Sunspel’s founder Thomas Hill was an innovator and a pioneer and we owe him a great deal. His singular vision and values are still central to the way we operate today.
Thomas Arthur Hill was an industrialist and fabric pioneer born in c.1823. We don’t know a great deal about Hill’s early life though we know he lived and worked in Nottingham which in the mid-nineteenth century was the world capital of the lace and hosiery industry. As the industrial revolution took hold, production rapidly increased and factories were springing up across the city producing textiles, underwear and lace to be exported around the world.
The city was booming and Hill was right in the middle of it. He became the managing partner of one of Nottingham’s most renowned hosiery manufacturers, I. & R. Morley. The company was run by Samuel Morley at the time, a renowned abolitionist, philanthropist and MP. Morley put Hill in charge of the firm’s Nottingham branch.
It was during this time that steam powered machinery began to arrive in the city, revolutionising the way factories worked. Hill was one of the early pioneers, introducing some of the city’s first steam powered machines. Inspired by Samuel Morley’s values, Hill also introduced regular working hours and standard wages across his Nottingham factories.
At the same time, Hill also began his own company, Thomas A. Hill Ltd. Operating from a large factory on Castle Gate, Nottingham, it was founded to make exceptionally high-quality underwear from the world’s finest cashmere, merino wool, silk and cotton. Hill operated modern machinery and excellent working conditions, understanding long before it was conventional that not only was it morally important to treat employees well but it also led to higher quality products.
In 1908, the company began making some of the world’s first T-shirts. They were made from Sea Island cotton which was the world’s finest and rarest cotton and like all his products they were exceptionally high quality and works of real craftsmanship.
Hill died in 1909 passing the company on to his son. 26 years later the firm changed its name to Sunspel and in 2005 Hill’s great-grandson, Peter passed the company on to Nick Brooke. Despite living over a century ago, Hill’s ethics and values of craftsmanship and innovation are still central to the business. We still treat our employees well and ensure all our partners do, we still use the finest natural materials and develop innovative products and fabrics, and we still craft comfortable, timeless, and exceptionally high-quality, garments. In short, we owe Thomas Hill a lot.