Black Dyke Mill

A History of John Foster and the Black Dyke Mills

From an independant trader to mill owner, the name of JOHN FOSTER is still highly revered around the textile industry.

In 1819 John Foster began his venture which resulted in the creation of the John Foster company and the building of the Black Dyke Mills at Queensbury Bradford in West Yorkshire, an area which is renown for textile manufacture.

Since 1819 John Foster has produced fine worsted and mohair fabric at the Black Dyke Mills site, 1,100 feet above sea level in Queensbury on the outskirts of Bradford, West Yorkshire, an area which is renowned for textile manufacture in England.

The first days of John Foster, who was born in 1798, and his Queensbury venture are unfortunately lost in the mists of time. We know that in 1819 he married Ruth Briggs and started as a worsted manufacturer. His father was a colliery owner and farmed at Thornton near Bradford, while his father-in-law was a land owner in Queensbury. We do not know if either of the fathers helped to finance the new venture, or whether it was the bouyant state of the industry in 1818 which encouraged John Foster to embark on such an enterprise. If it was the latter he might have been dismayed soon afterwards for the next two years were times of depression. By 1827 he was doing well and was prosperous enough to build Prospect House which remained his family home until he retired to live in Hornby Castle.

John Foster would buy yarns and distribute it from a warehouse at the back of Prospect House, at the junction of the Keighley-Brighouse and Bradford-Halifax roads, to the hand-loom weavers who then brought in their woven pieces. John took those pieces to the Bradford Piece Hall to sell to the merchants who would arrange for the dyeing and finishing.

In 1828 he rented Cannon Mill for spinning, prior to erecting the first part of Black Dyke Mills in 1835. In 1834 John's father-in-law conveyed part of some land known as Black Myres to him and here he started to build his mill. Black Dykes Farm, from which the mill gets its name, wasn't passed to him until 1842.. By 1851 Black Dyke Mills was dominating the landscape and at the Great Exhibition John Foster took first prize for alpaca, with which he had been experimenting with since 1837, and for mohair fabrics, and the gold medal for yarns.

The oldest son, William, born in 1821, was already involved in the business by 1835 and did not retire until 1882. He was six years older than his next brother and having been involved in the company from such a young age this put him into a dominant position in the hierarchy of the business - indeed the company remained John Foster & Son Ltd,. not Sons! He was made a full partner in 1842 and it was William's sons who took control in 1884 following John Foster's death.

Today

Today the mill in Queensbury is no longer in operation, but John Foster still produces some of the worlds finest Worsted and Mohair cloths and has gained a worldwide reputation for quality, some 70% is exported directly or indirectly to numerous countries around the world with the Japanese and Far East markets pre-eminent . Some of the worlds leading clothing manufacturers are supplied by John Foster. "MADE IN ENGLAND BY JOHN FOSTER" a label which comprehensively means what it says, and is a hallmark of the highest quality of mohair, worsted and wool speciality fabrics backed by a manufacturer who leaves nothing to chance. Over century and a half of producing fine cloths has not gone un-noticed around the world.

For further historical information about the Black Dyke Mills please visit the website of some of our local history groups: Queensbury Village and Black Dyke Mills Heritage Venue

Find out more about the current John Foster and Sons