Cresta Silks Ltd began in WGC in 1929. The company moved from its sectional factory in Broadwater Road to Howardsgate in 1938. Started by Tom Heron it became one of the notable British textile companies of the 20th century. Heron based production on the pursuit of quality and the contribution of the creative artist. When WWII broke out silk was requisitioned for parachutes so Heron switched to wool fabric enabling Cresta to continue. The company had to leave its Howardsgate factory which was used by Murphy Radio for essential war work. Cresta Silks went into Welwyn Stores temporarily and Heron went to the Board of Trade as 'Advisor on Women's and Children's Clothing' where he initiated the famous Utility Clothing scheme for the wartime population. In 1946 the company was able to return to its Howardsgate factory though it would eventually move back to Welwyn Department Stores in 1954.

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Cresta Silks
Audrey Eleanor Owen and Alfred George Buck (known as George) married at the Free Church in WGC on 16th October 1940 (the gentleman standing behind the couple was a friend - another George). Audrey worked at the Welwyn Stores, and while she worked on the China and Glass Dept, she met George, who was in the army and had popped in to buy a tea-pot. This photograph and information was donated to the Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust archive by Audrey & George's daughter Heather C as part of the 'Where Do You Think We Worked?' project.
Cresta Silks
Advertisement for Cresta from Barn Theatre Programme 27th October - 1st November 1947. It lists the Cresta stores in Regent St, New Bond St, Sloane St, Baker St, Brompton Rd, Bournemouth, Bristol, Brighton, WGC and Crysede stores at St Ives, Cambridge & Penzance. Donated to the Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust archive by Joan F.
Cresta Silks
Cresta carrier bag donated to the Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust archive by Jeanette L as part of the 'Where Do You Think We Worked?' project. Jeanette's father was employed by Tom Heron as an accountant having not long arrived in the UK as a refugee as a result of WWII.
Cresta Silks
One of the more unusual donations to the Trust's archive! A pair of Cresta clothes hangers has been given to the Trust by Sheila W who worked as a seamstress at Cresta Silks for 21 years.
Cresta Silks
These pieces of Dior paste jewellery were sold by Cresta when it expanded into selling a range of accessories to go with the clothing sold in its shops. These items date from the 1960s - image kindly donated to the Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust archive by Jeanette L as part of the 'Where Do You Think We Worked?' project
Cresta Silks
Another unusual item that has arrived for inclusion in the exhibition!
Cresta Silks
Cresta shop sign donated to the Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust archive by Jeanette L as part of the 'Where Do You Think We Worked?' project. Jeanette's father was employed by Tom Heron as an accountant having not long arrived in the UK as a refugee as a result of WWII.
Cresta Silks
A Stockman dressmakers mannequin used at Cresta - image donated to the Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust by Jeanette L as part of the 'Where Do You Think We Worked?' project.
Cresta Silks
This photograph is from the Welwyn Garden City Library Local Studies Collection and shows Welwyn Stores from Parkway - in the foreground is a Cresta delivery van. At one point Cresta Silks had to move temporarily into the Welwyn Stores from its Howardsgate building during the war when the government requisitioned the premises for the use of Murphy Radio. In 1946 the company went back to the Howardsgate factory but it would eventually move back to Welwyn Department Stores in 1954.
Cresta Silks
The Cresta shop in the Welwyn Department Store on the corner of Wigmores North. This photograph was taken by Ken Wright on 25th March 1964 and donated to the Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust archive by Ken as part of the 'Where Do You think We Worked?' project.
Cresta Silks
The Cresta shop in the Welwyn Department Store on the corner of Wigmores North. This photograph was taken by Ken Wright on 25th March 1964 and donated to the Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust archive by Ken as part of the 'Where Do You think We Worked?' project.
Cresta Silks
The Cresta factory in Woodfield Road photographed by Ken Wright on 24th June 1977. This image was very kindly donated to the Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust archive by Ken as part of the 'Where Do You Think We Worked?' project.
Cresta Silks
Barn Theatre programme for the 1937-38 Season - Welwyn Drama Club presented 'The First Mrs Fraser' on 4-9th October 1937. This is page seven of the programme and features a full page advertisement for Cresta Silks. Item from The Barn Theatre archive.
Cresta Silks
Cresta Silks factory in Broadwater Road. This image is from the WGC Library Local Studies Collection.
Cresta Silks
Our thanks to Diana E for allowing us to photograph her fabulous Cresta Silks dress which she still wears on occasion. The dress was purchased in the early '70s and whilst Diana didn't recall the price she did say 'it was not cheap and leant more towards expensive but I did not regard it as wildly extravagant.'
Cresta Silks
This section of one of Louis de Soissons' town plans for WGC's industrial area shows the location of Cresta Silks original factory in Broadwater Road (yellow highlighted number 32) and the later purpose built factory in Howardsgate (yellow highlighted number 86).
Cresta Silks
Cresta Silks Factory & Showroom in Howardsgate. Image from WGC Library Local Studies Collection.
Cresta Silks
Cresta Silks factory and showroom in Howardsgate - photographed during the arrival of evacuees during WWII. This image is from WGC Library Local Studies Collection.
Cresta Silks
Cresta Silks Broadwater Road factory interior - showing staff busy at work. Seated nearest the camera are seamstresses sewing by hand, standing on the right is a cutter and behind her using the work table parallel to the windows the seamstresses are machine stitching.This image is from the WGC Library Local Studies Collection.
Cresta Silks

Cresta Silks Ltd invoice dated 20th September 1940 for Audrey Owen's wedding outfit - a coat & dress which came to a total of £12. This item was donated to the Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust archive by Audrey's daughter Heather C as part of the 'Where Do You Think We Worked?' project.

Cresta Silks
Cresta Silks Ltd - February 1975 - last day. Donated to the Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust archive by Brenda as part of the 'Where Do You Think We Worked?' project.
Cresta Silks
Cresta Silks Ltd headed stationery - letter of reference dated 21st Feb 1975 signed by A.Feldman production manager. Cresta Silks were closing all its manufacturing units and making workers redundant. Donated to the Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust archive by Brenda as part of the 'Where Do You Think We Worked?' project.
Cresta Silks
Cresta Silks - Miss Ruth Downing was in charge of buying materials and related issues. Donated to the Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust archive by Lilian H as part of the 'Where Do You Think We Worked?' project.
Cresta Silks
Cresta Silks dress and hat both owned by Nora who kindly allowed us to photograph these items for the Trust's archive. When bought the dress was much shorter in length as was the fashion then but Nora had it altered and the extra length was added by reducing the amount of fabric in the originally very wide sleeves. As you can see Nora still wears the dress on occasion today!
Cresta Silks

This beautiful silk scarf was made from a Cresta Silks remnant and kindly donated to the Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust archive during the recent WGC Library 'drop in' event on 1st Feb 2014, organised to gain volunteers and new artefacts for the 'Where Do You Think We Worked?' project.

Cresta Silks

Cresta Silks fabric samples donated to the Trust by Mary P.

Cresta Silks
Cresta Silks scarf in original bag. Produced for Queen Elizabeth Silver Jubilee from a design by Oliver Messel. Messel's original design was created for the Queen's Coronation in 1953 and incorporated gold leaf. This Silver Jubilee version has silver coloured highlights and was given as a gift by Cresta to 'special customers'. Donated to the Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust archive by Jeanette L whose father was employed by Tom Heron as an accountant having not long arrived in the UK as a refugee as a result of WWII.
Cresta Silks
Cresta Silks scarf produced for Queen Elizabeth Silver Jubilee from a design by Oliver Messel. Messel's original design was created for the Queen's Coronation in 1953 and incorporated gold leaf. This Silver Jubilee version has silver coloured highlights and was given as a gift by Cresta to 'special customers'. Donated to the Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust archive by Jeanette L whose father was employed by Tom Heron as an accountant having not long arrived in the UK as a refugee as a result of WWII.
Cresta Silks
Cresta Silks - staff at the back of Welwyn Stores mid 50s (possibly setting off on a staff outing). Photograph donated to the Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust archive by Lilian H as part of the 'Where Do You Think We Worked?' project.
Cresta Silks
Cresta Silks - staff Xmas 'do' c-late 1940s-early 50s. Lady in centre is Ruth Downing. Photograph donated to the Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust archive by Lilian H as part of the 'Where Do You Think We Worked?' project.
Cresta Silks
Cresta Silks - staff Xmas party. 5th from left is Doreen Allan. Photograph donated to the Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust archive by Lilian H as part of the 'Where Do You Think We Worked?' project.
Cresta Silks
Cresta Silks - staff Xmas lunch in late 1960s. Photograph donated to the Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust archive by Lilian H as part of the 'Where Do You Think We Worked?' project.
Cresta Silks
Cresta Silks fabric designed by Lana MacKinnon dated 1947. Lana's son Nick Gilmour kindly sent this image of two colour swatches to the Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust archive as part of the 'Where Do You Think We Worked?' project.
Cresta Silks
Cresta Silks fabric 'Inez' designed by Lana MacKinnon dated 1947. Lana MacKinnon studied at Edinburgh College of Art, graduating in 1945, and then gained a scholarship to travel to Sweden and France to further develop her skills in textile design. Lana's work was included in the V&A post-war exhibition, Britain Can Make It. This brought her to the attention of several distinguished fashion houses, including Cresta Silks. Lana's son Nick Gilmour kindly sent this image of Lana's 'Inez' fabric shown draped on the front mannequin to the Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust archive as part of the 'Where Do You Think We Worked?' project.
Cresta Silks

Cresta Silks fabric 'Inez' designed by Lana MacKinnon. In the autumn of 1947, the Victoria & Albert Museum purchased four lengths of fabric (each measuring two yards) from Cresta Silks Limited, including one two yard length designed by Lana MacKinnon. The design 'Inez' was hand block printed onto pure silk. The two yards cost £4.1.0d. The V&A Circulation Department, which collected historic and contemporary textiles circulated the items to Art Schools and Colleges throughout the country to inspire students. Peter Floud, Keeper of the Circulation Department visited Cresta Silks and selected designs by Graham Sutherland, Patrick Heron and Mary Duncan, as well as Lana MacKinnon. Lana's son Nick Gilmour kindly sent this image of Lana's 'Inez' fabric colour swatches to the Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust archive as part of the 'Where Do You Think We Worked?' project.

Cresta Silks
Cresta Silks fabric 'Squiggle & Stripe' design by Lana MacKinnon. Lana's son Nick Gilmour kindly sent this image of Lana's 'Squiggle & Stripe' fabric colour swatches to the Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust archive as part of the 'Where Do You Think We Worked?' project.
Cresta Silks
Cresta Silks fabric designed by Lana MacKinnon dated 1947. Lana MacKinnon studied at Edinburgh College of Art, graduating in 1945, and then gained a scholarship to travel to Sweden and France to further develop her skills in textile design. Lana's work was included in the V&A post-war exhibition, Britain Can Make It. This brought her to the attention of several distinguished fashion houses, including Cresta Silks. Lana's son Nick Gilmour kindly sent this image to the Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust archive as part of the 'Where Do You Think We Worked?' project.
Cresta Silks
Anna Lauchlana Mackinnon was born on 19 June 1924 in Edinburgh. She was enrolled in James Gillespie's High School in 1933. In 1941 Lana won a place at Edinburgh College of Art, graduating in 1945 she was then awarded a scholarship to travel to Sweden and France to further develop her skills in textile design. Cresta Silks Ltd chose to employ Lana on the strength of her final degree show in 1945. The firm championed British artists of the calibre of Paul Nash, Edward McKnight Kauffer and Patrick Heron (son of Cresta Silks founder Tom Heron), printing their designs onto dress and soft furnishing fabrics. In 1946, aged 22, Lana was selected to contribute to 'Britain Can Make It', an exhibition held at the Victoria and Albert Museum that gave the 1.5m visitors a idea of what future furniture, tableware and textiles might look like. Three of Lana's silk crepe and cotton pique dress fabrics and two cotton upholstery fabrics were exhibited. This image was kindly sent to the Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust archive by Nick Gilmour as part of the 'Where Do You Think We Worked?' project.
Cresta Silks
15th Annual Welwyn Drama Festival programme 14-19th June 1948 at the Welwyn Theatre. Cover design by Stanley Herbert. Page 12 Cresta advertisement. Donated to the Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust archive by Robert G.
Cresta Silks
16th Annual Welwyn Drama Festival programme 13-18th June 1949. Cover design by Stanley Herbert. Page 12 Cresta advertisement. Donated to the Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust archive by Robert G.
Cresta Silks
18th Annual Welwyn Drama Festival programme 4-9th June 1953. Cover design by Stanley Herbert. Page 16 Cresta advertisement promoting use of hand-block prints and Patrick Heron 'Archipelago' design. Donated to the Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust archive by Robert G.
Cresta Silks
19th Annual Welwyn Drama Festival programme 16th-21st June 1952 held at Welwyn Theatre. Cover design by Stanley Herbert. Page 8 Cresta advertisement. Donated to the Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust archive by Robert G.
Cresta Silks
20th Annual Welwyn Drama Festival programme 29th June-4th July 1953 held at Welwyn Theatre. Page 2 Cresta advertisement detailing an Oliver Messel designed fabric. Donated to the Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust archive by Robert G.
Cresta Silks
21st Annual Welwyn Drama Festival programme 14-19 June 1954 held at Welwyn Theatre. Page 11 Cresta advertisement. Donated to the Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust archive by Robert G.
Cresta Silks
Welwyn Times - dated 18th January 1946 - article on page one stating that Cresta Silks Ltd would soon be moving back in their Howardsgate factory having been temporarily housed in the Welwyn Stores. The Howardsgate factory had been occupied since 1941 by Murphy Radio which required additional space due to the war effort.
 
 
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