World Heritage Day: 200 Years of Transport Textiles

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As we approach two centuries of creating transport textiles, for this World Heritage Day we wanted to celebrate the rich history, design expertise and manufacturing excellence that runs throughout each and every element of Camira. From the iconic textiles developed for world-famous routes to the ground-breaking constructions engineered, there are so many stories to share from the last two hundred years – and over the coming months, we’ll be telling a selection of them. 
 
For now, we’d just like to share our journey – from starting destination to current point, we’ll take you through 200 years of transport textiles by Camira.
 

Where it all began: 1800s 

In 1822, a cloth manufacturer named John Holdsworth founded a worsted spinning mill named Holdsworth in Halifax - a town in the North of England, celebrated for its woollen textile heritage. With a rich family history in fabric manufacturing, John had extensive knowledge of the industry and the company quickly grew. In the following decades, John was joined in partnership by his four sons who, together, continued to develop the business. Experts in creating yarn from raw wool and weaving specialised fabrics, including damasks, velvets and tapestries, the company also established a renowned reputation for providing speciality cloths for railroads and shipping companies and began supplying these to transport organisations across the world.
 
In the 1860s, the success of Holdsworth was marked by the construction of new offices by Sir Charles Barry – the British architect responsible for such significant works as the Houses of Parliament and Trafalgar Square Fountains – and the company employed over 2,000 staff, illustrating its extensive size and reach. 
 
Throughout the late 1800s, Holdsworth consolidated its position as a supplier to the transport industry, providing to many British railway companies, including the Great Northern Railway (GNR) and the Great Central Railway, as well those further afield, such as the Natal Railway in South Africa. 
Pictured: Shaw Lodge Mills, where the Holdsworth factory was based, c1830

Continued growth: 1900s   

In 1909, Holdsworth became a founding member of the Moquette Manufacturers' Association, symbolising the firm's commitment to the iconic textile construction which remains a beloved staple in the Camira portfolio to this day. Producing moquettes, reps and fringes for railway carriages, motor cars, motor coaches, buses, steamships, airplanes and furnishings, the company was diverse in the methods of transport it supplied to, covering those used on land, air, and sea.  
 
The outbreak of the First World War in 1914 caused a great deal of disruption to the operational capabilities of Holdsworth, however over the following four years, the company further established its position as a moquette manufacturer due to the lack of imports from Germany - a previously prominent supplier of the fabric type - as well as assisting in the war effort through the production of khaki cloth. When war broke out once again in 1939, The Ministry of Supply became Holdsworth’s largest customer, accounting for nearly 80% of sales, with the company supplying everything from white duck canvas for camouflaging to linings for flying suits, as well as materials for motor vehicles.

Pictured: Holdsworth moquette on a London Routemaster bus and Piccadilly Underground carriage

Going global...

In the latter part of the century, Holdsworth began to concentrate on the export market, developing its presence across the globe. In the 1990s, sales in North America grew to form approximately a fifth of the company’s turnover, and led to the formation of an American subsidiary, Holdsworth North America Inc, which began trading in September 1994.

In addition to this expansion, Australasia was another key market in which Holdsworth became firmly established, with 32 of the 36 coaches shown at the Sydney Motor Show in 1985 trimmed with fabric produced by the company, whilst Continental Europe continued to grow in sales, along with penetration being achieved in geographies across the world, including the Middle East, the Far East, South Africa, South America, Cyprus and Russia. By 1999, these overseas markets combined to make three-quarters of the company's sales.

This growth was complemented by significant investments in machinery and state-of-the-art CAD equipment, making the Holdsworth factory one of the most modern and largest weaving units of its type in the world.
Pictured: LA Metro 

The start of a new era: 2000s

After six generations in the family, the Holdsworth business was sold in 2005 for real estate development of its historic mill complex. Two years later, in 2007, Camira purchased the Holdsworth brand name and assets – including the moquette looms on which its transport textile heritage is founded – and brought the historic firm into the Camira Group, ensuring its expertise and capabilities continued to be a valued part of the transport industry.

As a result of the successful integration and reinvigoration of the transport textile business, Camira has taken the sector to new heights in the past fifteen years – launching an incredible range of fabrics in a variety of constructions, colours and capabilities. Whilst our head office and our core manufacturing facility remain located in Yorkshire - not far from where Holdsworth first began - our reach has continued to be truly global, building on the strong relationships established by our founding company, with warehouse and distribution facilities in the USA, Australia, a manufacturing plant in Lithuania, and distributors in North America, MEI, Europe and Asia Pacific. 
 
Indeed, now offering an incredible range of capabilities and constructions - from the classic moquette Aura and the pioneering wire-woven, all-loop fabric Hybrid, to flat woven textiles and ancillary materials and trims, such as leather and vinyl - we are proud to say that the forward-thinking ethos, passionate commitment, and continuous development that so defined the Holdsworth name remains alive and well in the Camira brand. Continuing to be the supplier of choice for Transport for London, with a new bespoke moquette set to feature on the upcoming Elizabeth Line, the foundations laid by our rich heritage have built a partnership that has continued to flourish.

We can't wait to see where our continued journey will take us. 

Pictured: Hybrid