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Mill workers proudly display coats made at the Petone mills

The Petone Woollen Mills closed in 1968 but during their 80 year history they were a showpiece of industrial New Zealand. Petone blankets were often presented to royalty and shown off at world trade exhibitions. Fabrics, flannel, tweed and knitting yarn were regarded as superior to their English equivalent.

Spectrum's Jack Perkins visits the mill site in the company of former workers and historian Ruth Mansell. The buildings are gone but memories of a tightly knit community and a workforce dominated by women proud of their skills are still vivid. Most of the workforce hailed from Yorkshire and Scotland and a row of workers cottages was known as 'yorkies row'.

In the early years, the women workers demonstrated their ability to organize and their solidarity by successfully striking for better pay and conditions. They had good reason: there were twice as many women as men at the mills but they earned half as much as the men.


North American Indians on the tourist trail outside Petone Woollen Mills