Wolsey is a heritage British clothing brand originally founded in 1755, making it one of the oldest existing textile companies in the world. The brand sells men’s clothing and accessories, including a 'Made in Britain' range of knitwear, socks, underwear and scarves. Its new Wolsey ‘Expedition’ collection is inspired by garments supplied to Captain R.F Scott and his team of explorers on their mission to reach the South Pole in 1911, in conjunction with the 100th anniversary. Wolsey is owned by John Hargreaves, the chairman of Matalan. The company holds a Royal Warrant for its services to Queen Elizabeth II. and is still based in Leicester, England, where it was established all those years ago. The company’s name was actually created in 1897 when R Walker & Sons merged with W Tyler and Sons. It was taken from Cardinal Wolsey, who is buried near the company's factory. The name ‘Wolsey’ is a registered trademark.
The earliest records relating to the Wolsey business, show that one Henry Wood was trading in Leicester as a hosier in 1744. Several years later, in 1748 he went into partnership with a man called Job Middleton and they were later still joined by another man - John Wrightman in 1750.
Sometime around 1755 Henry Wood dissolved the partnership as he wished to start his own business; Wood died in 1768 and his business was afterwards carried on by his widow, and then later still by his sons and then his grandsons, under the business name of Ann Wood & Sons. In 1842 Robert Walker became a partner and after the retirement of the last Wood family member, Richard Wood the name of the business was changed to R Walker & Sons.
The headquarters of the business was situated near to Leicester Abbey, which is the burial place of Cardinal Wolsey. To honour this connection the business established the trading name of 'Wolsey' and as such became one of the first brand names.
In 1920, R Walker & Sons merged with W Tyler and Sons and was soon renamed simply “Wolsey” and the business started to trade directly with retailers rather than through a standard wholesale network which was the normal business pattern at that time. The company expanded and began employing travelling salesmen to service the retail accounts and also began to advertise their products across the world. As a result, Wolsey and its sister trading name of Cardinal became household names and then in 1935 the Company was awarded its first Royal Warrant.
In the 1960s the business was forced to seek a merger as a result of massive changes in the retail world and became part of Courtaulds.
After its brief association with Courtaulds, the business left the Courtauld group to become an independent company again and later in 2002 the business was taken over by the Matalan group. Fergus Patterson was appointed managing director in January 2009.
The company mainly manufactures menswear clothing such as underwear, socks, knitwear and shirts.
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- Cope, Nigel (2002-04-25). "Matalan to make men's underwear in Wolsey deal - Business News, Business - The Independent". London: www.independent.co.uk. Retrieved 2009-06-28.
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