Sad news last night that Buckfast Spinners, part of Axminster carpets, is to close. Buckfast have supplied the yarns for Axminster carpets for 60 years and employed 100 local people in the process. I note that the Axminster carpets website still describes it as a full raw wool to yarn plant but in truth, it stopped scouring wool a couple of years ago and just concentrated on spinning and dyeing.
The parent company has already sold off Devonia Sheepskins, also in Buckfastleigh and saved the jobs of 20 locals in the process. It’s a real blow to the town that the Spinning Company has to go. Employment prospects in the area are poor and travelling out to larger centres will be the only option. All the expertise will be lost with many employees having three generations of experience in yarn manufacture. Those skills are precious. At a recent textile conference I attended, skills shortage was one of the biggest stumbling blocks mentioned as companies try to expand and develop here in the UK. I hope some of these suddenly cut loose can find work up north with other spinners in Yorkshire and Lancashire.
One hundred jobs are to be retained in Axminster itself and, by the sound of it, there is a buyer waiting in the wings for a smaller, leaner company. I speculate that it may concentrate on the luxury, one-off designer carpets made for particular clients and places. Moving up market and trading on the British reputation for quality, craftsmanship, heritage etc has worked brilliantly well for many others in the textile manufacturing world so it’s a possibility.
Whatever happens, I wish Axminster and its rump of employees well in the future. For the poor folk of Buckfast, I wish a job. Any job. And the sense of worth and value that goes with it.