Cotton spinning to return to Greater Manchester

Andy Ogden at Tower Mill
Image caption Andy Ogden said the company had been receiving requests for British cotton

British cotton is to be spun for the first time in a generation thanks to a £5.8m renovation of a Greater Manchester mill.

English Fine Cotton, which makes material for bullet proof vests at Tame Valley Mill, Dukinfield, is to produce luxury yarn at neighbouring Tower Mill.

The company is investing £4.8m topped up with a £1m grant from the Textile Growth Programme.

The Grade II listed Tower Mill last produced cotton in 1955.

The firm has collected spinning machines and looms from mills over the years to produce synthetic textiles at Tame Valley, but the new production will have the latest in loom technology.

Andy Ogden, general manager of English Fine Cotton's parent company, Culimeta-Saveguard Ltd, said: "We owe it to the cotton industry - which Manchester was synonymous with - to put it back onto the world stage.

The rise and fall of 'Cottonopolis'

In 1781 Richard Arkwright opened the world's first steam-driven textile mill on Miller Street in Manchester.

Manchester rose to power as a centre for the trading, production and storage of cotton in the 19th century, earning the description "Cottonopolis".

The number of Manchester cotton mills reached its zenith in 1853 with 108 mills.

The UK cotton industry declined in the 20th century, starting with the halting of exports caused by World War One and the rise of other countries as cotton exporters.

Cotton mills in North West England closed at the rate of one a week in the 1960s and 70s, with the last one shutting in Greater Manchester in the 1980s.

Source: Museum of Science and Industry.

He added: "A number of times we have had firms coming to us saying they want British cotton. Unfortunately, up until now, we have had to say no."

A company spokeswoman said among the luxury cotton used will be Sea Island from Barbados, adding "It is the cotton that Ian Fleming specified James Bond's shirts were made of and Daniel Craig wore shirts using this cotton in Spectre."

The firm hops to sell "high end" cotton produced in Britain to companies such as Burberry or Marks and Spencer.

Councillor Kieran Quinn, executive leader of Tameside Council and responsible for investment strategy and finance within the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), said the mill will not be competing with the mass production of China, South East Asia or India.

"What we're talking about is bringing high quality........Made In Britain is a very powerful brand," he added.

English Fine Cotton bought Tower Mill - which was used to film the late 1980s' BBC One series Making Out - two years ago with help from GMCA, which also loaned £2m for the company's investment.

Image copyright English Fine Cotton
Image caption Tower Mill last produced cotton in 1955
Image caption English Fine Cotton will be using new looms at the mill
Image caption The BBC One series Making Out was filmed at the mill and broadcast from 1989 to 1991
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The kind of luxury cotton to be produced at the factory was worn in the latest Bond movie

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