Model pictures pose a mystery at the mill

Mystery pic from John Smedley Ltd from 1930s
Mystery pic from John Smedley Ltd from 1930s

THey may be over 80 years old, but a collection of stylish photographs are causing some intrigue at a famous clothing company in Lea.

Workers at John Smedley Ltd at Lea Mill are researching its archive and have unearthed stills of a beautiful model for which they are appealing to Mercury readers for information.

The professional black and white pictures are thought to have been taken sometime in the 1930s and there are hopes that details of the woman can be pieced together.

They will from part of an extensive collection of photographs and garments as the 228-year-old firm looks into its own history.

John Smedley archivist, Jane Middleton-Smith said: “We are guessing that she may have been a local person, with connections to the mill – but we know absolutely nothing about her.

“We would love to trace her descendants or anyone who recognises her.

“It would be great to know her story and to locate any other pictures of her modelling Smedley outerwear from the 1930s.

“Outerwear was made for a short period from the 1930s up to the end of the Second World War, when the company went back to underwear.

“I would love to find some garments from this time, which included sportswear and knitted swimwear.”

Hundreds of photographs have been found by the firm and there are hopes they can be eventually be used as part of a display to mark the lengthy history of the clothing company and the mill at Lea Bridge.

Claiming to be the world’s longest running factory manufacturer, the John Smedley company began life in 1784 as a mill specialising in the production of muslin fabric and spinning cotton using hand-frame looms. It was founded by Peter Nightingale and John Smedley.

It gradually extended production to include knitting and hosiery- and is said to be the origin of the term Long Johns.

It remains open and an operational building, manufacturing designer knitwear for men and women that are available in boutiques, department stores and specialist retailers cross 30 countries, with Japan as their largest export market.

Anyone with information about the photographs of the mystery woman is being asked to contact The Matlock Mercury on (01629)762130 or email