On one of Beeston’s oldest businesses
It’s a day when things could get steamy in Broxtowe. 10℃ over the average for February, and the MP has just resigned from her party while claiming the right to stay on as our representative at Westminster. Maybe it’s a good day for the Beestonian to go and look for something that is reassuringly a good thing.
G.H Hurt & Son on the Chilwell High Road is just the place. You may have visited them when they open on Heritage Days in September, but not know they also open to the public on Saturday mornings (10am – 12noon). They inhabit an old seed mill, built in 1751, which remains a thing of beauty from the outside, but you may be more interested in their famous baby shawls, which suddenly came into the worldwide media spotlight in 2013, then again in 2015 and 2017, when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge stepped outside the Lindo Wing in London with their newborns wrapped in Beeston’s finest.
“…every generation must face its own challenges.”
No-one was more delighted to see their choice than Gillian Taylor, who is in the fourth generation of Hurts to own and manage the business since its inception in 1912. The family has stayed true to its roots, producing fine knitwear that includes men’s and women’s scarves, and caring about their employees as much as they care about their customers and products.
While Gillian hadn’t previously known the royals had their shawls, she had no reason to be surprised, because if the royal family is supposed to represent our country’s core values, then a firm like Hurts surely helps us decide just what those values are.
And they are proof that every generation must face its own challenges; for Gillian it has been to adapt to an increasingly internet-dependent and computerised world. For her father, Henry Hurt (who in his 80s still takes an active part in the family firm) it was to take on the challenge of moving from hand looms to mechanisation when he was barely out of his teens, and he would go on to be awarded an MBE for his services to the knitwear industry. Henry’s own father Leslie had to deal with two world wars, injury and serious illness. It was Gillian’s great-grandfather, George Henry Hurt, who started the whole enterprise in 1912 when he took the step of acquiring the mill so that local knitters could bring their manual handframes together under one roof, and take advantage of shared marketing and production.
In the 1980s everything could surely have been lost, when the area was surrounded by similar-seeming businesses, some of which were buying their products from China. But Henry Hurt wasn’t going to compromise on quality or discard his legacy. According to Gillian it was he who said that if they stuck to their core values and loyal customers then one day perhaps even China would decide to buy from them. With a trade fair in Ningbo, China coming up in April, then ‘perhaps even China’ will be customers for the fifth generation of Hurts?