Minor British Institutions: John Smedley

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There isn't very much left of the British textile industry, but we can be truly proud of its few survivors. After more than two centuries, the John Smedley company of Matlock in Derbyshire is still making the most gorgeously comfortable knitwear.

As winter draws on, it might be as well to mention that they make long johns, which ought to be British but in fact have their origins, understandably, in Canada.

Some 225 years ago, Peter Nightingale and John Smedley founded their company, but it was John's son, also John, who was responsible for its long success, built on using only the finest raw materials, employing the best workmanship and the spring water of the region to ensure that magical, soft, light quality, especially in their merino products.

It remains family-owned. Some 98 per cent of the company's production bears the tag "Made in Britain" – and seven out of 10 of their garments go for export. Worthy of celebration.