Sugdens celebrates 150 years of business

The Sugdens’ Barnsley factory in the early 1900s

This year, career and workwear specialist, Sugdens celebrates 150 years in business.

It was back in 1869 that William Sugden first opened a tailors shop in his home town of Cleckheaton, West Yorkshire.

By the end of Queen Victoria’s reign, William Sugden’s two eldest sons had begun to produce their own shirts on a sewing machine in the back of their father’s shop. From there the business gradually evolved enough to move to a factory at Water Lane Mills in Cleckheaton and from there further factories were opened across Yorkshire. By the time of King Edward VII’s death in 1910, the business had gone from a shop front in a small Yorkshire town to a vast manufacturing company.

In addition to factories, Sugdens acquired its own weaving mills to enable them to produce the cloth needed for garments themselves. They were then able to proudly state that the garments they sold were completely produced in-house!

During the course of the first and second world wars, Sugdens produced close to six million shirts and work suits for the armed forces. The company was now fast becoming one of the biggest uniform and workwear providers in the country.

The 60s were a tough time for the company, by now a third generation family business. Despite supplying workwear to many distinguished companies including Ford Europe, Sugdens were losing money. But the Sugden brothers formed a partnership with good friend Richard Donner of another Wakefield based shirt manufacturer, Double Two Shirts.

The two companies’ joint expertise forged an unbeatable combination, with the Sugden brothers continuing to focus on the workwear business right up until their retirement in 1998 and 2001.

One of the first moves of the new partnership was to bring Bill Klopman’s pioneering, tough wearing poly-cotton fabric from the USA to Europe. Klopman Mills would later move an entire business to Europe and is now Europe’s biggest workwear fabric provider.

Recent achievements include the presentation of the Queen’s Award for International Trade and the company continues to progress, with notable clients including St John Ambulance, BP, The Salvation Army and many of the UK’s Police and Fire Services.

There are many events and celebrations planned throughout the year to mark the landmark achievement of 150 years in business. Also, after extensive research, a company archive and timeline has been compiled documenting the many interesting events in the company’s lifetime. This will be on show throughout the year on the Sugdens’ website.

The company is still moving forward with the times, sticking close to the mantra of its chairman, Richard Donner: “I don’t aspire for us to be the biggest company in the world, but I want us to be the best.”

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