Cresta Silks

founded by Tom Heron

By Llinos Thomas

interior of Cresta Silk Factory
Welwyn Garden City Library

In 1929 Tom Heron, the father of the artist Patrick Heron, moved from St Ives to Welwyn Garden City and launched Cresta Silks in Broadwater Road.


The architect Wells Coates began his career when Tom commissioned him to design shops in London, Bournemouth, Bromley and Brighton. The work included the Cresta lettering itself. Tom also approached young artists to design fabrics for his new enterprise, such as the artists Paul Nash and Cedric Morris.


The company designed clothes for women and textiles. The curtains for the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, Stratford upon Avon were designed by Cresta and on the Mount Everest ascent of 1939, one of the climbers was said to have worn Cresta pyjamas under his woollen garments.

The company

The company left Broadwater Road in 1938, moving to a site adjacent to Howardsgate and again in 1954 the business moved into the Welwyn Department Stores. Debenhams then bought the company in 1957 before Cresta Silk finally ceased trading in 1980.

This page was added on 11/05/2009.

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  • Please does Valerie Harding know anything more about the shop in Falmouth? I have a friend who bought her wedding dress there. A local group based in St Ives is trying to document more information on the work of Cryséde and Cresta. There was a Cresta factory in Hayle. Many thanks.

    By Suzanne Trythall (30/03/2023)
  • My grandfather, Dr LTM Gray was involved with Tom Heron and Ebenezer Howard in the founding of WGC and Cresta. I still have the dress made for me for the Boat Race Ball I went to the night I got engaged in 1962. It is lined with Vilene and cost me a month’s wages. I was earning £10 a week!! My daughter wore it for her 21st birthday party. I can only find a note of my measurements in the underskirt, no name of the dressmaker. 24 ½ ” waist!! My mother and her sisters used to have lots of Cresta garments. Beautifully made with generous seams.

    By Carolyn Horton (24/07/2020)
  • Tom Heron lived at 38 Brockswood Lane, Welwyn Garden City. My parents bought their house in 1980. They used to take Tom and his wife to St Francis church in Parkway every Sunday morning and they were given first refusal of their house when they moved away.

    By Tim Hill (06/03/2020)
  • How important… research & curiosity is!! My LO💜E of textile[ I am a designer of textile]. Just blows me away! The beauty is endless! •💜🌻🙏🏽• Expression of Gratitude

    By Robert EarL Paige (20/06/2019)
  • I started work at Cresta silks aged 15 in 1961.I worked as a machinist on A bench .Mrs Crafer was the machinist’s supervisor, and Mr Feldman was the manager.Mrs Crafer was a very good supervisor, and very patient with the new recruits. I was there until 1964 ,and I still sew. I remember the workroom was like an oven in the summer, and a veritable icebox in the winter. I enjoyed the work. Unlike other establishments we made the whole garment, which came cut out ,and tied up with a piece of fabric. We had a made up version of the garment to be made up as a guide. Every seam had to be pressed before another seam was attatched. the seam allowances were an inch for side seams, threequarters for sleeve seams, half an inch for arm hole seams,and a quarter inch for neck facing seams. You would get the garment back to rectify if you didn’t stitch the correct seams. Each garment had a docket stiched into it ,and you had to write your name on the inside of it! I have very fond memories of Cresta!

    By Pamela Marshall nee Harmsworth (15/04/2019)
  • I had several Cresta dresses, coats, suits and coats in the 1970’s. I wish I had kept them. Lovely style and designs would not be out of place. The shop I bought them from was in Falmouth, Cornwall. I have a few photographs taken wearing some of the clothes but sadly not all. Why do we not photograph our clothes more often? Pleased to have found this website. Is there to be a catalogue of the exhibition. Thank you.

    By VALERIE HARDING (15/03/2019)
  • I have a beautiful 1930 Cresta Silk velvet blouse with the coveted “lightening” plastic zipper used by Schiaparelli! Would love more
    Info on them
    During this period.

    By Lillian (18/01/2019)
  • Hello everyone,

    Welwyn Hatfield Museum Service are planning an exciting Cresta Exhibition early next year. If you have any memories or stories about Cresta in WGC we would love to hear them. We would also like to invite you to visit our exhibition starting on the 10th of February 2019.

    Please get in touch via email:
    or via phone: 01707 357850

    Many thanks,

    Esther Green (Assistant Curator at Welwyn Hatfield Museum Service)

    By Esther (19/10/2018)
  • I worked at Cresta Silks when I left school in 1958, I worked as a finisher and then a machinist. The dresses we made were day dresses that sold in Welwyn Stores for 7 guineas (£7.35) a lot of money as we were earning about £3 a week.

    By Patricia Knights (17/03/2018)
  • I found in my mother in law’s possessions when clearing out her house an Art Deco Cresta Silk cardboard box. It had been used to keep photos. It is quite a sturdy box. The pattern on the box is made out of geometrical shapes.

    By Catherine Brittain (09/02/2018)
  • My nan worked at Cresta Silks for years. I remember going into the canteen and having some drink waiting for her to finish. The pictures was right opposite down the passage way. My nan was Ethel Goddard and lived down Longcroft Lane.

    By Christine Howchin (19/03/2017)
  • worked for cresta silks in the 1970’s in the maintenance dept.Great company to work for

    By Ken butler (14/05/2016)
  • That’s my mother, Doris Carter, cutter bottom right in photo! I notice a comment from Joan Flay, her great friend. Mum died ten years ago but always spoke of her happy years at Cresta. She always made her own clothes and many of mine as a child. I did not inherit her skills!


    By Jude Hussey (06/03/2016)
  • My first memory of Cresta Silks was when Mr Heron came to my school(Hanside Senior School ) and offered the senior girl pupils an opportunity in his employment. He had just opened his factory in Broadwater Road. Mr Nichol, the headmaster would not let us leave unless he paid us 50d a week! We were employed as ‘finishers’ doing all the hand sewing. I was assigned to Madame Mignod who did special orders. Every morning I tidied all the cutters tables and was general dog’s body for all of them. Miss Crump, later to become Mrs Edwards, was Mr Heron’s dress designer and saw me pinning material on a stand. She requested I worked for her and I never looked back. I became part of the ‘Cresta Family’ and a designer for the company. I worked there for 40 years and have many happy memories.

    By Joan Flay (09/05/2013)
  • My mother worked for Cresta Silks as an out worker/ finisher. The company would deliver huge bags of garments which needed finishing off with things like buttons and small fastenings or need any hand stitching. I remember visiting the factory when it was in Parkway (where the toy department of John Lewis is now).

    By Susan Hall (28/10/2010)
  • Tom Heron lived in my road and was the one to point out a greenfinch nest in my front hedge. I knew him when he was retired and loved his spirit.

    By Val Fieth (03/05/2010)
  • I remember reading somewhere that the flag that Sir Edmund Hilary put on the top of Everest in 1953 came from Cresta Silks

    By Roger Filler (14/05/2009)