The impact of Harry Wearne and the acquisition of Stead's

Harry Wearne's Pine Tree design, printed by Stead's in 1976
Harry Wearne's Pine Tree design, printed by Stead's in 1976
Stead's machinery by 1935
Stead's machinery by 1935

Harry Wearne

Wearne was born in London 1852 and schooled there. He left for Paris around 1873 to work for Pierre Gillou the wallpaper manufacturer. He was in Alsace when war broke out in 1914 and had an exciting escape when it fell under German rule getting through Switzerland to England and then to America – New York where he began life from scratch virtually penniless. At this time he began designing fabrics which were all hand block printed at Stead McAlpin, transported by the British Navy for sale in America.

A visionary

Wearne built up a collection of designs over the next 15 years based around the ideal of artistic virtue. Interested in the welfare of the working man (and woman) – he demanded good work but was certain that it could not be obtained without good pay. He died in 1929 in his mid seventies.

Global interest

Wearne’s contribution to the growth of Stead McAlpin cannot be understated, for the work of the factory was now being appreciated by predominantly rich global market. The boost that Wearne gave them in the 1920’s allowed the company to invest and expand.

Acquired by the Partnership

It was little therefore that Stead’s came to the intention of the John Lewis Partnership. With the establishment of Cavendish Textiles in 1930, very soon afterwards the Partnership asked Stead’s to print for them. After witnessing the growth of Cavendish, the Partnership bought Stead’s outright in 1965 and in 1968 Stead McAlpin officially entered the Partnership.

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