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Report - - Donisthorpe Friars Mills, Leicester - January 2008 | Industrial Sites |

Report - Donisthorpe Friars Mills, Leicester - January 2008

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28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Seeing as theres been a few reports on this in more recent times, thought I would put one up from back before it was trashed and half demolished. Had been looking at this factory ever since it closed but it was always sealed tight, everytime we went for a look there was no access and any slightly damaged boads were always swiftly repaired. Then one day early in January 2008 when stopping by there with Mr Sam and another member our luck was finally in, access to the buildings and free roam of the whole site at long last. The buildings were very clean, very mint, and very empty, pretty much untouched since they were abandoned three years earlier. The pikeys struck big time later on that year, causing much damage to the once pristine buildings. The following year all but the oldest buildings on the site were demolished, from this point the fate of the site was pretty much sealed. In July 2012 a fire gutted the already badly damaged original mill building, leaving the wrecked shell that exists today. It was at this point the council decided to bother to take action, they bought the site, put security on, and bricked up and covered the remaining ruins. Too little, too late.

Some history of the company....
The origins of the firm 'Messrs Donisthorpe' are obscure. Tradition has it that the firm was involved in worsted spinning as early as 1739 - but the earliest surviving record is of Alfred Russel Donisthorpe who was spinning at Friars Mill, on the banks of the river soar, in 1866. Alfred's father, Frederick Donisthorpe, was a dyer and trimmer and it was through a loan to his son that the mill - built probably in the 16th century as a dwelling house - came into family ownership.
The principal market for worsted yarn at this time was Leicester's thriving hosiery industry. Framework knitting had undergone a protracted mechanisation process, dogged by political unrest, but by 1850 the industry was increasingly being conducted in new factories, whose abundant capacities generated a healthy demand for worsted thread. Alfred diversified his business into other areas too. Contemporary trade directories list a number of companies operating from the mill including, in 1877, A. Donisthorpe & Nephew (described as wool combers, wool staplers, merchants and brokers) and F. Donisthorpe & Son (wool spinners).
By all accounts, Alfred Russel Donisthorpe was a colorful fellow. It's reported he possessed only two patterns of day suit - either black and white check or brown and white check - and that when ordering from his tailor would memorably insist 'the left leg must be turned up and the right leg turned down'. At the height of his career he was a very wealthy man and took great pleasure in a lavish lifestyle (always in rented properties). His shooting parties at Coleorton Hall, near Ashby-de-la-Zouch, were legendary and he was in the habit of ordering wine from London at the rate of ten dozen bottles a time. Nothing pleased him more than emulating the life of landed gentry, and happily, with his undoubted success in business, he was able to afford it.
When he died in 1906, the family business was floated as a limited liability company and his son, Frederick Russel Donisthrpe took over as Managing Director and Chairman. In 1921, Donisthorpe acquired W.M. Storey's business in York Road. This was an important departure for the firm since it allowed diversification (into sewing cotton) just as other worsted spinners were beginning a period of decline. On the wool side, by the 1930's the company had become exclusively suppliers to wholesalers of machine knittings and mendings, etc, with a single valued retail customer in the form of F.W. Woolworth.
The Second World War wrought many horrors in Leicester - but miraculously, the mill survived unscathed. Wool rationing followed and caused the firm real problems. It was soon clear that new markets must be found, and new products. Synthetic fibres were already making serious inroads into the traditional industries supplied by Donisthorpe. Dyeing, sewing threads and hand knitting became the firm's chief concerns.
In 1988 it became part of the French textile group DMC and prospered to become the second largest sewing thread manufacturer in the UK. The company maintained its history of diversification and a distributor of products such as linings and zip fasteners, meeting the changing needs of its customers.
In 2001 the company became part of the Amann Group. With effect from 1st January 2005, the company changed its name to Amann-Donisthorpe UK Limited. The new name coincided with the company's long awaited move to a new site on Sheene Road, on the Gorse Hill Industrial Estate of Beaumont Leys in Leicester, just three miles from its old site in Bath Lane. The new Amann-Donisthorpe site operated as the head office of the Amann Group's international operations in the UK, Eire and Morocco.

Taken after yet another failed attempt in 2007, the chimney was still in place at this time.

Access finally in January 2008!














July 2012 a day after the mill was gutted by fire.

September 2012 during work to seal the remains.