Trago Mills

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Industry Retail
Founder Mike Robertson
Number of locations
3 (Falmouth, Liskeard, Newton Abbot)
Area served
South West England
Owner Bruce Robertson

Trago Mills, often known simply as Trago, is a chain of three department stores in Cornwall and Devon, England. Two of the stores are on the outskirts of towns: Liskeard in Cornwall and Newton Abbot in Devon, and one is in the town of Falmouth, in Cornwall. A fourth is planned for the outskirts of Merthyr Tydfil, Wales. The stores' approach to business is to provide a wide variety of stock at low prices.


A distinguishing feature of Trago Mills is the architecture of the buildings at Liskeard and Newton Abbot designed by Charles Hunt of St Neot, Liskeard who was appointed architect in 1978. The buildings have an almost castle-like appearance, with tall towers clad in white with black framed windows.


File:Trago statues.jpg
Some of the political statues outside the Liskeard store

The first Trago Mills store was at Liskeard and started life as a small shed, selling items founder Mike Robertson had bought on trips up-country. The current Liskeard store, five miles west of the town just off the A38, has several acres of parkland and lakes. It also accommodates several independent businesses, including a newsagent, a butcher and a bakery. At its entrance are statues bearing inscriptions such as:

Attorney General Sir Michael Havers QC. MP. Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

— proverb, from Matthew ch7 v1-5 The Mote and the Beam


Newton Abbot

The Newton Abbot site is the largest of the three and covers over 100 acres (0.40 km2) of land. It has several independent businesses, selling both food and non-food items. A new garden centre, the largest in the south west,[1] was opened on the site in 2009,[2] followed in 2010 by a new restaurant.[3]

In October 2004 a large fire broke out in the main building of the Newton Abbot branch.[4] Thirty fire appliances and over 200 fire fighters tackled the blaze. The fire was the largest to occur in the county of Devon for several years. The buildings involved were completely rebuilt.

Trago Family Fun Park

Trago Family Fun Park
Location Trago Mills, Newton Abbot, Devon, England
Coordinates Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found.
Owner Trago Mills
Operating season all year
Total 11

Newton Abbot also includes the Trago Family Fun Park which was opened shortly after the construction of the permanent store buildings and now covers over 100 acres (0.40 km2). It is home to the Bickington Steam Railway, a 10¼" inch gauge railway that runs from the centre of the leisure park to the front car park, loops round three lakes, then returns to the 'Leisure Central' station.

Also in the park is the OO gauge Trago Mills Model Railway which was built in 1988 over a period of 9 months by a team of 18 people led by Tony Irving, at a cost of over £100,000. The layout incorporates several unique features, such as moving Hot Air Balloons and a real-water harbour scene. It has been developed continuously since its original construction and new features are still being added.[citation needed] There is capacity for up to 32 trains running at any one time, controlled by AMR systems dating from the railway's introduction, employing reed switches and magnets under each train. All track on the layout is manufactured by Peco. The layout is controlled by an analogue block system utilising 3 - 4 control units per loop, dependent on sections, and one control unit per shuttle.[citation needed]

Other attractions include go-karts, an indoor skate rink, boat rides, a shooting gallery, remote control trucks and boats, a picnic area and "Theden" animal park.[5]


The Falmouth store, near the National Maritime Museum Cornwall, is the smallest of the three.


The chain was established by businessman Mike Robertson who bought the Liskeard site in the early 1960s after leaving a career in the RAF. Always an anti-establishment figure he had several major brushes with officialdom as he developed the site. Much of the development with planning permission established only after the building work had started.

Robertson's local newspaper advertisements became noted in the West Country for his leader column style comment written under the alias "Tripehound".[citation needed] Some of his comments became highly personalised. Statues of local political figures and officials he believed were opposed to his development "welcome" shoppers to the Liskeard store.

Robertson placed advertisements in the 1980s and 1990s calling for the castration of gay men. The United Kingdom Advertising Standards Authority ruled against Trago Mills and demanded the withdrawal of all advertisements.[6]

With his son and successor, Bruce, Robertson supported Eurosceptic political parties. Most recently the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). Robertson famously threatened to refuse to stop using imperial measures in his stores despite contravening what he perceived to be European Union law (although Trago now sells goods in metric quantities, sometimes with imperial equivalents, in line with actual EU guidelines.) Despite his opposition to immigration from countries in Eastern Europe, Robertson was revealed in January 2007 to be employing around 30 migrants from Poland in his Newton Abbot store.[7][8][9][10]

In September 2011, the company was fined £199,588 after admitting five breaches of the Environmental Protection Act. This followed the discovery of "several thousand tonnes" of dumped waste, including asbestos, at its Newton Abbot and Liskeard sites.[11] The fine was reduced to £65,000 in January 2012 after an Exeter Crown Court judge accepted that Trago Mills had paid nearly £500,000 in clean-up costs.[12]

In 2014, Trago Mills was featured on BBC's Fake Britain, after local trading standards discovered fake top-brand shampoo on sale in store. The fake product was found to contain a chemical used in sex change treatments. Trago management stated the products were purchased overseas.[13]

Trago Mills Ltd (Aircraft Division)

File:FLS Sprint 160.JPG
The FLS Sprint seen here at the fly-in at Bodmin Airfield, 3 May 2008.

In the early 1980s, Trago Mills elected to design and build its own aircraft that could be sold to the British military as a trainer to replace the then ageing "Bulldog" fleet. The result was the Trago Mills SAH-1, which first flew on 23 August 1983. Passed over by the armed forces, the rights to the design have since changed hands several times, the latest version being the FLS Sprint.


  1. "Trago Mills Garden Park Development". WBM Groundworks Ltd. Retrieved 2012-08-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Diarmuid opens Trago's new garden centre". This is Devon. 2 May 2009. Retrieved 2012-08-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Trago Mills Newton Abbot Restaurant". WBM Groundworks Ltd. Retrieved 2012-08-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Fire breaks out at Devon shopping village". BBC. 6 October 2004. Retrieved 24 September 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Newton Abbot". Trago. Retrieved 2012-08-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "High Court rules in ASA's favour as editorial-ad distinction blurs". campaign. 12 November 1999. Retrieved 14 August 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Trago to accept plastic". Mid Devon Star News. 12 August 2001. Retrieved 24 September 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Court battle over "offensive" ad rants". BBC. 4 November 1999. Retrieved 24 September 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Bowen, David (28 January 1996). "Customers rally to save the pukka tailor of Piccadilly". The Independent. UK. Retrieved 24 September 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Hencke, David (6 January 2007). "Anti-European boss criticised for 'hypocrisy' over Polish staff". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved 23 February 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Trago Mills fined £200,000 for Devon and Cornwall waste dump". BBC. 28 September 2011. Retrieved 4 January 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Trago Mills fine for Devon and Cornwall dumping is cut". BBC. 27 January 2012. Retrieved 4 January 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links