A HUGE fundraising appeal has been launched to restore an historic mill in Whitchurch.
The trustees of Whitchurch Silk Mill are looking to generate £2million to revitalise the tourist attraction by remodelling the inside and repairing and enhancing the machinery.
A bid, called Preserving the Fabric, will be made in August to apply for £1.7m from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
But in order to apply for the grant, the trustees need to show that they can raise a percentage of the money requested – about £200,000.
The restoration is being planned to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the mill, in Winchester Street, next year.
To raise the funds needed, a Bicentenary Appeal has been launched.
Rupert Nabarro, chairman of Whitchurch Silk Mill Trust, said: “Preserving the Fabric will remodel the interior of the mill, so that its special qualities can be seen and appreciated by visitors more easily.
“We’ll repair and enhance the machinery so we can do more weaving and create opportunities to pass on our heritage skills.
“We believe that Preserving the Fabric will significantly improve the visitor experience, our programme for learning, engagement with the people of Hampshire, and the mill’s commercial opportunities. It will ensure the survival of the silk mill.”
The money needs to be raised by December 2016, with three levels of benefactor, ranging from annual donations of between £500 and £2,500.
Trustees have provided examples of how the money would be spent – £500 would create an educational activity for schoolchildren, £1,000 would sponsor an apprentice for two months, and £2,500 would restore a Victorian dobby or tappet loom.
Claire Isbester, a trustee of the mill and Whitchurch town councillor, said: “The mill was at serious risk of closure two years ago and was rescued largely by the energy and diligence of Whitchurch citizens.
“The trustees now know what is needed to take the mill safely into the future.
“Its machinery and buildings have been neglected and urgently need restoration work. Its displays are old-fashioned and need revitalising, as does the educational offer in general. Visitors cannot get close to the working parts of the mill.
“The trustees know that Whitchurch Silk Mill is a unique asset that we cannot afford to lose.”
Her Majesty's Lord-Lieutenant of Hampshire, Dame Mary Fagan, will be the guest of honour at the mill next Wednesday at a reception to showcase the new appeal.
For more information visit whitchurchsilkmill.org.uk, call 01256 892065 or email email@example.com.