Bliss Mill (above left) in Chipping Norton, was built by Tom's Great Great Grandfather, William Bliss (above right) after the original mill burned down in 1872.*

As the song relates, he spent a fortune making it the grandest mill in England, complete with reading room, chapel, workers cottages etc. But he forgot to make allowances for this new spending in his will, so when he died the only way to honour the many generous legacies was to sell the mill. The family were legally bound.

The cloth really was sold as 'Silken Leather' and all the (true) info for this song came in one email from his sister Anne - who is something of an expert on Bliss family history.

Tom used to keep very quiet about his capitalist ancestors (it was bad enough being an ex-public-schoolboy in Leeds in the 70s), but once he found out that Old Bill was a pukka philanthopist his attitude changed. Having made more than 1000 promotional videos for various manufacturers over the years, he wondered if he'd be doing the same for the mill if things had turned out differently...

(The picture top right is TB singing this song in Chippy Museum in 2010 - at the launch of 'Memories of the Mill in The Valley', by the CN Family History Group)

I will sing you a song of William B

He did very well for mine and me

Had us all work in his factory

Making Silken Leather

No Guv’nor could be wholly good,

But he seemed to do the best he could

Fed us faith and facts - and food!

Making silken leather

(So here’s to Mr William and his tweed - Bliss Tweed!)


He would have no children in his mill

Nor women in the winter chill

At least till of breakfast they’d had fill

Making silken leather

Our wages never made the pound

But when we ailed he rallied round

And pensions for the old was found

Thanks to silken leather

(So here’s to Mr William and his tweed - Bliss Tweed!)

The cloth we made was fine indeed

The very best of English tweed

Perfect for the Gentry’s need

They called it ‘silken leather’

Twas soft as thistledown inside

But finished like a rhino’s hide

A man could wear those breeks with pride

And call ‘em ‘silken leather’

(So here’s to Mr William and his tweed - Bliss Tweed!)


To prove my point now this I show

In Africa not long ago

A huntsman shot a buffalo

While wearing silken leather

But the wounded beast would not succumb

It chased that huntsman - it was rum!

But it found no purchase on his bum

Thanks to silken leather

(So here’s to Mr William and his tweed - Bliss Tweed!)


So all of Chipping Norton town

Was filled with fear and fret and frown

The night that William’s Mill burned down

No more silken leather?!!!

But William B would not be beat

He built that new mill up the street

That looks just like an ice-cream treat

Thanks to silken leather

(So here’s to Mr William and his tweed - Bliss Tweed!)


So like the rest I sobbed and I sighed

the night that William Bliss he died

With his sons all by his side

All wearing silken leather

But when the Lawyers read the Will

The donations came to such a bill

That the family had to sell the mill

Which wasn’t quite so clever!



*This email arrived 17 01 05 from Michael Peachey.

"I have been doing some research on the Peachey family history. It turns out my great great grandfather Thomas Peachey worked in the Bliss Mill. He was actually killed in the Mill fire in 1872, and is buried in the Holiy Trinity graveyard in Chipping Norton."

Does anyone know anything more about this? If so contact us and we'll put you in touch with Michael.