Top100 SMEs: Royal connection to family-owned knitwear firm that’s 230 years old

The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh during a visit to John Smedley at Lea Bridge in Matlock
The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh during a visit to John Smedley at Lea Bridge in Matlock
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It is 230 years old, operates from one of the world’s oldest factories and the Queen is not only a customer - but a visitor.

Family-owned knitwear firm John Smedley is riding high after Her Majesty visited the factory in Lea Bridge in July and met staff, including making-up manager Brian Greaves, whom she had talked to on her first visit in 1968.

She left with a gift for herself, polo shirts for Prince George, and the Duke of Edinburgh was given a sweater.

The visit underlined the tradition and status of the firm which was founded at the beginning of the industrial revolution.

Earlier this year John Smedley borrowed £500,000 to extend its product range and set up an apprentice scheme as it looks to a hi-tech global future. It’s fine-gauge knitwear is exported to 40 countries.

The business is 50th in the Top100 table, has 396 staff, turns over £17.2m and made £1.5m profit last year. That figure was just £2,000 up on the year previous when it was 31st in the table.