Natural Legacy by Hainsworth woollen coffin range – How it all began…
In 2007, Hainsworth employed a marketing student to look at the various products manufactured at their Yorkshire mill, and research them on the internet to see if they could be taken into new markets and industries. Whilst doing this, the marketing student came across an interesting fact that in 1667 there was an act of parliament that stated, everybody being buried had to be buried in a woollen shroud, in order to help the woollen textile industry.
In July 2008, Sales Director, Adam Hainsworth was talking to Adrian Benson, a local funeral director at a barbeque at a nearby church. Adam asked Adrian whether there would be a market for a woollen coffin. Adrian explained about the change going on in the funeral trade and that it was waking up to green issues, and green alternative coffins were increasing. Generally Adrian thought that a woollen coffin would be a great idea.
Adrian agreed to visit the factory the following week to talk through the concept of a woollen coffin with the industrial manufacturing team and what practical characteristics the coffin should display. Over the next few weeks a prototype was produced and a business proposition was agreed with Adrian.
Adrian suggested that a visit be made to JC Atkinson, the biggest independent coffin manufacturer in the country, who was at the forefront of the green revolution in the funeral industry. A visit was arranged in October 2008, and Managing Director, Julian Atkinson after seeing the coffin, wanted exclusive distributorship immediately. The fact that someone of Julian’s standing wanted exclusive distributorship was a very positive move, and the board at Hainsworth realised that the company was onto something, in a market that was large enough to transform the company’s fortunes.
Sales Director, Rachel Hainsworth started to get involved in the project, and started to develop the coffin with the help of Julian Atkinson. It was agreed that JC Atkinson would be used to distribute the coffins throughout the UK and Ireland and a launch date was arranged to unveil the new woollen coffin at the funeral show in Stoneleigh on 12th June 2009. It was mutually agreed that Adrian Benson’s services would not be required and a thank you payment was made.
The 8 months leading up to the launch was spent perfecting the product, which changed a great deal using Julian’s knowledge and experience in the funeral market and feedback from doing private showings to individual funeral directors.
Hainsworth - Two centuries in textiles
The Hainsworth story is the history of one of the oldest companies in the United Kingdom. The company traces is routes back to the late 18th Century when in 1783 Abimelech Hainsworth, ‘Old Bim’, started his clothiers business. Cloth would be woven by hand loom weavers in their cottages and collected by ‘Old Bim’ who would then transport it by horse and cart to Leeds Coloured Cloth Hall. The tradition in the district at the time was to produce cloth dyed in the wool before spinning and weaving.
Abimelech began his trading with just half a crown and following the sale of his first consignment of cloth brought a silver pint mug which he gradually filled with gold sovereigns. By 1800 he had saved up enough money to buy 4 acres at the bottom of the village of Farsley, Cape Mills, and in partnership with his brother Joseph gradually employed a number of handloom weavers. In diaries dating back to 1822 Abimelech was remembered as keeping half the town agate (in work) and described as an exalted person.
When Abimelech died in 1836 he was the wealthiest man in the district and left a personal estate of £12,000 and two thirds of Cape Mills. This included five acres of land, 14 cottages and a blacksmiths shop. His shares automatically passed to his three sons and three nephews but in just four years five of the partners had passed away. With none of their sons of an age to succeed their fathers it left just one partner, John snr and his son Charles to run the business and in 1856 the firm changed its name to John Hainsworth & Sons.
In 1869 along came industrialisation and a new weaving shed was opened to house the new power looms. This saw the end of the time honoured practice of handloom weaving on which the company had been built. A new era had begun.
In 1882 a second mill, Temperance Mill, was purchased and the current partners decided they would split the company with one partner taking the Cape Mills site and the younger Abimelech Hainsworth ‘Young Bim’, the grandson of ‘Old Bim’, would take over Temperance Mill.
When ‘Young Bim’ took over in the mill it was empty. Within 2 years the mill had been re-equipped with fifty five looms as well as scribblers, condensers and mules, for various spinning processes, pairs of stocks and eight milling machines for different finishes. In 1889 Abimelech started weaving worsted fabric and to continue expansion he bought Spring Valley next door, which forms the main part of the mill today.
The scarlet cloth for the War Office had long been an important product for Hainsworth, but at the end of the 19th century demand for bright, distinctive combat wear plummeted when the increasing use of rifles and artillery in the Boer War led to a demand for a more protective colouring for army cloth. The company had already started working with Yorkshire College to create experimental new fabric constructions and in 1899 saw the first orders for Khaki Serge, a worsted warp woollen weft fabric. Bright cloths are still used today and our famous scarlet cloth is still manufactured at Spring Valley Mills and worn by the Her Majesty the Queen’s Royal Guard for ceremonial dress.
With the global textile market rapidly changing and UK manufacturing in decline, the company has had to adapt over the years.
After 200 years, a fire a flood a declining UK industry Hainsworth is now a stronger, more experienced and focused company with its eyes set firmly on the future. With one other fascinating fact – it was still owned and run by the Hainsworth family.
In 2002 Hainsworth invested over £1 million in new textile machinery, research and development, and marketing.
With a now complete textile offering Hainsworth’s future is now focussed on working closely with customers and suppliers to develop innovative new textile products. A strategy that has been very successful with several patents already filed and leading brands established for product like:
- TITAN®, a unique textile technology based on DuPont’s Nomex and Kevlar®
- our own Smart and Match pool cloths
- and in 2009 the introduction of its highly innovative Woollen Coffins
To support this strategy Hainsworth has the BSI ISO 9001:2000 quality mark for design, development and manufacture, a UKAS accredited testing laboratory and so far has received the DuPont European Innovation award, and the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Innovation, in recognition of its credentials.
By 2009 Hainsworth had completed over 225 years of trading with a clear strategy and an unrivalled history in textiles. To celebrate this in March 2009, having undergone a brand review in 2008 and business restructure, Hainsworth relaunched with a refreshed brand image and a firm grip on the needs of an ever-changing textile industry.
Should you like to know more about the history of Hainsworth please click here. Also available for purchase is ‘The Hainsworth Story’, please contact us for more details.