The Fox Brothers
Born into a Cornish Quaker family with a rich heritage in the textile industry, it was almost inevitable that Thomas Fox would become an apprentice aged just 14 to his maternal grandfather, Thomas Were, a woollen merchant from Wellington in Somerset.
In 1796, aged 49, Thomas Fox took control of the family business in Wellington and renamed it Thomas Fox & Co. Despite a decline in the textile industry at the time, he had plans to improve the business and the machinery it used. It was his idea to purchase the Coldharbour Mill site in Devon and build a new factory there.
Thomas married Sarah Smith and they had 15 children. Six of their seven sons joined their father in the family business, which then became known as Fox Brothers & Co, and continued to expand the company. It became one of the largest textile businesses in Britain by the late 19th century, employing about 5000 people
As part of a Quaker family, Thomas Fox believed in looking after people. He built a steady workforce, and different generations of the same families worked together at his mills. One of his notable acts was that he would not employ children younger than 8 years old, even though other companies employed children as young as 4.
He also acquired around 70 cottages near Coldharbour Mill to provide reasonably priced accommodation for his workers and established a “Working Men’s Institute” in Uffculme for “Recreation and Improvement” which still exists today.
Five generations later, several descendants of the Fox family still live in Wellington, with the house that Thomas Fox and Sara built still in the family’s possession.
The Fox family withdrew from the Fox Brothers company in the late 20th century, but following the successful involvement of local investor Deborah Meaden, the brand name lives on today weaving for some of the worlds leading luxury brands. www.foxflannel.com/