Wolsey (clothing)

Wolsey is a heritage British clothing brand founded in 1755, making it one of the oldest existing textile companies in the world. The brand sells men's clothing and accessories, including a range of knitwear, socks, underwear and scarves. The company holds a Royal Warrant and is based in Leicester, England, where it was originally established.[1] The company name, adopted in 1920 when R Walker & Sons merged with W Tyler and Sons, is a reference to Cardinal Wolsey. 'Wolsey' is a registered trademark.[2]

FounderHenry Wood
Area served
Key people
Fergus Patterson
OwnerJohn Hargreaves


Celebrating the 250th anniversary

The earliest records relating to the Wolsey business show that Henry Wood was trading in Leicester as a hosier in 1744. Several years later, in 1748 he went into partnership with a man named Job Middleton and they were later joined by John Wrightman in 1750.

Around 1755 Henry Wood dissolved the partnership as he wished to start his own business. Wood died in 1768 and the business was carried on by his widow, and later by his sons and grandsons, under the name of Ann Wood & Sons. In 1842, after the retirement of the last Wood family member, the name was changed to R Walker & Sons.

In 1910 the company built a factory at Abbey Meadows.[3] In 1920, R Walker & Sons merged with W Tyler and Sons. As the business was situated near to Leicester Abbey, the burial place of Cardinal Wolsey, the business established the trading name of 'Wolsey' and as such became one of the first brand names. The company began to trade directly with retailers rather than through a wholesale network, the standard business pattern at the time. It also employed travelling salesmen to service retail accounts and advertised its products across the world. As a result, Wolsey became a household name and in 1935 the Company was awarded its first Royal Warrant.

In the 1960s the company was forced to seek a merger as a result of massive changes in the retail world and became part of Courtaulds. After leaving the Courtauld group, the company was taken over by the Matalan group in 2002.[4] In 2004 the company left the Abbey Meadows site.[3] Fergus Patterson was appointed managing director in January 2009.[5] In 2017 the company left Leicester entirely.[3]


The company mainly manufactures menswear clothing such as underwear, socks, knitwear and shirts.[5]


  1. ^ "WOLSEY LTD". www.rwha.co.uk. Retrieved 28 June 2009.
  2. ^ Room, Adrian (1982). Dictionary of trade name origins - Google Books. ISBN 9780710201744. Retrieved 28 June 2009.
  3. ^ a b c Pegden, Tom (23 July 2017). "Textiles giant Wolsey leaving Leicester after 250 years in the city". Leicester Mercury. Retrieved 9 May 2023. 
  4. ^ Cope, Nigel (25 April 2002). "Matalan to make men's underwear in Wolsey deal - Business News, Business - The Independent". London: www.independent.co.uk. Archived from the original on 1 December 2011. Retrieved 28 June 2009.
  5. ^ a b "Wolsey role for Patterson". www.drapersonline.com. 13 February 2009. Retrieved 28 June 2009.

Further reading Bramwell G Rudd COURTAULDS and the HOSIERY & KNITWEAR INDUSTRY (Carnegie Publishing Ltd) (2014, ISBN softback 978-1-905472-06-2, hardback 978-1-905472-18-5)

External linksEdit