Page last updated at 19:51 GMT, Monday, 16 February 2009

Sir Bernard Ashley dies, aged 82

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Sir Bernard Ashley set up Laura Ashley with his late wife.

Sir Bernard Ashley, co-founder of the fashion firm named after his wife Laura Ashley, has died aged 82.

Sir Bernard, who died on Saturday after suffering from cancer, moved from Kent to Powys with his wife in 1961.

From humble beginnings at the Old Railway House in the little known village of Carno, the company grew to have 5,000 retail outlets worldwide.

Sir Bernard's death comes 24 years after Laura Ashley died at 60 following an accident at her daughter's home.

In 1984, a year before Laura Ashley died, the firm had opened its new company headquarters in Newtown, Powys, creating 500 jobs.

But in the 1990s its fortunes faded, and in 2004 its former headquarters in Carno closed.

In a statement, his family said he was "a larger than life character, very outgoing and social".

They added: "Perhaps his greatest gift was the loyalty and love that he engendered in his employees.

"His two small businesses in Wales, Llangoed Hall Hotel, and the textile printing company, Elanbach, continue to flourish as a testament to his inexhaustible energy."

Bernard and Laura Ashley
Sir Bernard, in my view, never got over the death of Laura
Derrick Pugh, former Laura Ashley manager

Derrick Pugh, a former manager at Laura Ashley in Carno, described Sir Bernard, known to his staff as BA, as a "one-off".

"Sir Bernard, in my view, never got over the death of Laura," he said.

"Even though I left the company in 1989, we kept in touch. Whenever we were alone together he would always talk about the good days and the bad days, and what went wrong within the company.

"He was a very trusting man, perhaps sometimes too trusting. There were times I could get very close to him, but other times he was very distant.

'Shrewd businessman'

"He was a very shrewd businessman and would not easily accept defeat.

"I spoke to his personal assistant in France this morning, and I was pleased to have learned that he had returned to his grass roots here in mid Wales and he will be buried in Carno close to Laura.

"I'm sure the people of Carno will be very pleased about that."

Laura Ashley Plc said its thoughts and sympathies were with Sir Bernard's family at this difficult time.

A company spokesman added: "Laura Ashley Plc is saddened to hear of the death of Sir Bernard Ashley who with his late wife, Laura, established this great British brand 56 years ago."

Glyn Davies, a former member of the Welsh assembly and ex-chairman of the Development Board for Rural Wales worked with Sir Bernard and said: "Mid Wales was incredibly fortunate that Laura and Bernard Ashley decided to bring their business to the region in the 1960s.

"For decades, the company has provided work for many hundreds of people in Montgomeryshire, and still does so today."

In later life Sir Bernard opened Llangoed Hall, a country house hotel near Brecon, and in 2000 he created Elanbach, a fabrics business.

Sir Bernard married his second wife Regine Burnell in 1990. He is survived by her and by his two daughters and two sons by Laura Ashley.

He was knighted in 1987.

His funeral will be held at Carno parish church on 24 February at 1400 GMT.

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