Case Study: Stannah Weaves Tailored Lift Access in UK’s Oldest Silk Mill

A Stannah Platform Lift is weaving tailored access throughout Whitchurch Silk Mill, a Grade II*-listed Georgian working watermill undergoing a £2.1m regeneration into a fully accessible, industrial heritage attraction.

Built in 1815 and sited on the River Test near Winchester, Hampshire, this historic mill weaves silk fabrics using 19th-century machinery. One of just four working silk mills in the country, it is the only one open to visitors.

As such, accessibility is key to the mill’s ongoing Preserving the Fabric project, a Heritage Lottery Fund scheme focused on the mill’s sustainable future via conservation, repair, extension and new build works.

Working in a heritage site
With three floors of facilities to access, an access lift was essential, with Stannah the provider of choice to supply, install and maintain it. However, Environment Agency and Natural England constraints made installation problematic, as the lift shaft had to project over the River Test, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, without the supporting structure interfering with the flow of water.

Stannah came up with a design solution comprising a projecting shaft structure supported by struts on the mill’s exterior, river-facing wall. By reducing the headroom, this shaft structure blended effortlessly with the roofline.

The lift itself was supplied and installed in its own structure which eliminated the need for a dedicated lift shaft, with the integral structure tying into the internal walls without interfering with them. 

Adjusted door openings and lintel heights on one floor further ensured that the lift fitted its allotted aperture. 

The lift interior features a ceiling with light and timer, simple push-button operation, grab rail and intercom. Call buttons are located on the approach wall, and the neutral aesthetic is complemented by a glass viewing panel in the main door. 

An established Stannah footprint
This wasn’t the first Stannah lift product to serve the premises. Its predecessor was a long-serving Stannah stairlift. But, with the upgrade and increasing footfall, this single-person people-mover bowed out gracefully to its 4-person replacement—as Mill Director, Sue Tapliss, comments:

“We had three rock-solid reasons to specify a Stannah platform lift: Our beloved stairlift had delivered long, reliable service—thanks to Stannah’s outstanding customer care. Critically, Stannah was the only company that could deliver a bespoke solution to accommodate the installation constraints of the Environment Agency and Natural England. We also favour working with local companies and are reassured by Stannah’s lengthy pedigree in opening up heritage buildings to people of all mobilities—an important consideration when it comes to meeting the requirements of the Equality Act 2010.

”We are committed to delivering disabled access, with the lift playing a key role in our access policy—which is best summed up by one of our lift’s many appreciative users!"…

“As a disabled person, I appreciate all the Silk Mill does to make us able to see so much…”

As with all Stannah lift products, the Stannah platform lift is covered by Stannah’s comprehensive lift service plan, which includes four service visits in the first year, with continued lift maintenance by the Southern England branch of Stannah Lift Services, part of a nationwide network providing comprehensive lift servicing and support.