Clothing firm born in Cleckheaton celebrates 150 years in business

The original Sugden's shop in Cleckheaton
The original Sugden's shop in Cleckheaton

Cleckheaton-born clothing company Sugden's has had 150 years in business recognised by a special accolade at the Professional Clothing Awards.

Sugden's was also highly commended in the Best Managed Contract (Major) category at the awards.

Workers at a Sugden's factory in Barnsley

Workers at a Sugden's factory in Barnsley

It was back in 1869, 10 years before the electric light bulb was invented, that William Sugden first opened a tailors shop in his home town of Cleckheaton.

By the end of Queen Victoria’s reign, William Sugden’s two eldest sons had begun to produce their own shirts on a sewing machine in the back of their father’s shop. From there the business gradually evolved enough to move to a factory at Water Lane Mills in Cleckheaton and from there further factories were opened across Yorkshire.

In addition to factories, Sugdens acquired its own weaving mills to enable them to produce the cloth needed for garments themselves.

During the course of the first and second world wars, Sugden's produced close to six million shirts and work suits for the armed forces.

The 60’s were a tough time for the company, by now a third generation family business. Despite

supplying workwear to many distinguished companies including Ford Europe, Sugden's were losing money. But the Sugden brothers formed a partnership with good friend Richard Donner of another Wakefield based shirt manufacturer, Double Two Shirts.

The two companies’ joint expertise forged an unbeatable combination, with the Sugden brothers

continuing to focus on the workwear business right up until their retirement in 1998 and 2001.

One of the first moves of the new partnership was to bring Bill Klopman’s pioneering, tough wearing poly-cotton fabric from the USA to Europe. Klopman Mills would later move an entire business to Europe and is now Europe’s biggest workwear fabric provider.

Recent achievements include the presentation of the Queen’s Award for International Trade and the company continues to progress, with notable clients including St John Ambulance, BP, The Salvation Army and many of the UK’s police and fire services.

They employ 70 staff at their head office in Wakefield, with around 200 in their factories abroad.

Richard Hopwood, group marketing executive, said: "Our future involves expansion into new markets in India and the Far East as the corporate wear market seems to be particularly taking off over there, with increased tourism there are increasing demands for smart corporate uniform from new hotels for example.

"We also have a commitment to reduce our use of plastic and care for the environment."