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It is one of Yorkshire’s oldest textiles companies and it has survived the waxing and waning of a great industry.

Laxtons Worsted Yarns

Laxtons has invested in new technology for its yarn production.

Family firm Laxtons has been trading for more than a century, despite seeing its number of staff decimated by the Second World War and, in later years, its margins hit by ferocious competition from the Far East.

Now, however, the family firm is set to grow again.

Laxtons, based in Guiseley, in West Yorkshire, has opened a commercial wool worsted manufacturing facility – believed to be the first such factory in the UK for 25 years. Laxtons Specialist Yarns won backing for the venture, which will create or protect 12 jobs, from Yorkshire Bank’s West Yorkshire financial solutions centre in Bradford, and brought its production back to the UK from Spain, France and Italy.

The new site will feature the latest specialist fancy-yarn spinning technology and will create jobs for machine operators, manufacturing mill managers and training staff. James Laxton, 40, the greatgrandson of George Laxton, who set up the business, in Oakworth, near Keighley, said he hoped the move would encourage other manufacturers to end their use of foreign outsourcing.

“Bringing manufacturing back to the UK has environmental benefits as we are no longer shipping products around Europe every week, so this move reduces our carbon footprint substantially.

“We aim to create more jobs by putting on more shifts as demand increases. We have brought manufacturing back to the UK to enhance our service with reduced lead times, improved management, better control of raw materials and higher quality.

“Re-starting commercial wool manufacturing in Yorkshire is a bold move. We very much hope this will be supported by retailers, and many more are becoming interested. More manufacturing is among the few ways that the UK can rebalance the economy and enable local economies to trigger growth through exporting.”

Laxtons, set up in 1907, is one of only two British-owned specialist yarn manufacturers and said it is the only one able to produce bespoke fancy yarns.

Laxtons Directors

James Laxton and
Sales manager Alan Thornber

Today, the firm has 12 staff and turns over a seven-figure sum. It supplies hand-knitting companies around the world, including well-known British brands such as Rowan Yarns, Huddersfield, and also carries out yarn manufacture for machine knitting, woven apparel and upholstery fabric manufacture for both domestic and contract furniture.

Production began in January before ramping up over the summer, with raw materials sourced from West Yorkshire businesses.

The specialist yarn-production machine, which it bought with backing from Yorkshire Bank, is an Italian-designed model. It is one of only a handful in the world and means Laxtons can combine three spinning technologies to create yarns with more sophisticated variable patterns. The technology will support the company’s diversification into new markets as well as increase the speed of production.

Mr Laxton said there had been some difficulties, however, in recruitment. “We have encountered problems in finding staff with an understanding of textile manufacturing, which is sad when one considers this region’s industrial history.”

Yorkshire Bank backed Laxtons as as part of its Investing for Growth initiative. Andy Cook, West Yorkshire financial solutions centre business partner, said: “The British economy needs more quality manufacturers and we are delighted to have supported Laxtons Specialists Yarns in bringing production back to the UK.

“Yorkshire Bank is committed to lending an additional £2bn in Yorkshire and we are keen to back successful enterprises with the right proposition.”