City parchment makers will continue to supply Parliament



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A 150-year-old company in a back street of Newport Pagnell sparked a worldwide protest against the House of Lords - and won hands down.

Parchment makers William Cowley are sole suppliers of the calfskin vellum upon which Acts of Parliament are printed and preserved.

But last week the House of Lords announced its cost-cutting intention of scrapping vellum and printing all legislation on simple archive paper instead.

The move, which would save just £80,000 a year, caused an immediate outcry in Parliament and a frenzy of protest on social media under #savevellum.

“It went crazy,” said Cowley’s general manager Paul Wright. “Our website completely crashed because so many people were logging on to read about us.”

A group of history-conscious MPs, including Milton Keynes MP Mark Lancaster, complained to Parliament that the country’s heritage would be destroyed if the government scrapped vellum.

This morning Paymaster General Matthew Hancock agreed with them - and announced the government would continue to pay.

“We’re so relieved,” said Mr Wright. “Our worries were not about our company - we’d survive because we supply parchment all over the world. But it would have had drastic consequences for the history of this country.

“If the Magna Carta had been produced on paper we would not even know about it today. The cost of using vellum for the Magna Carta has worked out at £6 a century - who could moan about that?”

Cowley’s has produced parchment for dozens of important documents over the decades. The most famous recently was the marriage certificate for Prince William’s wedding.

“Hopefully now we will continue to make parchment for centuries to come,” said Mr Wright.