Mark’s History: AW Hainsworth, the Battle of Waterloo and the Royal Air Force

Hainsworth Stanningley
Historic: AW Hainsworth at Stanningley bottom. Photo: Chris Allen Used under CC Licence

The Hainsworth cloth textile company was founded in 1783 by Abimelech Hainsworth and still operates one of the oldest mills in the country, Spring Valley Mills in Stanningley, writes Mark Stevenson.

hainsworth stanningley 2
Historic: Hainsworth in Stanningley. Photo: Mark Stevenson

The company is now known as AW Hainsworth & Sons Ltd. It has a long history of supplying the military, with uniforms from the ‘thin red line’ scarlet coats worn at the Battle of Waterloo (said to be red to hide the blood of the injured).

With help from Yorkshire College, Hainsworth developed Khaki Serge and in 1899 received its first orders from the military. Whilst other mills produced this fabric Hainsworth remain the inventors and sole producers of the genuine article.


In 1918, when the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service merged to form the Royal Air Force, a new uniform was needed. Hainsworth was asked to supply this.

As luck would have it they had a load of blue cloth that the Tsar of Russia had ordered for his Cossacks.

The war and the Russian Revolution stopped this order from been delivered and for the past 100 years, they have been providing the RAF with the blue material for their uniforms.

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