Sudbury silk joins Wensleydale cheese and Newmarket sausages on protected EU list
- Credit: Gregg Brown
It has graced the homes and bodies of celebrities ranging from Michelle Obama to members of the Royal family, but up until now ‘Sudbury silk’ has remained a relatively well-kept secret.
But that could all change after new laws were passed giving the high-quality fabric, which has been produced in the town since the 18th century, special European protection.
The laws, championed by Suffolk Euro MP Richard Howitt, give geographical protection to authentic, local and original non-agricultural products.
Up until now, protected geographical status could only be assigned to consumable ‘farmed’ products such as the Newmarket sausage, Wensleydale cheese or Whitstable oysters.
The new protection will also ensure that products made in Sudbury’s three remaining silk weaving factories cannot be copied or ripped off by imitation products.
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Vanners Silk Weavers, in Weavers Lane, has a history in the town dating back to 1740. Mr Howitt visited the factory yesterday to hear how the new laws will help the long-established firm.
He said: “At the moment, it’s only agricultural products like meats and cheeses that are protected, but this new law will mean that other products can benefit from the same geographical protection.
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“The move by Europe is great news for local businesses like Vanners, which is an extremely important part of the community and a very old firm and that still produces top of the range, unique and regionally exclusive goods.
“Sudbury should rightly be proud of the stunning silk they have produced here for more than 250 years and it is only proper that local business and people are protected.
“It also means the name ‘Sudbury silk’ will become even more prized and important.”
Mr Howitt said the new laws would mean a clampdown on factories across the world that try to pass off “cheap knock-offs” as originals.
He added: “I am proud to have spearheaded these laws and show what Europe is doing to protect and grow British manufacturing.”
Gainsborough’s House is hoping to stage a big silk exhibition next year and is aiming to include a silk gallery in its planned multi-million-pound expansion plans.
Museum director Mark Bills said: “The silk industry is a crucial part of Sudbury’s rich heritage and its something we think will attract visitors to the town as part of a tourism package including Gainsborough’s House and the surrounding landscape.
“Getting the name ‘Sudbury silk’ out there can only help to put the town on the map.”