From the archive: Running the Oldest Factory in the UK – Ian Maclean MBE, John Smedley

Podcast episode 193 - Running John Smedley, the oldest factory in the UK

In this episode, I chat to Ian Maclean, managing director of John Smedley – the oldest operating factory in the world.

Known as one of the finest knitwear manufacturers in the world. The company was established 235 years ago, at the start of the Industrial Revolution, and they still operate out of the same factory in Matlock in Derbyshire.

In the interview, Ian talks about the challenges that come with operating out of such an old mill, and how he is making his manufacturing more sustainable by investing in upgrades to the mill which will save energy and allow the company to survive for another two hundred years.


  • The history behind the world’s longest operating factory [06:22]
  • How the company is bringing the factory into the 21st century [07:55]
  • Why sustainability is important for the business going into the next 200 years [11:50]
  • The positive reaction the brand receives from their customers due to holding a Royal Warrant [13:35]
  • How Ian plans to increase the exposure of the brand [14:41]
  • Why quality is such an important part of their business model [16:12]
  • How many generations have looked after the business and the challenges they faced through the years [17:17]
  • Where Ian sees John Smedley heading in the next ten years and the challenges the business will need to face in order to grow [19:14]

More about John Smedley

John Smedley Website

Click here to watch a video John Smedley released to celebrate over 230 years in knitwear manufacturing.

The video entitled ‘John Smedley: Representing Great Britain’ depicts all aspects of the manufacturing of the brands fine gauge, fully-fashioned knitwear. A system that has changed little in over 200 years.

1 thought on “From the archive: Running the Oldest Factory in the UK – Ian Maclean MBE, John Smedley”

  1. Lovely interesting informative interview — makes me want to visit. Warms the cockles! Thank you so much.

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