The Ackroyds on my father's side had mills in the 19th century all over Bradford, and the Dawsons started out as wool combers and became world famous cashmere yarn spinners. Brothers, uncles, nephews, and sons of the very famous men William Ackroyd and Joseph Dawson – we hold a proud heritage – all these family members came together with other firms to make Bradford the Wool Capital of the World. My great grandfather, John Herbert Harrison, was a weaving manager for Titus Salt, Jr. at Salts Mill in Saltaire. I remember my grandfather, Allan Dawson, who was the Mill Manager for Speight's Mill, owned by Elmsly, on Broad Lane at Laisterdye, Bradford. He would come and take me across the grand mill yard into the mill to see the weaving ladies. They were weaving on the great Hattersley's and the noise was incredible. What I do remember are the huge Victorian gates that were at the entrance to the mill yard from Broad Lane, they would swing open to let the lorries in loaded with the wool bales. In earlier times they would have been horse drawn carts. It was something to see, the entryway beginning with the cut in the curbstones lifting off the cobbles.
Several years ago I went on a special quest to visit all the old family Mill sites. I was horrified to find the magnificent stone mill of Speight's torn down and a brick and plexiglass IT firm in its place. All that remained to hint at the grand mill complex was the cut in the curbing at the site of the mill gate and just the very edge of the cobbles under the tarmac. I don't think many would even take notice. My grandparents home was still there. William Ackroyd's mill site is standing but taken over by a number of smaller firms of various sorts. On the site of Joseph Dawson's mill yard stands Haworth's Scouring mill. Of the other sites across Bradford, at Killinghall, Thackley, and others nothing remained but rubble, overgrown lots, and public housing. My cousin pointed out that the old mills are either turned into flats or burned down. Some have been turned into museums. I came away disillusioned, and awakened from my state of false passivity. What angered me the most was that this was an industry that has been the mainstay of the economy of this island for thousands of years and in my lifetime has been lost to cheap synthetic oil-based fibres shipped in from overseas. Not only have we lost our industry, but with that our jobs and our skills, not to mention our national pride. I refuse to believe that it is not possible to produce from start to finish the superb wool and worsted cloth and suiting once available. To prove my point, in 2009 a company was formed—Ackroyd and Dawson.
It is the mission of Ackroyd and Dawson to convey information about our heritage, our production of 100% British woollen and worsted cloth, services, and how we are part of the campaign to restore economic prominence to the British wool industry while at the same time clarifying the need for ethical practices. For instance, we work with the shepherds, evaluating their difficulties and helping them find solutions.
Vicuna Works. Joseph Dawson", at Laisterdyke, Bradford, Yorkshire. Photograph handed down through the family. Notation in the upper left corner reads, "Your great grandfather's brother owned this. Now Sir Ben owns it, your second cousin.
The ethical foundation of our company is the principle of wellbeing—for the local sheep farmers, shearers, feed and arable farmers, and the producers who scour wool, comb and card the wool, spin, dye, weave and finish the cloth. Ethical standards are met and implemented through developing and adopting 'right' business practices. Wool is the perfect natural resource for these practices as it is self-renewing each lambing season, therefore a sustainable supply—low energy and a low carbon footprint in its processing and production.
These 'right' practices provide a means to grow, sell, and produce in such a way as to create a decent standard of living, to cooperate in fair trade and fair pricing, and to take pride in the values of one's work. In adhering to this code of ethics we support British farmers, workers, and artisans.
Patricia A. Ackroyd