Darwen’s Herbert Parkinson celebrates its stitch in time!

Published Thursday 29 June 2023 at 16:37

Herbert Parkinson Ltd has thrown open its doors to celebrate 70 years as a John Lewis Partner.

Hundreds of people turned out to mark the impressive milestone at an event on Thursday (June 22nd), including John Lewis Executives, former managing directors, Herbert Parkinson partners, their family and friends, dignitaries and members of the community.

They were treated to a special tour of the Darwen textile mill, which supplies over 34,000 cushions, 130,000 pillows and 30,000 duvets to John Lewis customers every year.

At the busy mill, the skilled partners (staff) create a wide range of John Lewis quality soft furnishings from windows treatments – bespoke made-to-measure curtains, roman and roller blinds – and filled products – natural duvets, pillows and cushions.

Interestingly, over the past five years, the partners there have manufactured over 2 million cushions – the equivalent of the journey from the John Lewis shop in Edinburgh to their store in Oxford Street in London!

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The business, originally started by Herbert Parkinson of Buncer Lane, Blackburn, in the 1930s, was bought by John Lewis back in 1973 as an ‘experiment’ and, remarkably, was kept a strict secret for more than a decade.

Today, it’s the only remaining John Lewis Partner manufacturer in the UK.

Speaking at the event, Stuart McDonald, Head of Branch at Herbert Parkinson, said:

It’s fantastic to see so many people join us to help us celebrate 70 years as a John Lewis partner – what a massive achievement it is.

The factory has been a vital part of the Partnership since 1953, and was first kept as a ‘secret’ to allow for experimental designs, and techniques away from prying competitor’s eyes, but today we’re proud to be shouting about the amazing work we do.

We invest significantly in training, apprenticeships and equipment and work closely as a team. It really is a special place that champions British craftsmanship and somewhere I’ve called home for the past two decades.

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Among the crowds were three former MDs who, along with Stuart, have clocked up almost a century with the Partnership, as well as Bérangère Michel, John Lewis Partnerships’ Executive Director or Finance.

She said:

I wanted to be here today as 70 years really is a special achievement.

Our customers buy John Lewis products for the quality and these are the people who work so hard to achieve that – they are a great bunch and I wanted to come and thank them all personally.

This year, Herbert Parkinson will also feature as part of the award-winning National Festival of Making – as one of its Art in Manufacturing commissions.

The festival – with making workshops, impressive art installations, theatre and musical performances, food, maker markets, talks, tours and more, is free to attend in Blackburn town centre and will take place next weekend (Saturday, July 8th, and Sunday, 9th).

Councillor Phil Riley, Leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council, attended the event with the Mayor and Mayoress of Blackburn with Darwen, Councillor Parwaiz Akhtar and his wife Shagufta, his Deputy Leaders, Councillor Quesir Mahmood and Councillor Julie Gunn, Assistant Executive Member for Growth and Development, Councillor Matthew Jackson, Chief Executive, Denise Park, and Chair of the Darwen Town Deal, Wayne Wild.

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He said:

We are incredibly proud to be home to Herbert Parkinson and it’s been fantastic supporting them with their 70 year celebrations.

Making runs through the very fabric of Blackburn with Darwen – it’s in our DNA – and what a success story this is!

It was fascinating to get to go behind the scenes on the tour and see the partners hard at work and it’s clear that their love for the place is a key driver behind why Herbert Parkinson continues to thrive seven decades on.

I’d like to congratulate everyone there on their 70th anniversary as a John Lewis Partner.

John Lewis is the largest employee-owned business in the UK and more than 250 skilled partners – from fabric inspectors to cutters, sewing machinists, quality control and more – working at Herbert Parkinson from Harvest Mill in Monton Road.

Many have followed in their relatives’ footsteps and even today there’s seven married couples (two having met there on site), and eight parent-children duos – one with a grandparent who is also a Partner – all working there alongside aunties, uncles, nieces and nephews.

In 2020, the partners were proud to receive the UK Hero Award from the British Chamber of Commerce for the role Herbert Parkinson played in making NHS Gowns for Covid-19.

Read more about Herbert Parkinson now by clicking this link.

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