Darwen’s ‘hidden gem’ celebrates 70 years as John Lewis textile factory

Published 25th May 2023

A thriving Darwen textile mill is celebrating 70 years as part of the John Lewis Partnership.

The John Lewis Archives describe how Herbert Parkinson Ltd was bought by the Partnership in 1953 as an ‘experiment.’ And it was kept a ‘strict secret’ for more than a decade to allow for experimental designs, techniques and to produce textile products without John Lewis’ competitors knowing.

Today, seven decades on, Herbert Parkinson remains a flourishing example of UK design, quality and craftsmanship with its Partners investing real pride back into the business they own.

Stuart McDonald, Head of Branch at Herbert Parkinson, said: “What a milestone this is – celebrating seven decades as part of the John Lewis Partnership.

“The acquisition may have started out as a secret all those years ago, but today we’re proud to be shouting about the amazing work we do – producing quality John Lewis soft furnishings, curtains, cushions, duvets, pillows, roller blinds and more.

“In fact, we’re the only remaining John Lewis Partner manufacturer and the secret to our ongoing success has to be our partner’s commitment to quality – it’s in the Herbert Parkinson DNA and runs deep through absolutely everything we do.”

More than 250 partners – members of staff – work from the Herbert Parkinson base in Harvest Mill, close to Darwen Cricket Club.

Every day wagons full of beautifully crafted products are seen heading down the A666 – the orders proudly bearing the names of the Partner who has carefully made and checked them. These can be one of the many bespoke products produced in the factory.

“At Herbert Parkinson we combine the best of modern technology with traditional skills,” Stuart adds.

“We continue to invest significantly in training, apprenticeships and the latest equipment to ensure that our partners can produce their work to the highest possible standards.

“They take great pride in what they do and this 70 year celebration is very much about them and all that they’ve achieved, which is just fantastic.

“I would like to say a big congratulations to everyone who has been part of the Herbert Parkinson story along the way and a very heartfelt thank you.”

Herbert Parkinson Ltd – described by the John Lewis Partnership as a ‘hidden gem’ – was founded by Mr Herbert Parkinson of Buncer Lane, Blackburn, in 1934 to weave jacquard furnishings.

Mr Parkinson’s daughter, Edna, sold the company to John Lewis after her father’s death in 1953 and they later moved production to Harvest Mill – formerly known as Sunnyhurst Mill – in Monton Road, where the firm still operates from today.

To mark their 70th anniversary, the company is inviting residents to an open evening on June 22nd from 4pm to 7pm.

Visitors will be able to book behind-the-scenes tours of the factory, meet some of the Partners as well as enjoy family fun including stalls, bouncy castles, food and face painting.

Herbert Parkinson will also feature as part of the award-winning National Festival of Making – as one of its Art in Manufacturing commissions.

The festival – with making workshops, impressive art installations, theatre and musical performances, maker markets, talks, tours and more, is free to attend in Blackburn town centre and will take place across the weekend of July 8th and 9th.

Councillor Phil Riley, Leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council, congratulated Herbert Parkinson on the success of its 70 years as part of the John Lewis Partnership.

He said: “Along with the likes of Perspex and Crown Paints, Herbert Parkinson really has put Darwen on the map when it comes to manufacturing and it’s been a fantastic success for the town.

“While this is a time to look back and celebrate, I know the business always has one eye on the future – looking to invest in their partners and offer opportunities to our residents to equip them with the skills they need to carve out successful careers in the textile industry.

“Blackburn with Darwen is renowned for its historic connection to cotton and textiles as part of the industrial revolution and it’s fantastic to see this business continue to thrive almost 100 years after it first launched.

“A big congratulations to everyone involved – we’re very proud to be home to Herbert Parkinson Ltd.”

The business remains a real ‘family affair’ to this day with more than a quarter of staff having a relative as a colleague.

The longest serving member of staff has also clocked up more than 40 years!

In fact, as part of its anniversary celebrations, the firm is promoting the wide range of employment opportunities it has available – everything from sewing machinists to section managers, department managers, administrative posts and more.

Please click here to find out more about Herbert Parkinson Ltd and the bespoke services they offer.

And for job opportunities, visit: www.jlpjobs.com/john-lewis-and-partners/herbert-parkinson/

To book your tour as part of the open event, please ring: 01254 771614.

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