The History of Ponden Mill & Where it is Now

What is Ponden Mill?

Ponden Mill is a successful chain of linen, textiles and soft furnishing shops. It was the first textile mill to be built in the Stanbury area. You can find Ponden Mill here in Yorkshire – Brontë Country to be exact.

The Beginning of Ponden Mill

The Lancastrian Heaton family of Ponden Hall began their business by selling Worsted – a type of fine wool. Up until 1787, the business was doing well until the dramatic drop in price.

In 1791, the Heaton family decided to switch to the cotton trade and began to build a cotton mill in Stanbury, Haworth. This was completed a year later.

Another Lancastrian, called Barry Brookfield, would later own Ponden Mill. When he was young, he decided to drop out of art school and follow his interest in shops and window design.

Over time, Barry had many different occupations. His first job was a shop junior for the Co-op, however management didn’t let him serve customers. Barry’s second job was in a shoe shop. Here he learnt his sales skills and often sold socks and polish to accompany the shoes.

After a while, Barry realised that his job was low paid. He then decided to get a job in a mill where he learned about the different textiles.

Barry went on to change his career path several times. He became and RAF dog handler, shop fittings salesman and also sold toiletries.

While he was selling toiletries, he noticed the high quantity of goods market traders could sell and decided that this would be his next career. Barry kept his job as a chemist and began to sell towel seconds on Leigh market on Saturdays.

Barry was unsuccessful. He tried to trade on various markets before heavy rain destroyed all of his stock.

This gave Barry an idea. He sold his stock cheap and advertised it as being flood damaged. This resulted in his best trading day.

Barry had now found the secret to great sales and settled for a stall on Skipton market. He then moved into a farmhouse in Grassington, storing his goods in the barn.

Unfortunately for Barry, disaster struck again. His stock was infested with mites and had to be burnt. 

His misfortune led him to look for a permanent trading place. In 1973, Barry moved to Brontë Country and made a living selling quilts at Ashworth Mill in Haworth.

A year later, Barry had to leave after failing to secure the lease. He then went on to purchase Ponden Mill for half of the asking price – £15,000.

How Ponden Mill became what it is Today

Over the next decade, Barry transformed Ponden Mill which became an extremely popular tourist attraction. The mill catered for many and expanded. It had a licensed restaurant, craft demonstrations in weaving, potting and clog-making, along with a shop selling duvets and other soft furnishings.

By 1985, he purchased Darley Mill located in Nidderdale. Over the next twenty years, Barry built a chain of 132 high street shops.

In 2005, Barry, now an entrepreneur, sold his £50 million chain to the Marston Mills Group owned by Trevor Hemmings. They also owned Blackpool Tower.

In 2007, the company went into administration. Luckily, the Edinburgh Woollen Mill (Group) Ltd bought The Ponden Home Group saving many shops and jobs. Over 120 shops still traded under the Ponden name.

The original mill shop at Stanbury closed down in 2008 and was derelict until 2014. Plans were made to convert the mill into an activity centre, campsite and cafe.

This opened in the spring of 2015. There was further development to the site to preserve a part of Yorkshire’s retail history.

At the beginning of 2020, roughly 100 redundancies were made. Ponden Mill was at the brink of falling into administration.

Despite their best efforts, both retail chains ‘Ponden Home’ and ‘Edinburgh Woollen Mill’ fell into administration on the 7th November 2020. In total, 56 Edinburgh Woollen Mill shops closed along with 8 Ponden Mill Shops. Around 866 people were made redundant and 1,821 jobs were under threat.

328 Edinburgh Woollen Mill and 65 Ponden Mill shops continued to trade until they were bought by Purepay Retail.

The 85 Edinburgh Woollen Mill and 34 Ponden Mill shops remain closed. An additional 485 staff were made redundant to the previous 866 staff.

Although many shops and jobs were lost in keeping Ponden Mill open, this Yorkshire Business has persevered and made it.