|Industry||Textile and Clothing manufacturing, Retail, Food and Cafes, Gardens|
|Founded||County Wicklow, Ireland (1723)|
|Products||Clothes, other woollen goods, soft furnishings, food, ceramics, books, soaps & perfumes|
Number of employees
Avoca Handweavers is a clothing manufacturing, retail and food business in Ireland. Started in Avoca, County Wicklow, it is the oldest working woollen mill in Ireland and one of the world's oldest manufacturing companies. It is also Ireland's oldest surviving business.
The mill on the banks of the fast-flowing River Avoca survives from at least 1723. Travel to and from the remote village was difficult and a barter system was used. The mill was used for grinding corn for bread and spinning and weaving wool.
In 1760 a Fly Shuttle Loom, capable of weaving up to 20 metres of cloth a day arrived. Workers, concerned about possible unemployment, resorted to burning some looms. Three sisters, the Wynnes, inherited the mill in the 1920s and introduced colour. Avoca Handweavers tweeds was produced and exported, including for use by Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli. The material was also used for a waistcoat for King George VI and baby blankets for the children of Queen Elizabeth II.
In 1974, Donald Pratt, a solicitor engaged to handle the sale of the mill which now faced closure decided to buy it himself. Along with his wife, Hilary, a teacher, he set about getting Avoca Handweavers back on its feet. The Pratts began exporting handwoven rugs and throws to the UK and other countries. Avoca throws are still sold across the globe.
Managed now by two generations of the Pratt family, Avoca continues to develop with several large retail outlets around Ireland and in Belfast. Many of these also have popular foodhalls & cafes attached as their food operations expand. The Avoca Cafe Cookbooks have proven to be popular bestsellers.
The company has a number of women's clothing ranges which it sells through its own stores designed by Amanda Pratt, as well as wholesaling in Ireland and internationally. The best known of these is Avoca Anthology.
Avoca is also strongly associated with gardens and has several very rare trees in its Kilmacanogue grounds and one of Ireland's most famous gardens at Mount Usher in Ashford, County Wicklow. Now mostly known simply as Avoca, the company employs over 600 people.