Yorkshire’s fabric mills – a brief history

October 26, 2012




Yorkshire fabric mill, English milled fabric

Black Dyke Mill, Yorkshire



From Cobbles to Catwalk – The Incredible Fashion Journey of Yorkshire Fabrics

Yorkshire has long been synonymous with fabric mills, even before industrialisation made it the nation’s – and for a while the world’s – biggest fabric producer, there was a well-established cottage industry.

Despite most of the UK’s past industrial glory dwindling to a shadow of its former self, the Yorkshire fabric industry is still going strong. According to statistics from Arap, a technical consultancy firm based in Leeds, 10% of all jobs in fashion manufacturing and design in the UK are within West Yorkshire and, according to the firm, 40,000 of West Yorkshire’s residents are employed within the textiles industry.

When industrial textile mills began to spring up all over Yorkshire in the late eighteenth and early 19th century, they provided something that the average man could not have got his hands on before – affordable fabric. This meant that people were able to have more clothes made, for the first time giving them an albeit limited choice as to what they wore.

At the higher end of the scale Yorkshire fabrics became a sign of quality throughout the world and have been a popular choice amongst tailors and fashion designers for hundreds of years. In 2011, an exhibition held at Leeds Armley Mills Museum showcased the incredible legacy of the Yorkshire cotton mills. A clothing collection from the Sunnybank Mill Woven Textile Archive gave a flavour of how the use of Yorkshire fabrics has developed since the dawn of the industrial revolution.

The exhibits included the handiwork of Henry Poole, Savile Row tailor, as well as examples from world class fashion designers Mulberry and Bower Roebuck, demonstrating that Yorkshire fabrics are still considered amongst the best in the world and are just a as popular in 2012 as they were in 1912.



English milled fabrics

Salts Mill, Yorkshire


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