Alfred Brown - Our timeline celebrating 100 years - 1915 · 2015

  • 1915

    A New Business

    Herbert Brown was an established retailer and Pawn Broker in Leeds. In 1915 he started a second business, Brown & Sons (Bramley). Herbert was a true entrepreneur, a Liberal Politician and now Textile Manufacturer. He also found time to become Deputy Lord Mayor of Leeds.

  • 1918

    Empire Mills Bramley

    The first fabrics woven at Empire Mills in Bramley, Leeds, were used for military uniforms and the police and fire services.

  • 1920s - 1930s

    Recovery from The Great Depression

    During The Great Depression Herbert asked his son Alfred to help pull the business round. Going bankrupt was not an option for a Liberal politician at the time. Stanley, his second son also joined the business and steady progress was made.

  • 1930s – 1940s

    Better Times

    With Alfred at the helm, the company began to pull round. Still weaving uniform cloths, Alfred bought the yarn and did the selling; Stanley managed the books, wages and ran the mill. During this time the company formed its long standing relationship with Herbert Liveries, suppliers of uniforms.

    (Photo) Newly recruited bellboys on the Cunard Line.

  • 1954

    A New Company

    In 1954 Alfred Brown formally took over the company and the business became known as Alfred Brown (Worsted Mills) Ltd. This was a real turning point for the business. Brown & Sons (Bramley) became a production subsidiary.

  • 1950s – 1960s

    The Third Generation

    Third generation family members Alfred, David and Peter expand the company.

    The first eight Saurer automatic looms were purchased, then an additional 16 second hand looms. The company had now become competitive and go ahead.

  • 1960s – 1970s

    New Looms

    In the 1960s the company started to replace old looms with new. In the 1970s double looms with rapier weft feed replaced the shuttle looms. Modernisation enabled increased production. Multiple retailer Montague Burton had the largest clothing factory in the world, producing over 30,000 suits a week and was Alfred Brown's biggest customer.

  • 1979

    Computerisation and 1 million metres of fabric

    Alfred Brown was the first UK mill to install a computer system which monitored efficiency on every loom. In 1979 output increased to over 1 million metres of fabric per annum.

    Fabric sold at this time was 100% Wool and also Wool Rich - 65% Wool 35% Polyester.

  • 1980s

    Boom in the High Street

    With a workforce of approximately 85 and a highly efficient mill, directors Alfred, Peter and David established Alfred Brown as a well known name on on the UK High Street. Retail boomed and so did Alfred Brown (Worsted Mills) Ltd.

    In 1983 Roger McArdle joined the company followed by Alfred's sons, Ian and Nigel in 1986.

  • 1990s

    A Time of Investment

    24 new Sulzer G6200 looms were bought in 1993 and a few years later the mill complex was expanded to create capacity for a new Benninger warping machine and a new warehouse.

    In the early 1990's David and Peter retired from the company. David Lambert and Joanne, Alfred's youngest daughter joined the company on the sales side. During this time Alfred Brown's family became the sole owner of the business.

  • 2000s

    New Millenium & the next generation

    Joint Managing Directors, Ian and Nigel Brown and Sales Director, Roger McArdle took over the running of the business, with Alfred as Chairman.

    In 2000 Warner Bros asked Alfred Brown to weave the black fabric for the Hogwarts cloaks in all the Harry Potter films.

  • 2003

    Progress in Production

    Installation of the Stäubli Delta 110 Automatic drawing machine streamlined production.

  • 2006

    New Export Markets

    With the six new Stäubli Jacquards purchased in 2006, Alfred Brown was able to weave cloth with a name edge, opening up new export opportunities.

  • 2008


    In 2008 Alfred Brown began to exhibit twice a year at Ideabiella in Milan. This wider exposure strengthened the Alfred Brown brand. In addition new finer yarns creating more luxurious fabrics and a new Stock Service Brochure opened up smaller, niche markets on London's Savile Row and Jermyn Street.

  • 2010s

    Reinvestment and Design

    £1.5 million was spent on 26 new Sulzer Textile G6500 looms. Design capability was boosted through use of finer yarns and investment in the Susuki pattern warping machine, enabling swift production of sample lengths. Alfred Brown now offer a greater variety of designs in a wider range of luxury yarns.

  • 2012

    Olympic Games London 2012

    An Alfred Brown micro design in a “prunelle” weave played a part in the nation’s greatest sporting event of the century. Team GBR proudly wore the suit made by Next for the formal ceremonies during London 2012.

  • 2013

    British & Irish Lions Rugby Tour

    On the 2013 British & Irish Lions Rugby Tour of Australia the players wore an all wool navy blazer and grey trousers from fabric woven by Alfred Brown.

  • 2014

    FIFA World Cup 2014 Brazil

    Alfred Brown was chosen to weave the very special fabric for the England squad in the World Cup in 2014. The sharp steel grey suit by Marks & Spencer is made from a wool/mohair blended yarn in a tropical weave.

  • 2015

    Our Centenary

    Alfred Brown celebrates 100 years weaving fine worsted cloth in a highly efficient mill with a dedicated work force in Bramley, Leeds.

    Today we weave 1.2 million metres per annum on 30 looms and supply retailers, merchants and clothiers all over the world.