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History of Textiles

The history of textiles is long and eventful, steeped in tradition and intrinsically woven into the heritage of West Yorkshire.

Here’s how it all began...

The West Yorkshire town of Huddersfield is situated at the convergence of the rivers Colne and Holme. Inhabitants of these river valleys discovered that the water – which flows from the Millstone Grit Pennine hills – gave excellent results for the washing of raw wool.

And so the wool textile industry was born.

The industry was traditionally cottage based, with spinning and weaving often taking place in the same dwelling. Many of the workers operated from smallholdings, supplementing their income with the manufacturing of wool textiles.

The finished cloth they produced was then sold through merchants who regularly attended the town’s Cloth Hall.

But then came the industrial revolution of the 19th Century, bringing with it great change and unrest to these valleys as the wool textile industry became mill based and mechanised.

This led to troubled times as large-scale mill production took over and, due to the scale of industrialisation, virtually all the valleys’ inhabitants were left with little option but to take their skills into the mills.

They undertook the processes of scouring, carding, spinning, weaving, dyeing and finishing as many of the mills were totally vertical and carried out all processes.

Manufacture of these fine fabrics demanded a high level of expertise and Huddersfield quickly became synonymous with fine woollen and later, fine worsted cloth manufacture.

The name ‘Made in Huddersfield, England’ became a highly revered global brand, which appeared on the selvedges of many fabrics worldwide. These high quality fabrics were the choice of Kings and Princes alike.

Fine woollen and worsted manufacture became a Huddersfield tradition, with skills and expertise handed down from generation-to-generation. Often the same families were employed in the same mills for three generations.

The boom period for textiles, in the late 19th and early 20th Century, made many industrialists very wealthy, which can be seen in some of the grand architecture of both the town and its mills. The inhabitants of Huddersfield prospered.

Unfortunately, with the decline of business in the early-mid 20th Century, many of the mills, which once clothed the world, now stand silent or have lent themselves to new uses.

Those which remain are specialised niche businesses, still continuing the traditions of textile manufacture in a very demanding marketplace. In fact many people now want to know and understand the early skills of woollen manufacture, and how to work with and use wool.

As a company that is continuing that tradition, and passing the knowledge from generation to generation in our own family, we are proud of our textile heritage and hope that you too will find interest in what still makes wool so undisputedly the best and unsurpassed clothing fibre available today.

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