A Brief History as told by Chairman Duncan Watts
Our Company began life on 10th December 1931 from a mill on Marton Street in Skipton and for the following 46 years manufactured Single and Double Jersey Knitwear.
In 1972, under the auspices of Slater Walker, the Company was taken over by Bodycote International Plc into a group comprising William Denby, Dyers and Finishers, Valdown Knitting Company, Supercraft and the weaving companies of the Taylor & Hartley Group.
During the recession in early 1970’s, caused by the higher oil costs arising from the 7 day war in Israel, the knitting trade was badly affected and our Company incurred heavy financial losses which led to the closure of its manufacturing base in 1977. Consequently, under the Marton Mills banner, agencies were set up in West Germany, Benelux, Ireland and Sweden to sell a small range of fabrics, but in reasonable volume, in markets which were not in competition with our UK customers, leading to Marton Mills becoming one of William Denby’s largest customers, achieved with the aid of low dyeing and finishing costs.
In 1980, the Bodycote Group of textile companies were given a year to reduce the Company in size. This came to a level where my family could afford to purchase the business and so we became one of Margaret Thatcher’s early M.B.O.’s in April 1981.
Our next major development occurred in 1984. For some time we had been concerned about the alarming reduction in commission weaving capacity in England and felt that we should set up our own production plant at Tong Park. Gordon Schofield, our new Weaving Manager and myself set off to North West France to purchase four second hand Sulzer Weaving Machines from a worsted mill. A further eight second hand Sulzer machines and a Hattersley Warping Frame were soon purchased to give us a viable weaving operation. During the past 23 years, all these old machines have been replaced by new Sulzer Projectile, G6200 and G6300 Weaving Machines, a VTA Warping Machine, a Karl Myer Sample Warping Machine, a Vega Reaching-in Machine and Cone Winding equipment to enable us to weave up to four pieces of cloth on each machine each day to the highest standard.
In 1996, our lease at Tong Park expired and we were faced with the challenge of finding a new and much larger home. We have always operated on a 24 house day, 6 days a week, so it is essential that we are not too close to residential housing. Eventually, we learnt that Pool Mill, which covers 1.3 acres, was to be sold and we were able to buy the freehold prior to it being put onto the market. Currently, on the ground floor of No. 9 building, we weave some 18,000 metres of cloth each week; the finished cloth warehouse, burling and mending and offices are on the first floor and on the top floor yarns are stored.
We have recently installed a goods lift to the first floor of No 10 building, which will enable us to store all of our yarns on site. We have 34,000 square feet of space, which should be adequate for our operation for many years to come.