1819 John Foster Founder
June, 1819

John Foster, a pioneer of the modern wool textile industry and founder of the world-renowned firm in Bradford, England which bears his name. Born in 1798 and at the age of 21, John Foster started his worsted business at a time when the factory system which was to revolutionise the textile industry, had not yet been established. By 1819, many inhabitants in the Bradford area had passed on skills in cloth production from generation to generation. It was these inherent local skills that became an asset of incalculable value to both John Foster and the British Textile industry. Taking advantage of a ready market for worsted cloth in Bradford and Halifax and with the start of an economic recovery, Mr John Foster set many handlooms to work in hundreds of cottages in and around Queensbury, Bradford. In time, John Foster became the largest employer of hand-loom labour in the district and acquired a considerable reputation for certain special fabrics. Fabrics known as ‘Lastings’ and ‘Damasks’ were a John Foster speciality. ‘Lastings’ as their name implies were textiles of very strong description, hardy, stout and sturdy, like the people who were engaged in producing them! In the years to come, John Foster became one of the world’s largest makers of worsted cloth.

John Foster Black Dyke Mills 1842
April, 1832

Under Mr Foster’s far-seeing enterprise and capable guidance, the business continued to expand and in 1832 he took over a large factory in Great Horton. Three years later in 1835, Mr Foster erected a mill in Black Dyke, Queensbury, on the site of a family farmstead. This mill became known as ‘Black Dyke Mills’, and was the foundation upon which John Foster’s immense business was built.

John Foster 1836 Power-Looms Weaving Investment
October, 1836

John Fosters road to success encountered the industrial revolution, a time of significant change. In 1836 a difficult period began in Black Dyke Mills as continued investment in new machines brought the transition from hand-loom to power-loom. Gas works were erected to supply the mill and village, and enlarged several times since to meet the increased power requirements.

1837 John Foster Fabric Innovation Alpaca and Mohair
September, 1837

The invention of new fabrics continued simultaneously with the investment in new machinery. Pioneering Alpaca and Mohair cloth developments had begun as early as 1837.

1840 John Foster in-house designer first recorded
March, 1840

It’s difficult to confirm if John Foster employed anyone to create fabric designs specific to John Foster’s prior to 1840. It was in 1840 that regular records appear in the ledger for ‘designer’ and ‘pattern drawing’.

Business passes to William Foster, son of John Foster in 1842
January, 1842

The direction of affairs passes from Father to son, William Foster becoming a full partner in the business and maintaining traditions of the firm through the next generation. William Foster was the eldest son of John Foster and was admitted into the firm as a partner in 1842. Other sons of the founder were also admitted into partnership in later years. The family connection was maintained until circa 1995. Black Dyke Mills had become a significant landmark and force in the global textile industry. William Foster is pictured with family members and mill workers overseeing building development and extension works.

The Great Exhibition of 1851
October, 1851

By 1851 Black Dyke Mills was dominating the Queensbury landscape. John Foster awarded 1st prize for Alpaca and Mohair fabrics and the gold medal for yarns at the Great Exhibition of 1851. The medal shows Queen Victoria alongside her husband Prince Albert.

John Foster Black Dyke Mill Band
August, 1855

John Foster, a French Horn player, established the Black Dyke Mill Band in 1855 along with other musicians from a band formerly known as Queenshead Band. Many members of the band were originally workers at Black Dyke Mills and the band was outfitted in uniforms made from the mill’s own cloth. Today the band is one of the oldest and best-known brass bands in the world, winning many prizes and competitions over the years. The band has made over 350 recordings, including recordings for TV & Film, recorded with the Beatles and pop acts Tori Amos, Peter Gabriel and The Beautiful South, as well as working with Sir Paul McCartney to release a number of singles.

1856 John Foster Coat of Arms
November, 1856

In 1856, the Foster family were granted the ‘Foster’ coat of arms, bringing a high level of significance in social standing to the Foster family name.

‘Justum perficito nihil timeto’ means ‘Do Right and Fear Nothing’

John Foster family residence Hornby Castle - Photo credit: R.Haworth
July, 1879

Hornby Castle estate was bought in 1860 by the Foster family and renovated in the 1970s as a family property. John Foster retired to Hornby Castle and died in 1879. The next generations of Fosters live here.

1891 John Foster becomes a private limited liability company - Board of Directors
June, 1891

A full board of directors of Foster family members is in place. Both founder John Foster (1798-1879) and eldest son William Foster (1821-1884) are now deceased. In 1891 the firm is placed under the constitution of the 5 Foster family board members, as a Private Limited Liability company.

1891 Facilities are built for John Foster workpeople - Victoria Hall, Queensbury
November, 1891

Directors erected Victoria Hall in Queensbury, a building for recreational use by their workpeople which included amongst others a concert hall, recreation rooms, billiards room, a dining room, a kitchen and a library. Other buildings included a Swimming Pool, slipper baths, washing & drying rooms.

1891 - 1920s John Foster Development & Growth
May, 1900

Over the next 30 years…


New Powerhouse to produce the immense amount of energy demanded by the mill.Development of subsidiary services including mechanics, joiners, plumbers, basket makers, cobblers, a fully equipped fire brigade, etc., makes the whole concern ‘self-contained’ and practically independent of outside aid. Thus enabling the mill community to proceed with clock-like manufacturing regularity and efficiency.


Total floor area of the mills exceed 15 acres and houses 500 power looms.


Every process of fabric production is integrated into the mill, from raw material sorting through to weaving, dying and finishing.


A hostel with 231 beds plus other facilities is built to provide accommodation for female skilled mill workers from distant locations.


By 1923, Black Dyke Mills has grown extensively and has its own water supply in the form of reservoirs.


Fibres being used include Cotton, Alpaca, Mohair, Wool & Silk.


John Fosters Portfolio is now extensive, with an almost endless variety of yarns and fabrics to include Mohair Brilliantines, alpaca linings, mohair velvets, silk seals, Sicilians, Grenadas, Botany dress goods, etc.


Demand is increasing for hosiery goods and soft-handling fabrics.

1914 1st World War & John Foster Uniforms for the army
June, 1914

The 1st world war breaks out and the whole of the textile machinery was soon engaged in providing materials for uniforms and knitted goods for the Allied Armies. Textile production was not the only area of the John Foster business influenced by war activities. The well-equipped engineering and wood-working departments were used by the Ministry of Munitions and took a very creditable share in the production of munitions that helped bring the war to a victorious end. Directors of John Foster guarantee to keep open the places of all male workers enlisted to join the army, participating in the National scheme for disabled ex-servicemen. The firm employed 167 ex-servicemen, of whom 38 were partially disabled. During world war one, military exception badges were issued to some workers of Black Dyke Mills who had ‘reserved occupations’ such as mill workers or farmers and were exempt from military service.

1923 HRH Prince of Wales Visit to John Foster, BLack Dyke Mills
May, 1923

Black Dyke Mills welcome a visit from HRH The Prince of Wales on 30th May, as he visits a number of Yorkshire towns. The purpose of his visits was to gain first-hand knowledge of conditions in the textile, steel and other industries for which the county is famous. John Foster are now a significant employer in the Bradford area, employing 1,400 workers across the mill and offices. John Fosters Bradford Office is pictured above.

1924 John Foster, Black Dyke mill visit from Chinese ex-president
April, 1924

John Foster are very much still in their peak and have an impressive portfolio, welcoming distinguished international visitors to the mill. The Chinese ex-president being one who paid a visit to the famous Black Dyke Mills in 1924. At this time Colonel Edward Hornby Foster (Grandson of John Foster) is Managing Director of the firm.

1937 John Foster Team celebrating 50 years service
June, 1937

John Foster built a loyal workforce at Black Dyke Mills and in 1937 proudly showed off to the local newspaper 21 employee’s who had all worked for the company for over 50 years. They have worked a total of 1,100 years, their ages total over 1,420 years. Between them in the last half-century, they have drawn more than 55,000 weekly wage packets. They nearly all started working as half-timers at the age of ten and regarded ‘Foster’s’ as a 2nd home. They have never been ‘pennied’ – an old custom of knocking off a penny for unpunctuality.

2nd world war - Ronald Foster involved in Wings for Victory fundraising
April, 1939

During the years of the 2nd world war, Colonel E.H.Foster, aged 70 died in 1940, he was Managing Director of John Foster at the time and grandson of the founder. In 1943 Ronald Foster (chairman of John Foster), is seen here getting involved in ‘Wings for Victory’ week which was held across the country to raise money for Spitfires and Bombers.

1945-1949 John Foster Black Dyke Mills Developments
September, 1945

Mill work continues full steam ahead post-war.

1957 John Foster develop iconic 3 ply mohair cloth
October, 1957

Cloth developments continue thick and fast at the mill and today’s world-renown 3-ply mohair fabric is created. This desirable cloth quickly becomes one of the most successful and iconic cloths on an international level.

1960's John Foster wins multiple International cloth Awards
January, 1960

John Foster cloths are highly acclaimed around the world and continue to win awards for their sought after Mohair cloths, Worsted suitings and Mesh Jacketing throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s.

1970's to 1980's John Foster Business Portfolio & Production in Full Swing
January, 1970

Numerous famous cloth companies were purchased by John Foster during the down-sizing of the British textile industry. Today iconic textile names are encompassed in the John Foster portfolio. Production facilities at Black Dyke Mills are still in full swing.

1981 John Foster visit from HRH Prince of Wales to Black Dyke Mills
June, 1981

The John Foster team welcome a visit from HRH The Prince of Wales to Black Dyke Mills, during the peak period of British Textiles.

Also in 1981 John Foster becomes a plc and is listed on the stock exchange.

1988 Export Strength Continues - Exports to the Far East at a high
November, 1988

£1million invested in new equipment for Black Dyke Mills, to increase production and efficiency and improve quality even further. Record Sales and Profits are recorded with exports accounting for 60% of sales. After the UK, Japan and the Far East is the biggest most significant export market for John Foster products.

Late 1980s John Foster rapid expansion and difficult decisions
November, 1989

During the 1970s-1980s, rapid expansion into other non-core textile sectors such as automotive and other non-apparel sectors pushed John Foster to its limits. Despite being at the height of activity in the mill, John Foster went into administration and decisions were made to downsize and eventually move premises. Black Dyke Mill and other mill assets were sold off. In order to maintain the world-renowned John Foster name and continuity of textiles woven in Yorkshire, the business continued with the investment of new partners dedicated to manufacturing wool products for apparel and maintaining the skills of the industry.

1995 Neil Foster's residence, Lexham Hall, Norfolk
January, 1995

The family connection was maintained until circa 1995. Neil Foster was the last remaining family member who now resides in a Foster family building called ‘Lexham Hall’ in Norfolk.

2006 John Foster awarded The Queens Award for Enterprise - International Trade
April, 2006

In 2006 John Foster was awarded The Queen’s Award For Enterprise: International Trade.

This award recognised the significant increase in exports of luxury worsted and mohair suitings around the world.

2006 John Foster celebrates 35 years of business with Japan
June, 2006

On 18th June 2006 the business relationship between Takisada Nagoya Co. Ltd (Japan) and John Halliday & Sons Ltd celebrated its 35 year anniversary. John Halliday & Sons Ltd was one of the companies purchased by John Foster in the 1970’s as the British textile industry experienced a down-sizing.

2009 SIL Holdings takes ownership of John Foster
March, 2009

In 2009 John Foster business ownership transfers to SIL Holdings Ltd, is given a new lease of life and moves to new premises in Bradford, Stanley Mills. SIL Holdings is a British group of vertically integrated textile companies encompassing all elements of textile production from luxury fibre – to – exquisite fabric.

2012 John Foster reinforces their prestigious company image
February, 2012

John Foster cloth features on a Royal Mail special edition 1st class stamp
Royal Mail featured British designer Paul Smith on its 1st class stamp. The cloth is John Foster iconic 60% adult mohair and 40% wool in a vibrant blue.

John Foster wins No.1 Fabric award from Saks 5th Avenue.
Saks 5th avenue identifies British Mill John Foster as a Top Men’s Fabric producer of fine fabrics for suitings. John Foster’s 90% Super 150’s wool & 10% cashmere worsted spun cloth in a navy stripe is their fabric of choice.

David Gallimore, the Managing Director of John Foster meets with HRH The Prince of Wales, patron of The Campaign for Wool.

2014 David Gallimore meets with Prince of Charles at Campaign for Wool relaunch event
August, 2014

David Gallimore meets with HRH The Prince of Wales, Patron of The Campaign for Wool, at the campaigns re-launch event held at Clarence House.

2017 HRH The Princess Royal visits the Mill
August, 2017

HRH Princess Ann visits the mill to celebrate the company’s £1.2m investment in five new Dornier weaving machines. The investment allowing John Foster to keep apace with growth in demand, maintain their reputation of top-class cloth and continue into the future with a strong focus on innovation and quality.

2019 John Foster 200th Anniversary
January, 2019

John Foster celebrate their 200th year, an anniversary to be extremely proud of.
To mark the occasion, special edition cloth has been woven, 200th anniversary branding is featured and limited edition gifts produced.

2019 Further production improvements at John Foster Mill
May, 2019

The mill at Stanley Mills looks significantly different, with many production investments, efficiency and quality improvements made along the way.

2019 John Foster Seasonal Collections attract Designer Brands
July, 2019

John Foster weaves seasonal collections in their British Mill, launching twice a year and sold around the world to highly acclaimed Fashion Houses, Haute Couture Designers, tailors and Designer brands. Often featured on international catwalks such as Alexander McQueen and Wright Le Chaplain.