Having increased our exports by 43% over three years, we won a second Queen’s Award - this time for enterprise in international trade. The award put us in an elite group of businesses, who have been honoured more than once. It was a fitting reward for the hard work and dedication of our excellent work force!
After 139 years of being James H Heal & Co Ltd, we modernised our image and rebranded ourselves as simply ‘James Heal’. But, it was much more than just a name change. Our appearance, our style, our product signature and our behaviours were updated to reflect a powerful, progressive and dynamic Company.
Our instruments were well established and the time had come to diversify. As a result, we started the manufacture of test materials - the standardised products needed to use most of our instruments. The creation of a ‘mini textile mill’ alongside precision engineering created a powerful synergy of activities.
This was a momentous year for the Company. Exports of our textile testing instruments broke all previous records. In April, we were rewarded and honoured for our achievements by the Queen’s Award for Export - the highest and most prestigious corporate business award in the United Kingdom.
As our business continued to expand, we were running out of space so, when the opportunity arose to purchase the adjacent mill, we took it. The floor area of the two mills is approximately 10 000 m2. The mills have been extensively developed and restored to match the needs of a modern manufacturing business.
At the time, the industry was changing. The Retailers had begun to realize that they could differentiate and protect themselves by implementing proper quality assurance regimes. So, the time was right to devote all our energies and resources to the development of fabric and colour fastness testing equipment.
To cope with increasing demand for our products, both at home and abroad, we moved into Lake View - a multi-storey, former textile mill, built around 1850. The Mill, at the time, was virtually derelict, but was gradually restored to cater for the requirements of a growing business.
The Company was purchased by Harry Repper - an apprentice-trained mechanical engineer. At the time, James H Heal was manufacturing a limited range of mainly yarn testing instruments, including Wrap Reels, Yarn Count Balances, Single Thread and Hank Strength Testers and Moisture Testing Ovens.
This is the first compelling evidence of early testing instruments. The document is a delivery note, dated June 12 1899, covering the supply of a Twist Tester to a local textile mill (Slater and Sons). The text describes how to determine the number of ‘turns per inch’ in a length of yarn.
We were first established by George James Henry Heal during the industrial and technological revolution. We don’t know much about the original James Heal, but we do know that the Company started out as a Mill Supplier and Furnisher and served the needs of the then vibrant, local, wool textile industry.