PLANS to conserve a historic Whitchurch attraction have been given a huge financial boost.

The Whitchurch Silk Mill was awarded a £123,300 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) last week to help towards the ‘Preserving the Fabric’ appeal which aims to improve and protect the popular attraction and its historic machinery.

The money, which has been received in preparation for a full grant application to the HLF, will mainly be used to improve accessibility for visitors to allow them to see parts of the mill that are currently inaccessible.

There will also be refurbishment work conducted on the entrance and organisers plan to combine the existing shop and cafe on the bank of the River Test for an improved visitor experience.

Claire Isbester, chairman of Whitchurch Silk Mill Trust, said: “We’re delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has given us this support.

“The 200-year-old building will be conserved under the plans, with access improved for visitors.

“It’s great to know that we are a step closer to preserving the Mill for another 200 years”

Sue Tapliss, general manager of Whitchurch Silk Mill, added: “At the moment we have only one weaver who knows how to use all the historic machinery, apprentices will ensure these skills are passed onto the next generation and we can continue weaving into the next century”

The Mill will apply for a second round of HLF funding in 2016 and, if successful, building work is scheduled for 2017 and the new-look Mill will be launched in 2018.

Stuart McLeod, head of HLF South East, said: “We are really pleased to be giving them the green light and look forward to seeing the project progress over the coming months.”