Mitre Furnishing Group has been in business since 1946 when its founder, John Lawrence hit on the idea of distributing butter muslin to department stores in London. Soon the company was dealing with retail shops across the UK and broadening its product range to include all types of household textiles.

By the 1970s, several companies approached Mitre with a view to merge. Among these firms were JK Crawford & Co and D Stewart (Textiles)—both well established since the turn of the century. They provided Mitre with customers in the school, hotel, hospital and nursing home sectors, further expanding the company’s product base.

In the late 1980s, John Foster & Co was acquired. The purchase brought with it two Royal Warrants and a trade in furnishing fabrics. John Foster has since branched out into making made-to-measure curtains and furnishings for Mitre’s existing customers in the hotel and college sector.

Mitre currently supplies 90% of its stock to the contract rental markets and 10% to retail outlets.

For 1998 there is a rapid expansion campaign and the team behind this bold plan is headed by director Peter Lawrence, his sister and company secretary, Susan Thomas and his brother Anthony, its financial director. Also in the “family” is purchasing director Malcolm Jones. A new face is sales director Maurice Price, former sales director at Swan Paper Mill and whose job will now be to grow Mitre’s business and image within the textile rental business.

When we met, Mr Lawrence was in the midst of developing a promotional drive for Mitre’s Rhodium and Platinum tablecloths. The former is an ivy leaf spun polyester tablecloth that has the feel of cotton. The fabric is manufactured by Johnston Industries in Alabama, US. Platinum is a plain version of Rhodium. Both are manufactured in the same manner as high quality cotton fabrics where the raw fibre is spun into yarn, woven into fabric and dyed or/finished for conversion into finished goods.

The spun yarn allows for easier moisture penetration, which promotes absorbency and stain removal.

Due to its less “hairy” construction, piling is eliminated and a soft, cotton-like handle is achieved.

Once it is woven into a two-faced fabric, with no front or back, it is put through a specially formulated chemical finishing process that adds stain release characteristics.

Only the highest quality and performing dyestuffs are used in the dyeing process. This dye adds to the colour-fastness of the fabric when subjected to the rigours of commercial laundering processing.

The fibres are woven into a heavyweight fabric weighing 230gsm. This compares with other types of 100% polyester cloth at 200gsm and cotton damask at 190-220gsm.

Mitre has been at its Tolworth, Surrey site for five years. The superb 36 000 sq ft glass building offers an elegant showcase for the company’s range of products. Thanks to its acquisitions over the years of around ten other companies, its products range from bathrobes and towels, through to curtains, bedspreads, duvets, tablecloths and all manner of flatwork.

One hundred people now work for the company with a hemming unit in Manchester and a curtain factory in Knaphill.

Most of Mitre’s fabrics are imported—woven in the US, South America, and the Far East.