Over a century ago, Mother Agnes, the founder of our mill, stood on a bridge in the small Irish village of Foxford and contemplated a future with community and craftsmanship at its core. 130 years later, the people of Foxford are the beating heart of our mill. From design to warp to loom, the stories that make up our present are woven through our past. And in honour of our 130th year, we asked the people at the very heart of those stories to share them with us, in their own words.
Foxford Woollen Mills is situated in the picturesque small town of Foxford, County Mayo which is nestled alongside the majestic flow of the mighty River Moy and the magnificent peaks of the Ox and Nephin Mountains.
A historical walk down Providence Road Will bring you to the first sight of Foxford Woollen Mills. The building has been in existence for 130 years in the Mayo town, serving the locals who have become a part of its proud history.
A woman by the name of Agnes Morrogh-Bernard turned her back on her life of privilege and finishing schools, to join the Sisters of Charity. At the age of 50 she came to the place that would be forever changed by her presence — Foxford, Co Mayo.
Our story started in 1892, Mother Agnes, stood on a bridge in Foxford and saw the future. On the surface was a place scarred by poverty and hopelessness. However, she had a vision of possibility and community powered by the River Moy and the ability to think and act differently. Inspired and driven by this vision, she created Foxford Woollen Mills and built the community that surrounds it.
To achieve that vision, she knew that the Foxford community needed to be both brave and inclusive. To this end she partnered with a Tyrone Protestant to build our mill, a partnership that broke convention in the pursuit of something remarkable and lead to generations of Irish people loving and owning Foxford designs.
The well-known Irish political leader Michael Davitt helped Sr. Agnes make a connection with a mill owner in Co Tyrone. A Protestant and Freemason working with a Catholic nun in 19th century Ireland was a rare thing indeed!
The business flourished, and even a savage fire in 1907 wasn’t enough to throw the business off course. 220 people were employed over the first 90 years in the Mill, creating rugs and woven cloth. At one point in our history, the fabric for every Garda uniform in the state rolled off the looms here at the Foxford Mill.
For over a century, the Mill has been the heartbeat of Foxford, and a lifeline for families in periods of high Irish emigration. There was even a buzzer on the top of the Mill’s clock that woke the whole town up Monday to Friday, marking the start and end of the day. Even the farmers ran on “Mill Time”!
As years went on, the new demand for synthetic bedding, such as the duvet, had a disastrous effect on the Woollen Mills. In 1987, the gates were closed and receivers were unfortunately brought in.
The next chapter begins with one of the receivers Joe Queenan, a young accountant and local man. At the time, unemployment in Ireland was at 18%, but the Mill was still a hugely important employer. Joe, with the help of others, shared Mother Agnes’s vision and kept the Mill alive.
At the turn of the new Millennium, Renowned Irish designer Helen McAlinden joined forces with Foxford and started to draw inspiration from the colours of the stunning West of Ireland landscape, which is still a huge influence to this day.
Many famous faces have shared in the history of Foxford, including Michael Collins and our first female President, Mary Robinson. Even James Joyce applied to be a Foxford agent but he didn’t get the job. Foxford is proud to be mentioned in two of Joyce’s great works, Ulysses and Finnegans Wake.
Nowadays, this Mill that was once a much-needed lifeline to many local people has become much more than just a manufacturer. It is now a lifestyle brand, with an innovative Foxford shopping and café experience. Our historical element still weaves through our daily activities. The building itself is a tangible museum.
Our experience now stretches way beyond the once static museum and shop. As soon as you walk into our exclusive stores, you are wrapped in the pure luxury of cashmere, or you can stroll through our gift and home displays. Bedroom displays styled so beautifully with our world class bedlinen, you could almost climb in!
Foxford offers a shopping experience that will not be rivalled anywhere else.
Stroll seamlessly from our store, through to our café and allow yourself time to relax in our little artisan corner of the world. Housed in the site of the original pattern and yarn rooms, our newly refurbished café allows you to take a seat back to the late 19th century while you enjoy seasonal local produce handpicked by our chef. While you sip your barista-poured flat white, you can stroll around and find old pattern books, the Mill manager’s old filing cabinet from 1900 with original labels still adorned, pick up a book from our library, or enjoy the sun beaming into our garden seating area.
What makes the Foxford experience extra special is our digital offering. We take all the history, all the passion, all the craftsmanship, and offer it to you, our friends, 24 hours a day on our website. Whether you are picking up some of our world famous towels or taking time to choose the perfect gift for the special person, we aim to offer you the same service you would expect in our stores.
All of this, along with Foxford’s world renowned customer service and attention to detail, means that you can become part of our story too.