Company History

Ovation Flooring's history from the beginning...

The year was 1895, W.G. Grace was the sporting celebrity of the day, the world’s first movie theatre opened in Paris and in America the first car race was held. The winner averaged a heady speed of 7mph. In England Oscar Wilde’s “Importance of Being Earnest,” opened in London and a young man named George Downing opened a home furnishing store in Hooley Hill, a little town outside Manchester.

George was a cabinet maker and his fine hand crafted furniture and carpet squares proved extremely popular, allowing him to build his business steadily. He had two sons, James and Frank and it was to be James who, following his return from serving his country in the first world war, would forge the business through difficult times.

1925 was an landmark year for James. He became a Director of his father’s business, they opened a second store in Ashton-Under-Lyne and he married Lily Sumner. They set up home above the shop on Penny Meadow in Ashton, a place they would call home for the next 38 years. Stormy days were ahead for the economy though. The great depression and another world war took their toll, but by the time Mr. Macmillan was telling us we had never had it so good, Downing’s was the place to go for the finest carpets and furniture. Expert craftsmanship and superior service were paramount and the Downing name was synonomus with quality.

Downings Team
(L to R) Harold Downing, Kenneth Ogden and Julian Ashworth in the Downings store c. 1967) If you look closely you will see Axminster for 63/6 to 79/9 a yard. In today’s money that is £3.18 to £3.98. Today’s price is around £59.00.

On December 6 1949 James and Lily’s eldest daughter Zillah married Gordon Ashworth. It was a Tuesday. A strange day to be married, you may think, but if truth be told, Tuesday was half day closing and holding the wedding then meant not having to close the shop on a busy Saturday. Gordon often self-depreciatingly described himself as a “cotton yarn salesman” who counted numerous carpet manufacturers among his loyal customers. Together they had four sons and in 1966 their eldest, Julian, joined the family business. Adrian followed in 1976 before pursuing a career in carpet and flooring wholesale and manufacture.

In the final few months of the 20th century, Adrian along with brothers Nigel and Jonathan formed Ovation Interior Flooring Design, meaning that every single member of the Ashworth family had enjoyed a strong connection with the carpet and flooring industry.

Downings Tredaire
(L to R) Julian Ashworth, Kenneth Ogden, Frank Smith (Tredaire), Harold Downing and James Downing at a Tredaire reception at the Grand Hotel, Manchester c. 1968)

Today Ovation is a leading importer and distributor of fine floor coverings to the contract and maritime industries. Working on a global scale the company exports to 34 countries across 6 continents.

If you consult a modern map or satellite navigation system, Hooley Hill doesn’t even appear. When George Downing opened the doors to his store a century and more ago, we can only wonder if he had any idea of the legacy he was creating.