The 250-year-old Yorkshire textiles company stands the test of time
As it marks its 250th anniversary, a luxury textiles company is proving that traditional British design and manufacturing that stands the test of time. From its base in Batley, in the heart of the historic Yorkshire textile industry, Joshua Ellis supplies luxury designer fabrics to some of the world’s leading designers and fashion houses.
Its cashmere and fine natural fibre fabrics and accessories, including the rare Escorial wool, adorn the top models on the catwalks of London, New York, Paris and Milan, with everyone from fashion designers to A-listers eager to own a timeless classic.
The company was established in 1767 as clothiers, before diversifying into woollen textile manufacturing in the late 18th century.
Design director Kristie Reeves said: “The combination of time-honoured weaving traditions with up-to-the minute designs has helped Joshua Ellis stay one step ahead of the trends without foregoing expertise, craftsmanship and quality.”
She added: “Our products are designed and woven by an in-house team of 55 highly-skilled design and production experts, blending traditional craft skills with modern production innovation to create something truly special. The fact that our cashmere and wool is the choice of the finest brands in both luxury clothing and interiors is testament to the success of this approach.
“Joshua Ellis has a fascinating history and this year marks a significant and exciting milestone in its ongoing development. It’s incredible to think that the company has been manufacturing the most sought-after fabrics and accessories in the world for more than two centuries. We can’t wait to see how it continues to evolve in the future.”
Although the Ellis family had been instrumental in founding the business, which was originally based in the historic building of Batley Carr Mills, it wasn’t until the late 1830s that the name Joshua Ellis was adopted. An account of the company published in 1895 mentions that travel rugs were a speciality, as well as “pilots, beavers, serges, cloaking, tweeds and fancy trouserings”.
The company remained in the family until the early 1930s. In 2003 the factory was moved to a more modern building, where all weaving and finishing continues in an open plan production facility with a dedicated workforce of 55 staff. Batley Carr Mills where the company was founded has since been converted into living accommodation and the two mill chimneys remain as landmarks to the glory of its former use.
The company was sold in 2008 to the family-owned SIL Holdings Group, which has an annual turnover of more than £40m and, alongside Joshua Ellis, owns the prestigious worsted suiting and jacketing brands William Halstead, John Foster, Charles Clayton, Standeven and Kynoch, based at Stanley Mills Weavers in Bradford. More than £3m has been invested in machinery group-wide, with six new Dornier looms being installed at the Joshua Ellis factory during the last year.
In 2016 SIL Holdings formed an exclusive partnership with The Escorial Company, which markets a rare and luxurious wool from the small Escorial sheep grazed in Australia and New Zealand. SIL Group companies design, manufacture and distribute exclusive Escorial worsted and woollen fabric and accessory collections in addition to distributing suiting, coating and jacketing lengths to tailors worldwide.
SIL’s managing director Andrew Seal said: “Over the last 250 years, Joshua Ellis has built an enviable reputation for producing luxurious and innovative fabrics. “Our region’s mill towns are still at the heart of a global fashion business which recognises the value of craftsmanship, quality, expertise and consistency, all of which derive from our textile manufacturing heritage.
“Yorkshire’s continued success in this challenging world is down to an ability to consistently produce innovative designs and to reliably exceed our clients’ quality and delivery requirements.”