The Elsie Whiteley Innovation Centre hosted an event on Thursday 28th February to bring together a wide range of people to celebrate the success over the last decade.
Elsie Whiteley was born in Halifax and started as a machinist working in a Mill. She was one of the first self-made business women from Halifax and showed an entrepreneurial spirit that is still alive in the centre today. Her career saw a meteoric rise as women started going into the world of work and needed something to wear. One of her 6 mills was on the site of the now named Elsie Whiteley Innovation Centre on Hopwood Lane in Halifax and she sold to thousands of retailers including John Lewis, Fenwick and Selfridge’s. As manufacturing moved out of the UK, the building fell into disrepair. Calderdale Council worked in partnership with Yorkshire Forward using European Development Fund money to redevelop the site. After over £5m of investment, it opened it’s doors to be a home for over 30 creative, digital and innovative companies.
The Elsie Whiteley Innovation Centre is owned by Halifax Opportunities Trust (HOT) and as a social enterprise can put profit from renting out office and meeting room space back into the projects to support the community. Alison Haskins, CEO of the Halifax Opportunities Trust shared many successes over the years been reinvested into community project and we have helped over 30 start up businesses. We truly are a social enterprise and it’s great that we can make a difference and help support our community.”
The celebratory event attracted people from different parts of the community from dignitaries, TheMayor and Mayoress of Calderdale, Elsie Whiteleys Sons, businesses, key partners and people who used to work for Elsie Whiteley. Guests enjoyed looking at the timeline of the Centre, and shared stories prompted by looking at Elsie Whiteley clothes and memorabilia, and watching films showing the restoration project and when it was officially opened by Princess Anne.
Jon Crowther from Calderdale Council who worked on the project redeveloping the site reflected, “looking back, the renovation of The Elsie Whiteley Centre was a massive project and acted as a catalyst to improve the link between Park Ward and the town centre. It’s had a ripple effect, not just creating jobs and a home for businesses, but other positives have come from it too such as making the area safer and attracting other developments.”
Winne Dobson (nee Naylor) explained, “I used to work for Elsie Whiteley as a machinist and she was great to work for. I knew Elsie’s Son’s and have been reminiscing with them and laughing about old times. It’s been lovely to see the clothes on show and look back and share our stories.”
Jeanette Harkness is a Trustee of The Elsie Whiteley Innovation Centre and commented, “this evening has been a great celebration. I am also a tenant here but it was nice to find out more about the history of Elsie Whiteley, the building and meet past Trustees and people connected with the Centre over the years.”The atrium area and café is open to the general public (Monday to Friday) and people are very welcome to come in and have a look at the display and enjoy refreshments at the Café