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It is here, in the fertile fields of the Usk Valley, that the Chilcott story begins. Long-time friends and fellow-residents of the valley, Amelia Fawcett and Susie Suter, shared a common desire to reinvigorate the rural economy of the region. For many years Amelia had made her home on a farm high up in the Brecon Beacons. The farm and its surrounding acres of open fields were picture postcard beautiful and full of rustic charm – a lovely home for certain – but it had been many years since the lands had been tilled and the farm had paid its way. Could this bucolic farmstead once more be at the heart of a thriving craft-based economy?
Amelia and Susie began investigating the potential of a number of specialist crops. For a while they considered cultivating a vineyard. Eventually, however, they decided that lavender would best suit the local climate and soil quality. Moreover, lavender – an infinitely versatile plant – would offer lots of potential end products beyond a single cash crop. Not everyone shared their optimism. When professional gardener Charlotte Gamman was approached and asked to cultivate lavender on the south-facing slopes of Amelia’s farm, she was cautious to say the least: “I have since eaten a lot of humble pie” admits Charlotte. “I was very uncertain that it would grow.” But how it has grown! The fields around our workshops in the Usk Valley now rival farms in the South of France for the abundance and quality of their lavender.
With the first crop growing well, Amelia and Susie set their minds to putting the lavender to good use. In particular, they wanted the lavender to be a component of a product (or products) that would really breathe new life into traditional rural crafts. Was it possible, they wondered, to do something creative and special with wool – once the staple raw material of Britain’s booming textile industry. The answer was an emphatic “Yes”. After many evenings spent around the hearth at Amelia’s hillside farm, a wish-list of high-quality 100% woollen products was drawn up: all to be scented with the relaxing aroma of lavender.
A name was needed for this new range of woollen goods and they decided upon the maiden name of Amelia’s mother – ‘Chilcott’. “This is an old family name and also my middle name” adds Amelia, “and I really thought it was a nice way of tipping the brim to my mother.” So it was that in 2013 Amelia, Susie and Charlotte joined forces to form Chilcott UK. Three then quickly became four when textile designer Sarah Frost was invited to join the team. For Sarah the job is in the blood: three generations of her family have been textile designers for the world famous Axminster Carpets. “I jumped aboard!” recalls Sarah, “I have a passion for keeping artisan crafts alive and thriving and I really liked the idea of creating a truly British brand of scented woollen products.”
With our lavender gardens flourishing and with an exciting set of designs on the drawing board, the next step was to gather together the skilled artisans that could dye, spin and weave a range of 100% British made woollen goods. First on board were a third generation spinning company located in what was once the beating heart of the British textile industry, the Yorkshire Dales. Closer to home, a small family run mill in the Black Mountains of mid-Wales was brought into the fold to weave the dyed and spun wool. Most recently, a renowned wood sculptor from the Usk Valley and a family-run business of label weavers in Pembrokeshire have been added to Chilcott’s small coterie of expert artisans.
The first creation to emerge from our workshops in the Usk Valley was the super-soft and lightweight ‘Usk’ range of blankets, cushions and hot water bottles; made from 100% merino wool and scented with our very own delightfully fragranced Chilcott lavender. Then came the ‘Britannia’ range; the realisation of our long held desire to create a range of luxury woollen goods from the softest 100% British lambswool, and likewise infused with the relaxing aroma of our own Chilcott lavender. Soon after we were able to add our exclusive ‘Lune Collection’ with our limited edition ‘Royal Blanket’; created to celebrate the 90th birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Reflecting Amelia’s love of black Labradors, an impressive array of accessories for man’s (and woman’s) best friend is now being added to the Chilcott range; including 100% wool dog blankets and beds and a selection of high-quality coats and dog grooming products.
And that just about brings our story up to date. Today, Chilcott UK is proud to be supporting and promoting traditional rural crafts in an ethical and sustainable manner, designing and manufacturing products that are 100% British made and (where ever possible) made from 100% British wool. We have become one of the youngest companies to receive the prestigious Platinum Award from the British Wool Marketing Board. We are also delighted to have secured a place for our ‘Britannia’ blanket in the coveted Interiors Collection at The Prince of Wales’s Campaign for Wool’s 5th anniversary celebrations.
We are continuing to expand our lavender gardens with cuttings grown from our own stock and have recently begun trials with new plants, including rosemary, oregano and peppermint. So expect some exciting additions to the Chilcott range in the very near future.
Please take a browse around our online shop. From time-to-time we release limited edition specials, so please remember to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. This is also a great way to keep in touch with the changing seasons here at our workshops in the beautiful Usk Valley.
Amelia, Charlotte, Sarah and Susie
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