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Victory for Vellum

Friday 19/02/16

Debby Faulkner-Stevens

W Cowley, who have been manufacturing vellum in my home town of Newport Pagnell for the past 150 years made headline news last week when the Paymaster General announced that, despite the House of Lords voting against the continued use of vellum for all Acts of Parliament, the government would pay the bill – just £80,000 a year – thus saving a tradition going back centuries.

Such was the interest in the subject that Cowleys website crashed with people logging on to read about it. There was frenzy of protest on social media under #savevellum, and a group of history conscious MP’s, including Milton Keynes MP Mark Lancaster, complained to Parliament that part of the country’s heritage would be destroyed if the government scrapped the use of vellum. Plans to save money by switching to archive paper was ‘incredibly short sighted’ according to Mr Lancaster as, although paper is initially cheaper, storage costs in specialist conditions at special temperatures are significantly higher and even then product lasts only around 200 years, whereas vellum is virtually indestructible and can be easily preserved for centuries .
As Paul Wright, manager at Cowleys said, ‘If Magna Carta had been produced on paper we would not even know about it today. The cost of using vellum for Magna Carta has worked out at £6 a century’.  


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