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Owner of Duncombe Sawmill heads to Buckingham Palace to receive MBE

Helmsley businesswoman Emma Woods visited Buckingham Palace this week to receive her MBE from Princess Anne for services to rural business and skills in North Yorkshire.

Emma, who owns Duncombe Sawmill, was on the 2016 New Year’s Honours list and was invited to the famous Ballroom at Buckingham Palace on 22nd June for her investiture. She was accompanied by her husband William, their two daughters Milly and Isabelle, and her parents Nigel and Jackie Packer.

The visit to Buckingham Palace marks a full circle for Emma in her career, which saw her start out studying antiques at Leeds University, before moving to London to inventory the Queen’s silver at the Royal Collection.

However, it is Emma’s more recent career path which has earned her the honour of an MBE.

In 2003, as a customer of Duncombe Sawmill, she received a letter saying the 100 year old Helmsley-based business was closing. With no previous industry experience, Emma took it over and has spent 13 years creating a niche timber business which focuses on its core strengths to manufacture good quality British products and offer outstanding customer service.

The sawmill uses locally sourced FSC timber to create gates, fencing, outdoor furniture and timber framed buildings using traditional woodworking techniques, with clients including the North York Moors National Park Authority, the Forestry Commission and London Fashion Week. By taking on the business Emma ensured valuable skills, passed down through generations for well over a century, were not lost forever. Today the sawmill has a team of eight people – and although Emma was the first female to work in the business, it now employs an equal amount of men and women.

Emma, 48, said: “It was such an amazing experience to be at Buckingham Palace and to be given the award by Princess Anne. And it was quite a trip down memory lane given my early career saw me cataloguing the Queen’s silver! I’m so glad my family could be there as obviously they’ve played a huge part in everything that has happened in the last decade. I just wish the wonderful team at the sawmill could have come along too! They have taught me so much and been instrumental in me receiving the award. I have also had wonderful support from the community in Helmsley, it’s a fantastic place to be based and the Helmsley in Business group has achieved so much in the last four years, which is great for all local enterprises.

Taking the sawmill on was a risky decision but it was something I am very glad I did. It hasn’t been plain sailing, it’s been a lot of hard work and there have been challenges, such as a flash flood which ruined most of the machinery. But I’m very proud of what has been achieved. We manufacture items that people can’t get elsewhere and we have customers from around the world. We’re always moving forward and developing new ideas, whilst not losing our traditional values, which are so very important in a business such as ours. Hopefully the sawmill will still be thriving another 100 years on from now.”


For more information about Helmsley or Duncombe Sawmill, go to www.visithelmsley.co.uk