Book to tell story of historic Brettles

Brettles Queen Street belper launch a new book, Gary Spendlove.
Brettles Queen Street belper launch a new book, Gary Spendlove.

an historic Belper firm is to have its story told in an exciting new book.

Set over more than 200 pages, ‘Brettles of Belper’ will cover the history of the hosiery manufacturer from its very beginning to the present day, as well as all that has happened in the intervening years.

It will catalogue the history and origins of the textile industry in the Derwent Valley, together with a complete history of the Brettles company and its evolution in Belper and London.

Today, the Brettles name is a registered trademark enjoying continuing growth as part of the Slenderella lingerie and nightwear group.

The company’s imports and exports go via the site on Queen Street and they have offices and agents across the world. The book, co-written by local historian Rod Hawgood and Slenderella managing director Gary Spendlove, is crammed full of photographs and details of product milestones, new inventions, tragedies, happy occasions and the promotion of sporting prowess.

There are details of the many owners and managers who have seen the company through thick and thin, their ideas and exploits and their generosity to staff and suppliers.

The photographs include ones of royal visits, as well as ones of famous models and fashions from the 1970s and 1980s.

Gary, 53, who started as a trainee with Brettles at the age of 16, said: “It is unbelievable. It’s almost my life’s work in a book really.

“It is nice to tell the story and the history of Brettles, which is one of the oldest brands in the UK.

It goes back to 1786 nationally, and 1803 in Belper. It goes over four centuries.

“A lot of people will recognise people in the book.”

Describing why he decided to do the book, Gary said: “I decided to compile this book primarily because the Brettles brand of Belper has a place in history as one of the world’s largest hosiery manufacturers.

“The company was also one of the UK’s largest employers, employing well over 1,000 people in the late 19th century.”

The book’s official launch will take place on Friday, June 10, with a programme of events around Belper, to which local dignitaries will be invited.

It will start at 11am at the former Brettles base at De Bradelei Mill Shop restaurant, before a visit to Slenderella, Brettles factory and retail shop from midday.

From 1pm local historians with conduct guided walks around historic sites in Belper.

Then, in the late afternoon, guests will be taken to Belper’s North Mill where they will see many artefacts and memorabilia from Brettles.

The day will end at the Strutts Centre, on Derby Road, with the book launch and a social evening. There will be a display, film shows and some surprises.

The Strutts Centre is the former Herbert Strutt School, which Gary used to attend.

The day is invitation only. There are a few invitations left for ex-employees of Brettles, who can get them by ringing 01773 822340 or by writing to the firm.

Gary said that 2,000 copies of the book will be printed, although that figure may rise to 3,000.

And despite the launch being more than three weeks away, orders for the book have already started coming in.

“We have had one advance order of the book from Northern Ireland,” said Gary. “It is quite interesting how word is getting around really.

“It will also be going on national booklists and quite a few libraries have asked for copies.”

The book will be on sale at the launch evening and costs £14.99 for a paperback copy or £19.99 for a hardback copy.

For those not attending the launch, the book is available to buy, with an additional £2 cost for postage and packaging, by ringing the Slenderella sales office on 01773 822340.