Solva Woollen Mill, established in 1907, claims to be the oldest working woollen mill in Pembrokeshire but Tregwynt Woollen Mill, not far up the coast, has been run by the Griffiths family since 1912 and is a close contender. What’s not in dispute is that they are both wonderfully interesting places to visit: tiny enterprises offering beautiful woollen goods, lovely shops, welcoming staff and a showpiece for industry in rural Wales. Incidentally they both have cafes with good food, where you can think about what to buy or admire what you have already bought.
What makes Solva particularly interesting is its unusual specialisation in weaving flat rugs and runners. I love the richness of the fabrics and the plainness of the designs with the herringbone patterns that are a felicitous reminder of the importance of the herring catch to the local coastal economies.
The mill also has an interesting, well documented display of old weaving machinery and an area where you can watch the weaving as it happens. It’s noisy, dusty and mesmerising.
The mill will design to individual requirements. If you want them to use your own sheep’s wool, take it along. If you’ve got your own design in mind they’ll probably be able to accommodate it. There is an example of their work in Philadelphia at the site of The Liberty Bell and, closer to home, the wonderful Landmark Trust uses their rugs in their tireless search for historical and cultural authenticity when furnishing their buildings.