Readicut was founded way back in 1928 from a cosy shop in Wakefield. The company started through innovation for the crafter and had the brilliant idea of supplying pre-cut wool for rug making rather than the wool being on skeins. In fact, you could say it produced one of the first ever craft kits! Not satisfied to stand still, Readicut introduced a mail order service which, for 1928, was really cutting edge.
Above: A view of Westfield Road in Horbury with the Readicut premises on the right-hand side.
Readicut was founded by Ralph Hirst in 1928 from a shop in Wakefield. Their innovation was the brilliant idea of supplying pre-cut wool for rug making. Previously, wool was purchased in skeins and had to be cur to length by the crafter; a quite tedious and time-consuming process (and one often delegated to the children!). At the same time, Readicut introduced a mail order service. The company was registered in 1932 as Readicut Ltd and was incorporated in 1933.
Ralph Hirst held two patents: "Improvements in display or pattern cards for yarns and methods for producing the same. Ralph Hirst, Readicut Wool Company February 26, 1937: GB461973-A" (filed Aug 1935, published Feb 1937). The second was "Improvements in rug making implements. Ralph Hirst July 5, 1950: GB639845-A" (filed April 1947, Published July 1950.)
In 1978, Readicut celebrated its Golden Jubilee. Over the next few years, they introduced new ideas into their range. They offered a range of finer mesh rugs to be made with 3-ply wool to give much more detailed rug, somewhat like a tapestry with a rug pile. The children's and "young designer" ranges expanded because their customer base was now ageing. They offered the "Readimades" service where you could get your 3.3 hpi rug made for you if you weren't able to tackle the job yourself.Cross-stitch rugs were also introduced, though many of the patterns look as though they could be stitched, hooked or even mixed. At the end of the 70s/start of the 80s Readicut UK also offered the full colour Exacta Graph method that was already used in the USA (Readicut-Shillcraft). Exacta Graph was printed on full-size perforated paper and the colours exactly matched the shade of wool and made it easier to make rugs under artificial light. As the rug-maker finished a row, they could fold back or tear off the perforated section so they coulddn't lose their place. Each pattern had a colour chart at the top right of the pattern, and each grid square had a number printed in it to correspond to the colour chart. It was easier to read than a conventional rug chart which (on A4 or A3 paper) and much harder to lose your place. The pattern was laid out exactly for a 3.3 hpi canvas. If the paper was placed on top of the stencilled pattern, it would match the pattern perfectly. It could also be used on plain canvas. To use it, you had to work strictly in rows, rather than sections. In 1992, the Readicut Wool (Sales) subsidiary was dissolved and its operations taken over by Readicut Ltd (John Bowskill & Jean Bowskill are shown as directors of both).
In November 1993, Readicut announced optimistic half-year trading figures: control of overheads resulted in a 12% profit rise, and turnover increased by almost 11%. These also benefited from a drive to secure more export orders and the devaluation of sterling. The company invested in new production equipment and reduced the workforce from 3773 to 3700. Its share price was 97.5p. Despite this, in 1994, Readicut Crafts went into liquidation. By now, the company was being broken up and sold off.
In 2006, Readicut (presumably Readicut Crafts) became The Craft Collection Ltd of Terry Mills, Wakefield. Rug wool was sold in pouches as "Homemakers Home Rugmaking Supplies." The Craft Collection was a screen printing company run by John Bowskill so I assume this was to do with the canvas-printing side of the business. I can't find anything further on The Craft Collection on company registration websites and its website no longer operates. In 2011 Readicut Wool Co Ltd (aka Readicut Ltd) filed its last annual return. Administrators were appointed in Jun 2011. In May 2012, Readicut Wool Co Ltd went from "in administration" to "voluntary liquidation." The liquidator's report was filed in July 2013. Readicut's premises, Westfield Mill, Wesley Street, Ossett, was built by John Westerman in the 1850s. In the 1940s it stood empty before Readicut International trading as Velmar Printed Fabrics took over the premises. It was demolished in 1983 after Readicut finally closed their Velmar operation. The Millfields housing estate now stands on the site. For decades, Readicut's address was a simple "Terry Mills, Ossett" though the more precise address was "Westfield Road, Horbury, Wakefield" The demolition was announced in The Wakefield Express of 9th January, 2007: "Piece of History is Reduced to Rubble. A PIECE of Horbury history will soon disappear as bulldozers have moved in to start demolition work at the town's Readicut factory. Terry Mills, which has stood on the Westfield Road site since 1935 and was once one of the town’s biggest employers, will make way for a housing development with work set to start in the next few months. Between the First and Second World War the factory provided mail order materials for people to make their own rugs – once a popular pastime. The business became so popular it even employed show business stars such as Gracie Fields to advertise its goods and was a multi-million pound industry. The factory will be demolished to make way for a £15million Persimmon Homes residential development of 70 two, three and four bedroom homes."
1. Rug Making Supplies by Sarah Hartwell, 2014
2. "Looking Back on Horbury" by Christine Cudworth, first published December 2000, limited to 250 copies.
Stephen Wilson, February 2016