Twenty-five years ago, the Princess Royal paid her second visit to Craven in less than a year. Lindsey Moore reports

THERE was much excitement - and some disappointment - when Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal visited Silsden in May, 1991.

She was there to officially open a new £4 million textile factory in her capacity as president of the British Knitting and Clothing Export Council.

The 88,000 sq ft plant had been built by jacquard woven fabric specialists Weavestyle.

And there was an extra bonus for staff and guests - the Princess spent 10 minutes longer than planned at the site.

Weavestyle's chief executive Ian Disley, who accompanied the royal visitor on her tour of the factory, said: "It is a day Weavestyle will never forget."

Princess Anne, who only a few months earlier had opened Skipton's new auction mart, arrived at the premises, off Keighley Road, to an enthusiastic reception from pupils from the town's Aire View Infants School.

But the crowd of around 100 people outside the factory gates felt shortchanged when the royal motorcade sped past without stopping. Among them were members of Silsden Town Band and the newly-formed majorettes, who were disappointed and angry that they had been refused permission to perform in the factory grounds.

"We would have loved to have given the Princess a warm welcome to show her just how friendly the town is," said band member Kath Hardcastle. "It is disgusting that we were not allowed into the grounds."

At the plant, anxiously awaiting the Princess' arrival was Shane Clough, the seven-year-old son of Weavestyle employee Graeme, a trainee twister. He had been selected to present HRH with a posy of flowers and had practised his royal bow over and over again. However, when his big moment came, he forgot to bow, but no-one seemed to mind.

Afterwards Shane gave his verdict on the Princess. "She's all right," he said, adding that she had told him he looked nice.

The Princess, wearing a dark turquoise cropped jacket and matching pleated skirt, then embarked on a tour of the factory, visiting the various departments.

In the weaving shed, she saw a cheque being woven on the looms to demonstrate the flexibility of modern weaving and design techniques and the finished article, made out for £2,000 to the Save the Children Fund, was later presented to her.

The royal visitor also visited the computer-aided design department where she heard about the importance of technology in design. Instrumental in the demonstration was Weavestyle's sophisticated printer IRIS, which simulated fabric on paper - even down to the intricate warp and weft detail.

During her tour, the Princess stopped on numerous occasions to talk to members of staff, showing a keen interest in the different processes.

In the warping department, she spoke to a very nervous June Johnstone, of Silsden.

But June said the Princess had put her at her ease and was very concerned to hear how staff had adapted to using the new machinery. "She's lovely," added June.

There was also praise from quality control inspector Alvar Whitaker, of Steeton - "She's a cracker" - and from warp dresser Graham Thompson, of Silsden, whose verdict was "brilliant, brilliant". "It is surprising how at ease she makes you feel," he added.

Graham was also involved with erecting the Royal Standard on the flagpole at the factory entrance prior to the visit

The company had got special permission to fly the royal flag - but no-one knew how to put it up and, after much trial and error, it was raised with just seconds to spare!

The Princess was also introduced to one of Weavestyle's longest-serving employees Edward Holmes from Steeton, who started as an apprentice overlooker with Weavestyle's predecessor CH Fletcher in April 1947 and had risen to the post of weaving manager.

"I have seen many changes in my time," he said. "We are a long way towards the ultimate here now. I really cannot see that we can go any further," he said, but conceded that he had made the same comments some years ago.

Reaching the end of her visit, the Princess signed the visitors' book before unveiling a granite plinth outside the reception area to commemorate her visit and mark the official opening of the factory.

She then went on an unexpected walkabout, receiving bouquets of flowers from Italian-born Maria Sequeira, of Steeton, and Aire View pupils Edward and James Green, Claire Lodge, Katie Bennett and Jessica and Rebecca Young.

"It was lovely for the children," said teacher Elizabeth Pratt. "She came over and took the bouquets from them. We were all very excited and she looked lovely."

Afterwards, Mr Disley said the Princess had been very knowledgeable and had been interested in the differences between the old and new and how staff had adapted.

He added that trade had been difficult, but the new factory had given customers and potential customers a lot of confidence in the future.

However, by 2006, the factory had been taken over by greetings card firm Riverdale Publishing, which itself went into administration two years later.

In 2013, planning permission was given to knock down the factory, with the land tipped as a potential site for a new supermarket.