New generation at the wheel

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In front of Mill House are Richard and Elizabeth Ashford and new owners James Ashford and David Lester.

There is a new generation in charge of running Ashburton business success story Ashford Handicrafts.

James Ashford and his partner David Lester have taken over ownership of the spinning, weaving and textile craft business from James’ parents Richard and Elizabeth Ashford.

Ashford Handicrafts was founded by Richard’s father Walter in 1934 and started producing spinning wheels six years later.

The company has sold over 850,000 spinning wheels and looms over the years and uses New Zealand silver beech sourced from sustainable managed forests.

Ashfords also has a 1200m2 woollen mill in Milton, which employs three staff and produces around 30 tonnes of merino and corriedale wool each year.

Richard Ashford said it was the end of an era for him and his wife, but both would continue as directors.

Homecraft and knitting had seen a strong resurgence in recent months and the future looked bright.

Mr Ashford said he had learnt the business from his father and had been passing on that knowledge to the new owners for a number of months.

His son, a software engineer and his partner, an accountant, had worked in New York, but both were enjoying the business and change of lifestyle in Ashburton.

Ashfords was about high quality, affordable products and excellent service and support, he said.

The Ashford factory off West Street is 3000m2 and the business employs 40 people.

The family also owns the adjacent Mill House and craft village.

Mill House, which includes a large craft shop and new cafe called Mill House Kitchen, is set to reopen soon after extensive restrengthening work. Internal and external wall bracing has been installed, new foundations laid and the space refitted.

A heritage grant from the Ashburton District Council ($7000) and Heritage EQUIP funding ($30,000) has helped part-fund work on the historic property that dates back to 1912.