Church supplier Wippell & Co to close after 220 years

A manufacturer of clerical robes and church furnishings that has been in existence for 220 years is to close its doors after a difficult financial period.

Wippell & Co opened in Devon in 1789 and is known for its handmade cassocks, vestments and altar frontals.

In the UK it has been a longstanding supplier to the Anglican Church, Church of Scotland, United Reform Church, Episcopal Church and Methodist Church, but customers included denominations based in the US, Australia, Sweden and other countries as well.

The company also makes academic gowns and mortarboards.

It is to close by the end of the year after failing to recover from a downturn in business during the pandemic when the company said it had lost hundreds of thousands of pounds with the prolonged suspension of university graduation ceremonies and other face-to-face events.

The company has also struggled to compete with cheaper machine-made alternatives from overseas.

Robin Richardson, Chairman and Director, said: "It's an incredibly sad day and I want to pay tribute to all my colleagues. We will be supporting everyone through this difficult period.

"Most people, including incredibly skilled embroiderers, seamstresses and cutters, have worked here for decades, with many approaching retirement age. I want to personally acknowledge everyone's dedication and craftsmanship.

"We are continuing to trade, completing and taking orders in the coming months, including all commitments to servicing and fulfilling all graduations for 2023 and I would reassure customers that our high standards will be maintained throughout this time."

Christine Morrish, Director, said: "The company has an incredible heritage, skilful employees and loyal customers. Sadly, times have changed.

"It has been a tough few years because of the pandemic, and is without doubt a much more competitive market, with lower quality machine-made garments from overseas now dominating.

"Over the coming months, we will continue to support employees and remain fully committed to our customers, continuing to receive and fulfil orders, during this time."