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Information from www.johnsmedley.com:
John Smedley is renowned throughout the world as a leader in the production of fine gauge knitwear products.
Still family owned, the company continues to innovate while retaining the hand crafted finishing techniques that has established its reputation for more than two centuries.
The company was founded in 1784, at Lea Mills, in Matlock, Derbyshire by Peter Nightingale and his associate John Smedley. Lea Bridge provided an ideal setting for the mill as the brook which ran through the village provided motive power and a constant source of running water.
In its early days the mill specialised in the production of muslin and spinning cotton to send out to local cottages with hand frame looms. Towards the end of the 18th century the company had extended its activities to include knitting and hosiery manufacture and by this time John Smedley was running the business alone, although the Nightingale family retained an interest in the property.
In 1819 John Smedley's son John was apprenticed to the company, and after thorough training took over the helm six years later at the age of 24. With great energy and vision he set about modernising and expanding the company, with the intention that all the manufacturing processes required to produce finished product should be under one roof, using the finest quality raw materials available.
These principles continue to be the cornerstone of the company's success. A growing and dedicated workforce was established, indeed younger generations of original Smedley workers can still be found at the factory today.
The younger Smedley also took a keen interest in philanthropy, including hydropathy - the treatment of illness with water, and established the Smedley Hydro in Matlock, patronised by visitors from all over the world.
He also built Riber Castle, the family home until 1880.
Upon his death in 1875 the second John Smedley had no heir, thus the business was passed onto a third John, a cousin J.T Marsden Smedley, who after his death in1877 entrusted the company to his son, the fourth John B Marsden Smedley.
He was to thrust the company expansion even further, remaining chairman for an impressive 70 years. During this time he installed up- to-the-minute knitting machines and made the decision to become a limited company in 1893, producing more versatile garments such as underwear and knitted outerwear.
Over the next 50 years the company extended its underwear production to incorporate swimwear and nightwear for men and women. During the 1960's the signature sweater line was developed which was responsible for the growth in overseas markets. Today more than 70% of all John Smedley product is exported to over 35 countries throughout the world.