Since 1923, Grenfell has been producing luxury men's outerwear to prime explorers for wherever their adventures may take them. Find out more about our origins and our inspirational founder Sir Wilfred Grenfell, below.

Our Story

In 1923, we produced our first Grenfell Cloth, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Named after pioneering missionary Sir Wilfred Thomason Grenfell (more on him later), Grenfell and its signature Cloth soon became known as the best technical fabric around, with this so-called 'wonder cloth' a must-have item for those in the know, and this love for Grenfell Cloth quite naturally evolved into the clothing label you know today.

In the years since, Grenfell and our famed cloths have adorned the backs of adventurers, sportsmen and discerning gentlemen alike.

Sir Wilfred Grenfell

Born in England, the doctor later knighted as Sir Wilfred Thomason Grenfell brought faith and healing to one of humanity’s bleakest and most inhospitable outposts.

He pioneered medical missions from 1892, serving the Labrador coast of Newfoundland, Canada. He filled his life with adventure, not only in terms of his heroic service but with his Arctic quests too, and the timeless nature of Sir Grenfell's dedication to discovery continues to inspire us today.

Sir Grenfell's life in Labrador and stories of his achievements fired the imagination of the world. The doctor, whose calls took him on single-handed sled journeys over uncharted territories, personally treated 900 patients within two months of his landing in 1892. He inspired similar devotion to a small band of helpers, and won world support for the spiritual and medical needs of 2,000 fishermen and eskimos scattered over the bleak arctic coast. The life and work of Sir Grenfell has inspired many to establish educational facilities and charitable organisations in his honour. To this day, we are committed working with such organisations to ensure the Grenfell name lives on, to inspire a new generation and endeavour to help those in need. Our most recent work has been with the Doctors Without Borders organisation, whose work ethic matches perfectly with that of Sir Grenfell.


How Grenfell Began

Returning from America in 1875, Thomas haythornthwaite became a dairyman and cattle trader in Wavertree, England. In 1908, he opened a weaving mill under the name T.HAYTHORNTHWAITE & SONS LTD. at Meadow Bank Mill in Brierfield with his son, Walter.

The mill prospered and in 1918 it moved to a larger premises at Lodge Mill, Burnley. Here, 750 looms were driven by a twin-cylinder compound steam engine, mostly weaving lining materials. A fateful day came in 1922 when Walter Haythornthwaite met the then Dr Wilfred Grenfell. Haythornthwaite had been struck by Dr Grenfell’s words, “that you could not keep a statue warm by putting a fur coat on it; clothing must be windproof but must breath.” With this, he set about making a fabric dense enough to keep out the wind and weather, but permeable to perspiration.

The task was a difficult one since special yarns had to be spun from the finest Egyptian cotton. Following this, looms had to be specially strengthened, but when the fabric was woven, further problems arose. The fabric was so naturally waterproof, that it proved almost impossible to get the dye into the fabric. At last, the fabric was ready and it was sent out to Labrador in Canada as a gift to Dr Grenfell. This was not a commercial venture at this stage, and it was only when Dr Grenfell wrote to Walter Haythornthwaite, suggesting the cloth should be available to the public then the story began to unfold. Dr Grenfell suggested it be called Grenfell Cloth and the rest, as they say, is history.

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