Our first recorded interaction between the company and British royalty dates back to 1924 when the company (then called John Moorby Limited & William Reed & Sons Limited) exhibited at the Empire Exhibition at Wembley in north London – a venue which later has become world famous as the home of English football. The story goes that Mrs Clifford Reed (Annie Moorby was her maiden name), also known as the ‘Queen of Spades’ because of her obsession with the French card game Bezique, was on the exhibition stand when Queen Mary was visiting the exhibition and stopped at the company’s stand. By all accounts this was a feisty encounter between two Edwardian matriarchs which ended well with mutual respect even though Annie’s staunch Methodist upbringing meant that she was not a natural royalist.
Fifty years later in 1974 the then young Prince of Wales (now King Charles III) visited Nelson and Burnley as part of his tour around the UK and the Lancashire County Palatine. One of our employees at the time was able to hand the bachelor prince a gift of a pair of pillowcases made from our Super Percale sheeting cloth which my father, Peter Reed, was pioneering at the time through his far sighted purchases of Sea Island cotton via his membership of the Barbados Cotton Exchange.
By 1981 Peter Reed had cultivated his relationship with the royal family to the extent that our company manufactured a range of exclusive bedlinen in conjunction with HM the Queen Elizabeth’s couturier of many years, Norman Hartnell. The range was an instant success and provided the inspiration for wedding presents for Charles & Diana when they married in 1981.
In 1996 my father, Peter Reed, was recognised by Buckingham Palace with the honour of a manufacturer’s Royal Warrant for the manufacture of bedlinen by HM the Queen Elizabeth – an honour which he maintained until his death in 2000. This was the first time that such an award had been presented to a weaver of sheetings in the long history of Warrants.
Like the British monarchy, our company story and history will continue as our family grows and navigates the years ahead. But at this historic date in May 2023 we take a pause and break from weaving and sewing bedlinen to raise a glass and toast our new king Charles III – long live the King!