she added. It was essential that it remained in Sudbury, where it has a symbiotic relationship with other silk firms - Stephen Walters & Sons dating back to 1780, and Gainsborough Silk Weaving Company established in 1903, and Gainsborough's House.

Sudbury silk was given special European protection from imitation. Pictured are former Suffolk MEP R

Sudbury silk was given special European protection from imitation. Pictured are former Suffolk MEP Richard Howitt at Vanners Silk Weavers with David Tooth Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

The purpose built, state of the art factory, which will be fitted out with the latest in technology and facilities, is being designed by award-winning architects Burke Rickhards (BRL Architects), whose task is to incorporate all manufacturing, including dying, weaving and tie making functions of the business in "a fully vertical operation".

The board of directors, which also includes chief executive Tro Manoukian, described it as a "monumental day" for the business.

"We will be engaging with members of the public, the council and local press throughout the process and will shortly appoint a panel within the business, across multiple roles, who will be responsible for the development of our new factory," the board said.

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