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200 years of heritage

We’re a young company with an immensely rich heritage dating back over 200 years.

We have a great story to tell



While Camira came into being in 2006 through a management buy-out, our transportation fabric division has roots going as far back as 1822.


This is the year when John Holdsworth & Co was set up in Halifax in the UK, which went on to supply the worldwide transport fabric market with its iconic plush wool velour fabrics. 


This company was acquired by Camira in 2007, following an earlier acquisition in 2003 of another historic – but much smaller - transport fabric business British Furtex Ltd, also based in Halifax.

Take a look back at the journey that has taken us from a woollen textile mill in the North of England to a global company renowned for its extensive manufacturing capabilities and design expertise.

Where it all began


The history of Holdsworth is fascinating, entwined with the West Yorkshire town of Halifax, its famous Piece Hall and the gargantuan Shaw Lodge Mills. John Holdsworth was born in 1797, the second son of Sarah and George who himself stemmed from a family well-established in the wool textile industry, trading from a room in the Piece Hall – “piece” referred to a piece of cloth which was sourced from worsted manufacturers and traded on the market. When George died in 1822, John founded his own worsted spinning mill, at the age of 25, under the name John Holdsworth & Company, one of a growing band of Halifax worsted men setting up their own mills.


Over the following decades, John was joined in partnership by his four sons who, together, continued to develop the business, moving from worsted spinning to weaving specialised fabrics, and gaining a reputation for providing cloths for railways and shipping companies around the world.

Shaw Lodge Mills, where the Holdsworth factory was based, c1830

Cementing our position in history


By the time John Holdsworth died in 1857, the company employed over 2,000 staff and its success 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. 


Going underground


Throughout the later 1800s, Holdsworth consolidated its position as a supplier to the transport industry, supplying many British railway companies, including the Great Northern Railway and the Great Central Ralway, such as the Natal Railway in South Africa. But it was Holdsworth’s association with London Underground, when it first opened in 1863, which became the company’s hallmark and which endures to this day.

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Masters of moquette


The modern-day tube system opened around 1906-07. In 1909, Holdsworth became a founding member of the Moquette Manufacturers' Association, symbolising the firm's commitment to iconic textile construction, which remains a beloved staple in our textile portfolio. 


The outbreak of the First World War further cemented Holdsworth’s position as a moquette manufacturer due to the lack of imports from Germany - a previously prominent supplier of this fabric type - and assisting in the war effort through the production of khaki cloth. 


When war broke out 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 and materials for motor vehicles.


Going global


In the latter part of the 20th century, Holdsworth began to concentrate on export markets, gaining large market shares in both North America and Australia, as well as developing sales in Europe and around the world.


By 1999, overseas markets combined to make three-quarters of the company's sales, yet increasing competition in the 2000s meant that the company ran into difficulties and after six generations in the family, was sold for real estate development of its historic mill complex in 2005.


Here and now


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 and a central part of our business offering.


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