Godfrey Sports History
1978 - today
Judith Godfrey (neé Wilson) retires from teaching PE to have her first child, (Thomas now MD of the company). Judith’s two eldest brothers Ian & Stuart Wilson gain selection to the Great Britain Rowing Team.
In the LW4- the eldest Wilson brothers gain a Gold medal at the World Rowing Championships in Bled. These two events lead to the birth of the Wilson Family Rowing Dynasty. Judith & Glyn Godfrey invest £500 in fabrics & an industrial overlock sewing machine and Judith starts manufacturing simple jog suits for their kids, friends & family.
Nottinghamshire County Rowing Association is founded at the National Water Sports Centre in Nottingham by Ian Wilson, going on to become a formidable gold medal winning club over the next 25 years. The Lea Rowing Club also comes into being, being the amalgamation of 5 clubs using the newly built facilities on the River Lea.
Judith & Glyn's daughter Kristen is born.
The first Godfrey manufacturing unit was established in the adjoining house where Glyn built a cutting table and more industrial sewing machines were purchased. The first specialist clothing for rowing is made at home by Judith under Ian’s guidance. Stretch towelling shorts, long in the back, long in the leg. Singlet’s with extra long body length and cotton tees with extra long sleeves and long bodies.
Lea Rowing Club kit secretary Jimmy O’Neill contacts Godfrey’s to make the new club kit in the unusual colour of Orange, a very difficult colour to obtain. Over the next few years, their consistent orders for the new clubs kit, helps establish the business and the company starts in earnest manufacturing Rowing Kit, for both racing & training.
The early bicycle wheel Concept2 Indoor Rowing machine is brought into UK & Europe for distribution by Ian Wilson.
Stuart Wilson emigrates to Australia and marries his Australian girlfriend Leisa Patterson also a renowned International Oarswoman. He starts working for Sykes Boats in Australia, introducing the new carbon fibre boat building techniques.
Ian secures the contract for Judith to make all the kit for the Oxford & Cambridge Boat Race crews. The worlds first all-in-one rowing suit is made from stretch towelling for the shorts & a new polypropolene stretch fabric used for thermal underwear, is used for the vest.
Andrew Wilson the baby of the family gets selected to the GB rowing team at the World Championships in Duisberg. Notts County Rowing Association win their first medal - Silver in the LW4 - with Ian Wilson in the crew.
History is made at the World Rowing championships in Montreal, when Ian Wilson representing Great Britain races against his brother Stuart representing Australia, in the LWM 4
Godfrey Rowsports outgrows the space at home and moves to new factory premises near the River Trent in the Meadows area of Nottingham. Production expands rapidly, new designs are launched using Courtaulds new wonder fabric Nylon Lycra, first used in swimwear in the mid 70’s, now more widely available to small manufacturers in other sports.
An early prototype of the Godfrey Rowing Jacket is launched, soon becoming the standard dress for all oarsmen & women on & off the water. The World Rowing Championships are held in Nottingham, Steve Redgrave & Andy Holmes win the Coxed pairs. Godfrey Rowsports has it’s first sales stand at the Champs, paving the way to attending domestic regatta’s to promote the brand.
Notts.County Rowing crews stun the rowing world in their lycra one pieces in fluorescent green, winning at Henley & Lucerne. Three of the biggest clubs, London Rowing Club, Thames Rowing Club & Leander Club switch to Godfrey Kit. The A.R.A. are let down by Adidas for the Junior Worlds team kit. Godfrey Sports has one week to produce the kit for the whole squad. We deliver at 4am to Luton Airport.
The A.R.A. award the contract for all GB & England team kit to Godfrey Rowsports. The first multi-head embroidery machine is purchased, now we can produce kit with no hold ups by outside sub contractors.
Steve Redgrave & Andy Holmes win gold at Seoul Olympics wearing kit made by Godfrey Rowsports. We travel to domestic regatta’s to publicise ourselves, both factors culminating in the huge increase in orders.
We open a second manufacturing Unit in Nottingham to cope with the explosion of orders.
A new van is purchased and kitted out to hold the family as well as the kit. Our children and Mrs Godfrey Senior join us travelling to Regatta’s, Grandma becomes a legend among the rowing clientele at regatta’s, particularly Henley Royal. She loves the excitement of selling and becomes a popular figure The final regatta’s of the summer season :- Bristol, Gloucester & Ross are an enjoyable time for the whole family and we finish off with a holiday down in the Wye Valley each year.
We begin experimenting with a new print technique called sublimation. Suddenly a whole new world of design is opened up and we can produce small orders in a professional way. Smaller clubs are able to have the latest gear without huge expense.
Andrew Wilson joins Ian in business and sets up supplying Cox Box systems.
Simon Larkin of Notts.County Rowing Association (seen below on an ergo, in club colours) requests a garment to wear duringearly morning winter outings that will allow body heat to escape, keep the neck warm, be tight and short into the waist, so as not to impede the hands, longer at the back & both & wind & waterproof down the back. Our design team launch the Godfrey Gilet, which quickly becomes a best seller. Over the years it has been refined and improved and now is standard essential wear for all Oarsmen.
Godfrey Rowsports makes the Olympic kit under license for Adidas, as THE recognised rowing kit specialist manufacturer, for the GB Rowing Squad that goes to the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Redgrave and Pinsent win Gold in Godfrey gear, after having a personal fitting, due to them needing unusually large sized kit! The Searle Brothers & Gary Herbert their Cox, also win Gold in the Coxed Pair. Rowing really hits the big time.
New products are designed at the request of oarswomen who by now are growing steadily in numbers. The ‘Pogie’ is developed which is a glove for the hands that encases the oar handle and the hand. No feeling is lost by the fingers, and warm hands improve performance.
Godfrey kit is again worn by the GB Rowing squad at the Atlanta Olympic games, again made under license for Adidas. Redgrave and Pinsent win Gold again, providing the GB Olympic squad with its only gold medal at the games.
Andrew Wilson sets up new company called ‘Oarsport’ selling Concept2 oars to the UK Market. The Wilson Dynasty is in full flow supplying indoor rowing machines, oars, boats and cox box systems in the UK, Europe and Australia and Godfrey Rowsports kit is in demand the world over.
Noticing how young rowers have trouble staying on their boat seats & ergo seats Glyn begins developing a rubber grip to stop this. The first seat grip is launched for a boat and later an ergo. It is now one of our staple products.
Miss Andrews, a teacher at the Tiffin School, likes the fit and the fabric of the kit that the school rowing squad are wearing and contacts the kit manufacturer to ask if they can make netball kit in the same fabric, for Surrey County Netball Association. Ever up for a challenge, Judith sets the wheels in motion for designing a range of specialist netball kit and adds the sport to the company’s repertoire. Simply through word of mouth recommendations, sales of Godfrey Sports netball kit starts to take off and is well received. By 2013, over 500 clubs have bought netball kit from us and counting!
With evermore technical fabrics being produced our garments become cutting edge. Our new waterproof breathable jacket design, the ‘G2’ is launched and becomes an instant hit with it’s reflective panels making it an excellent night time garment on roads or rivers. Students in particular find it a versatile garment and with the club logo & name boldly shining out in the dark it is a University must.
The age of technology brings the Internet and with our new web site our garments start to be noticed by other sports and many more overseas clubs and countries. We start getting requests from Ice Skating, Hockey, Netball, Lacrosse, Weightlifting, Dragon Boating, Luge, Cycling and Triathlon. So we make the decision to become a limited company and change the name to Godfrey Sports Ltd. to reflect the multi-sport designs we are now producing.
Puma commission Godfrey Sports to make the kit for the English Weightlifting team competing at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester.
Thomas (aka Tom) our son returns from travelling abroad and working in the city and joins the family business. As a mathematician he quickly implements new computerised programmes for stock control, production schedules etc., thus ensuring we meet our promised delivery dates.
The company moves to a new, larger factory on an industrial estate less than a mile from the first factory. With the whole production unit being on one floor, lead times for kit orders are speeded up and capacity is increased. Our Mail Order department with greater space to hold stock, flourishes, selling our stock designs off the shelf for training kit. Judging by the number of complimentary emails we receive, this almost instant service is well received. The family run business, that started in a front bedroom, looks rather more professional these days!
Judith and Glyn begin to take a back seat, leaving Tom to mastermind the growth and development of the company. New machinery and techniques are introduced into the print department. Vinyl print allows yet more versatility for small orders. New sewing techniques are possible with the purchase of the latest in sewing machines. Tom's idea for club kit pages is another first for Godfrey Sports and the rowing world and clubs begin to sign up to the online kit page and ordering windows idea.
Glyn’s vision for the future sees a huge investment made in an in-house sophisticated sublimation printing system. Now we can offer unlimited innovative designs for All-in-one rowing suits, Tech tops and leggings. New fabrics are explored and new garments launched.
Ian Wilson’s development company launches The Wattbike. An indoor cycling machine to rival the indoor rower in it’s place in cycling training.
Judith retires and Tom fully takes on the company pushing the boundaries and developing new lines.
Godfrey Sports is commissioned to supply kit to the Commonwealth Games Weightlifting Team in Delhi.
Not exactly sporting royalty, but ‘Take That’ are dressed in Godfrey Zephyrs for the Shoot of the video for their 2010 hit single ‘The Flood’. The 5 lads took to the water in retro style!
Godfrey Sports begins work on some cycling kit patterns, after many customer requests. The first attempts are well received, but work continues to refine the jerseys and add many new items to the cycling kit range. Godfrey Bikewear is underway as a brand.
A new website begins in production to be launched in 2013. The list of garments available to Clubs, Colleges, Schools & Universities across many sports is staggeringly vast.
A keen cyclist joins the team in 2012 to help push the cycling kit range forward and the first cycling clubs join our online kit pages, including Sir Paul Smith's old cycling team, Beeston RC, as their race team is re-launched.
Some personalised Beeston RC kit is sent to Sir Paul Smith, for his cycling kit collection. A signed thank you letter is sent back and a photo of the jersey appears on his personal blog as well. Paul Smith Blog.
Godfrey Sports sign up to be the official technical kit partner to Cycle Live Nottingham for at least the next 4 years and hopefully beyond. Cycle Live is the big weekend celebration of cycling in Nottingham each year, culminating in the Great Notts Bike ride on the Sunday. Cycle Live
For the 13th year in a row, Godfrey Sports supplies the kit to the England Home Internationals Regatta Rowing Team. The England team sweep the board in 2013, this time wearing the new Godfrey G-suit.
Tom and Kristen’s cousin (Judith and Glyn’s nephew and Stuart Wilson’s son), James Wilson, races for Australia in the Men’s Lightweight Quad Scull at the 2013 World Rowing Championships in Chungju, South Korea. His crew finish 5th in the final, after a strong showing. Rowing Australia
Another cousin, Mary Wilson (Andrew's daughter), continues her rowing development whilst studying at university in Durham. To date, Mary has wins at National Schools (3 times), Henley Women's (twice) and BUCS regatta's, as well as representing Great Britain at the GB v France U16 Match in 2009 and at the Coupe de la Jeunesse in Banyoles, Spain, in 2012. The family sporting dynasty continues….