Trago Mills

Trago Mills (often known simply as Trago) is a chain of four department stores in south Cornwall and south Devon in England, and South Wales. It owns a site with an amusement park and some independent businesses, adjoining the store near Newton Abbot.

Trago Mills
FounderMike Robertson
Number of locations
4 (Falmouth, Liskeard, Newton Abbot, Merthyr Tydfil)
Area served
South West England and southern Wales
OwnerBruce Robertson
Newton Abbot store.

Three are in town outskirts: Liskeard in Cornwall; Newton Abbot in Devon, and Merthyr Tydfil in Wales. Another is in Falmouth, Cornwall. The company emphasises cheapness and variety of stock.


The chain was established by businessman Mike Robertson who bought the Liskeard site in the early 1960s after leaving a career in the RAF.[citation needed]


The company's buildings at Liskeard and Newton Abbot were designed by Charles Hunt of St Neot, Liskeard, whom they appointed in 1978. The buildings have a castle-inspired profile, with white towers and black-framed windows.

Trago also experimented with smaller stores, such as a 'Trago Mini Mart'.


Some of the political statues outside the Liskeard store

The first Trago Mills store was at Liskeard and started life as a small shed, selling items founder Mike Robertson had bought on trips to larger towns some distance away. The current Liskeard store, five miles west of the town just off the A38, has several acres of parkland and lakes, with several other local businesses on the site. There are statues at the entrance. One of them is of Attorney General Sir Michael Havers QC. MP, reciting

Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

— proverb, from Matthew ch7 v1-5 The Mote and the Beam (or the Speck and the Plank)


Newton AbbotEdit

The Newton Abbot site is the largest of the four and covers over 100 acres (0.4 km2) of land. It has several independent businesses. A garden centre, the largest in the south west,[1] was opened on the site in 2009,[2] followed in 2010 by a new restaurant.[3]

In October 2004, a large fire broke out in the main building of the branch.[4] Thirty fire appliances and over 200 fire fighters tackled the blaze, the largest to occur in Devon for several years. Buildings involved were completely rebuilt.

In summer 2016, Trago2Clear, a clearance outlet for all Trago products closed. On 28 September 2016, demolition took place of the Old Clearance Shed and former Sarah's Pantry Cafe. A new £3 million DIY and Trade centre opened in summer 2017.[5]

Trago Family Fun ParkEdit

Trago Family Fun Park
LocationTrago Mills, Newton Abbot, Devon, England
Coordinates50°33′25″N 3°39′58″W / 50.557°N 3.666°W / 50.557; -3.666Coordinates: 50°33′25″N 3°39′58″W / 50.557°N 3.666°W / 50.557; -3.666
OwnerTrago Mills
Operating seasonall year

The Newton Abbot store has a leisure park attached, called the Trago Family Fun Park. This was opened shortly after the construction of the permanent store buildings and now covers over 100 acres (0.40 km2). Its features are:

  • Bickington Steam Railway, a 10¼-inch gauge railway that runs from the centre of the leisure park to the front car park, loops round three lakes, then returns to the 'Leisure Central' station.
  • The OO gauge Trago Mills Model Railway which was completed in 1988 after one year of construction by a team of 18 people. Measuring 88 by 14 feet (26.8 by 4.3 m), at the time of its completion it was the largest model railway in the UK.
  • Go-karts, an indoor skate rink, trawler boats, speedboats, Swan pedal-boats, bumper boats, a shooting gallery, remote-control trucks and boats, picnic area and an animal park.
  • By the park are small shops, cafés and restaurants. Local produce includes fish and chips and fresh fudge.


The Falmouth store, near the National Maritime Museum Cornwall, is the smallest of the four.

Merthyr TydfilEdit

After owning a former factory site in Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales for nearly a decade, work began on the new shopping centre in autumn 2016. The site's multi-million pound store has 17 small towers. The store opened in April 2018.[6]

Controversies and legal disputesEdit

Statues of local political figures and officials the owner believed were opposed to his development "welcome" shoppers to the Liskeard store. One source of opposition may have been that planning permission did not always precede building work[citation needed]

Robertson's local newspaper advertisements resulted in three newspapers carrying the adverts being successfully sued for libel by Sir Edward Heath,[7] when some of his comments became highly personalised.

Robertson placed advertisements in the 1980s and 1990s calling for the castration of gay men. The United Kingdom Advertising Standards Authority ruled against Trago Mills and demanded the withdrawal of all advertisements in 1998.[8][9] Trago still occasionally runs inflammatory copy within their ads, one entitled "For any cash strapped Moslems reading this…" appeared in the Falmouth Packet in 2009 to promote a book by senior UKIP official David Challice.[10]

With his son and successor, Bruce, Robertson supported Eurosceptic political parties, most recently the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). Robertson threatened to refuse to stop using imperial measures in his stores, attributing UK metricisation to the European Union (Trago today sells goods in metric quantities, sometimes with imperial equivalents, in line with the law).[11] He remains opposed to speculative immigration from Eastern Europeans. Robertson supports job-specific immigration, more liberally than some in UKIP.[12][13] In January 2007, the Mid Devon Star suggested this was hypocritical, as his large Newton Abbot site employed around 30 Polish people.[14]

In September 2011, the company was fined £199,588 after admitting five breaches of the Environmental Protection Act. This followed the discovery of several thousand tonnes of dumped waste, including asbestos, at its Newton Abbot and Liskeard sites.[15] The fine was reduced to £65,000 in January 2012, after an Exeter Crown Court judge accepted that Trago Mills had paid nearly £500,000 in clean-up costs.[16]

In 2014, Trago Mills was featured on BBC's Fake Britain, after local trading standards discovered fake top-brand shampoo on sale in store. Trago management said that the product had been purchased from a reliable source and they had worked closely with local trading standards to ensure that the product was taken off sale once it had been identified as a fake.

In June 2018, following the opening of the company's store in Merthyr Tydfil, some locals threatened to boycott the shop after Robertson criticised bilingual education and described bilingual English and Welsh signage as "visual clutter".[17]

Trago Mills Ltd (Aircraft Division)Edit

The FLS Sprint seen here at the fly-in at Bodmin Airfield, 3 May 2008.

In the early 1980s, Trago Mills elected to design and build its own aircraft that could be sold to the British military as a trainer to replace the then ageing "Bulldog" fleet. The result was the Trago Mills SAH-1, which first flew on 23 August 1983. Passed over by the armed forces, the rights to the design have since changed hands several times, the latest version being the FLS Sprint.


  1. ^ "Trago Mills Garden Park Development". WBM Groundworks Ltd. Archived from the original on 18 January 2011. Retrieved 24 August 2012.
  2. ^ "Diarmuid opens Trago's new garden centre". This is Devon. 2 May 2009. Archived from the original on 5 May 2013. Retrieved 24 August 2012.
  3. ^ "Trago Mills Newton Abbot Restaurant". WBM Groundworks Ltd. Archived from the original on 10 June 2015. Retrieved 24 August 2012.
  4. ^ "Fire breaks out at Devon shopping village". BBC. 6 October 2004. Retrieved 24 September 2009.
  5. ^ Ltd, Insider Media. "Trago Mills completes £3.5m Newton Abbott project". Insider Media Ltd. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
  6. ^ "Trago Mills Merthyr Development". Trago Mills. Retrieved 20 January 2017.
  7. ^ "Store boss learns price of talking tripe". The Independent. 22 September 1996. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
  8. ^ "BBC News | UK | Court battle over 'offensive' ad rants". Retrieved 30 November 2017.
  9. ^ "High Court rules in ASA's favour as editorial-ad distinction blurs". campaign. 12 November 1999. Retrieved 14 August 2015.
  10. ^ "ENGAGE Exclusive: Trago Mills advert openly promotes anti-Muslim Prejudice - Muslim Engagement and Development". Muslim Engagement and Development. 30 January 2009. Retrieved 30 November 2017.
  11. ^ Bowen, David (28 January 1996). "Customers rally to save the pukka tailor of Piccadilly". The Independent. UK. Retrieved 24 September 2009.
  12. ^ "Trago to accept plastic". Mid Devon Star News. 12 August 2001. Retrieved 24 September 2009.[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ "Court battle over "offensive" ad rants". BBC. 4 November 1999. Retrieved 24 September 2009.
  14. ^ Hencke, David (6 January 2007). "Anti-European boss criticised for 'hypocrisy' over Polish staff". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved 23 February 2007.
  15. ^ "Trago Mills fined £200,000 for Devon and Cornwall waste dump". BBC. 28 September 2011. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  16. ^ "Trago Mills fine for Devon and Cornwall dumping is cut". BBC. 27 January 2012. Retrieved 4 January 2012.
  17. ^ "Trago Mills boss's Welsh language comments have people turning their back on the store". Wales Online. 29 June 2018. Retrieved 29 June 2018.

External linksEdit