William Cowley Parchment and Vellum

An open letter from Patricia Lovett regarding the discontinuation of vellum for recording Acts of Parliament, and the effect on William Cowley Parchment and Vellum Makers. An issue that will affect many conservation disciplines. Please share!

Dear All,

I heard yesterday evening from William Cowley’s that the Houses of Parliament are due to consider on Monday next (19th October) whether to discontinue printing Acts of Parliament on vellum. It is likely to be part of their cost cutting exercises.

Supplying skins to Parliament is 20% of W Cowley’s business, and a significant proportion of their income. Whether they can continue to produce vellum and parchment without this business is in question. Cowley’s is the last remaining parchmenter in the UK and we think the last in the world to produce skins using traditional craft tools and skills. Because of this their skins are sold to practitioners, conservationists, bookbinders, museums and libraries all over the world. They were also finalists in the Craft Skills Awards which were presented by The Prince of Wales in 2012.

I am writing to you all because I know that you are aware of the importance of a continuing supply of vellum and parchment for conservation, repair, bookbinding and new works on vellum and parchment. To not have skins available for this is, in my view, unthinkable! If you are able to tweet and Facebook etc etc this to raise awareness that would be really helpful.

If you could also pass this on to others who may be affected that too would be very much appreciated. The ripple effect of the cancellation of this contract is very much more significant than MPs and Peers may comprehend. We don’t have much time to write to MPs and Peers, but if you were able to contact Lord Laming who is Chair of the Administration and Works Committee (contactholmember@parliament.uk) and Sir Paul Beresford (annie.winsbury@parliament.uk), who is Chair of the Administration Committee, that would be marvellous.

Cowley’s local MP is onboard, and one of the Heritage Crafts Patrons, Lord Cormack, has also supported this and has written to Lord Laming. Of course contacting your own MP (http://www.parliament.uk/get-involved/contact-your-mp/contacting-your-mp/) will also add strength to the cause, as MPs are able to support the work of their own constituents. Anything that you can do to alert others to the implications of this decision, if it is to cease printing on vellum, would be very much appreciated.

With best wishes,


Patricia Lovett MBE
Hernewood Studio
Calligraphy, Illumination, Heraldry, Design

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