SWAINE ADENEY BRIGG.
By J O S E P H P A U L M A R T I N, ESQ. C . D . and
Keeper of the RECORDS at SWAINE ADENEY BRIGG.
Featuring extracts from IN GOOD HANDS
by K A T H E R I N E P R I O R, P h D, F R H S.
L O N D O N :
Published online for S W A I N E A D E N E Y B R I G G ;
M M XXI.
HE Celebrated History is continuously being updated and offers a tantalising glimpse into the illustrious heritage of company fore-bearers and predecessors. Over the course of some 270 years or so, many family names have contributed to what we now know as the venerable SWAINE ADENEY BRIGG. This account marks every single one of their journeys. So, take a step back in time and affirm one's investment, knowing that one is buying into quality British craftsmanship as well as the enduring story of innovation, resilience, and unparalleled excellence.
Cast one's mind back to the mid 18th century. H.M. King GEORGE III was the reigning monarch. London was booming and expanding at with great pace. Mr. JOHN WILKES, the first publicly elected Member of Parliament, modernised British Politics. The completion of a brand new district called Mayfair housed Britain's most wealthy aristocratic families. If one had ambition and determination in abundance, along with competitively priced finely made goods, then Georgian London was the place to be. The Swaine Adeney Brigg story began with an equally modest and pioneering Gentleman, a Saddler by the name of Mr. JOHN ROSS.
A 1740s Silver-Mounted Tortoiseshell-Handled Riding-Whip, a pencil study by Mr. JOS. P. MARTIN, 13th May, 2021.
HIP-MAKING was a booming and highly competitive trade right up until the late 19th century. For Nobility and Gentry, down to the working man, whips of all kinds made for an essential piece of equipment. Mr. JOHN ROSS, a Saddler, traded at No. 8, Mary Le Bone Street, near Golden Square in London, and went on to specialise in the art of whip-making. With his very own manufactory on-site, he sold not only complete whips of the highest quality but also the individual components that made them.
Mr. Ross even ventured into cap making with lifelong friend and fellow pioneer THOMAS HAWKES, then known as a Cap-Maker and hatter was the founder of what we now know as GIEVES AND HAWKES. One of Mr Hawkes' caps can be seen on Mr. Ross' circular trading tokens. Whip-Maker to H.R.H. Prince HENRY FREDERICK, the Duke of Cumberland, he would also supply not just complete whips, to people like Mr. JOHN VAUGHAN, Politician and Welsh landowner, but all sorts of parts to His Lordship Lord GEORGE O'BRIEN WYNDHAM, 3rd Earl of Egremont. Lord Wyndham would go on to be noted as the greatest patron of British artists in the first third of the 19th century. From ferrules in silver and nickel to a spare lash and the eye or loop for attaching it to a crop, Mr. Ross established a reputation for producing only the finest products.
H.R.H. Prince HENRY FREDERICK, Duke of Cumberland, painted by Mr. DAVID MORIER, c.1765.
This evening, about eight o'clock, a dreadful fire broke out at Mr. Ross's, whipmaker to the Duke of Cumberland, in Mary-le-bon-street, St. James's, which entirely consumed the same; and likewise Mr. Munday's shoemaker, Mr. Frith's Manchester warehouse; Mr. Warren's, a perfumer; Mr. Thackthwaite's, cabinet - maker; Mr. Lyne's, confectioner; besides damaging a number of houses on each side, and three which lay backward, with a quantity of goods. In Sherrard-street, it has destroyed Rustat's coffee-house; Mr. Schooler's, a silk-dyer; and Mr. Hole's, a taylor; with four others that are greatly damaged.— It was said to occasioned by the carelessness of a boy melting some rosin for whip-handles. The scarcity of water for upwards of an hour was amazing; not more than one engine could play, with any efect, til half an hour after nine o'clock. About eleven it was got so far under, as to prevent any farther fear of its increase. A party of the guards attended, to keep of the populace.
Despite the fire of 1769, the business bounced back and reopened at No. 238, Piccadilly. With the Lemon Tree Stable Yard and Carriage House, immediately behind the retail quarters, the White Bear Inn next door with its yard, and Britain's Nobility and Gentry close by, It was an idyllic location for whip-making. To keep up with demand, Mr. Ross continued to take on several whip-making apprentices, including Messrs. THOMAS GROSVENOR, THOMAS KNOWLAND and JAMES THOMSON. Records show that in 1777, Mr. Knowland was tried and convicted of stealing 100 horse-whips, 30 gross of silk lashes for whips, 300 silver caps for whips, and handles for 100 whips. The total value of 27 Libre and 20 Shillings, the equivalent of at least £2,410 today. Mr. Knowland denied the charges to the end yet added that he often made whips and sold them on himself.
Whip and Cap Maker, Mr. JOHN ROSS and the trading cards and token before and after moving premises, c.1776 & 1795.
Living at No.47, Five Fields Row in Chelsea, Ebury Street today, the couple had now earned the affection and respect throughout Nobility and Gentry and became the Official Whip-Maker to H.M. King GEORGE III. Together they had acquired an impressive property portfolio, including several houses along Tottenham Court Road. They even owned and leased out next door at No.45. However, all good things must come to an end. Two Gentlemen, by the names of Messrs. JAMES SWAINE and BENJAMIN SLOCOCK, were named as successors to the business in 1798:
Late WHIP-MAKER to His MAJESTY,
Begs leave to return his grateful Thanks to the Nobility and Gentry for their past Favours, and presumes to request that their future Commands may be transferred to SWAINE and Co. his successors in Trade, at his late Shop, No. 238, Piccadilly.
Such Gentlemen as are indebted to me, are requested to pay the same unto my successors J. Swaine and B. Slocock, whose Receipt shall be, a full discharge.
SWAINE AND CO,
WHIP-MAKERS to His MAJESTY,
Hope for the continuance of Mr. ROSS's CUSTOMERS to their Shop; it being their determination to support the Reputation Mr. Ross has acquired for goodness of Articles and moderation in price.
WHIPS of every kind for the Country, and exportation; also, fashionable Black Whips that will retain their colour, and not soil the gloves of the wearer.
John and his wife, Mrs. SUSANNA ROSS enjoyed just two years of retirement together when John died on 7th September 1800. He bequeathed everything to his beloved in a brief and modest Last Will and Testament. Mrs. Ross herself followed her husband to the grave in 1802. Having had a remarkable marriage together of 38 years, it is only in Susanna's Will that their generosity and popularity are truly recognised. Susanna's Will is some five pages long. Having had no surviving children themselves, their worldly estates were left to their nearest and dearest friends and their children. One of whom was affectionately named JOHN ROSS GALLANT. His son bore the same name as did his son after him, after the much loved and respected pioneer, who set a precedent and laid down the foundations for successors to build on.
Whip Makers SWAINE & Co. (Successors to Mr. ROSS) Trading cards (engraved by James' brother Mr. JOHN SWAINE of No. 80 Margaret Street, London) and Beaufort Type whistle made by J. DIXON & SONS, c.1799 - 1820.
SWAINE & Co.
AVING been for some years a foreman of a very successful whip-making business at GRIFFITH AND SON, No. 322, Holborn, London, Mr. James Swaine was apprenticed by Mr. BENJAMIN GRIFFITH in 1782. He was 15 at the time and had lost his father, a Baker by the name of Mr. JOHN SWAINE some five years before. 16 years in practice, the now married 32 year old must have shown great promise to take over such a reputable competitor. This was a golden opportunity for James to prove himself. Mr. Slocock certainly thought so as he played a substantial financial role in buying out Mr. Ross. Help was always on hand from Mr. Griffith's sons and heirs CHARLES and THOMAS GRIFFITH, who helped him nurture and grow the business. Inheriting Royal Appointments to H.M. King George III and his sons, The Prince of Wales and the Dukes of York, Clarence, Kent, Cumberland, and Cambridge quickly followed and the company's reputation for quality and excellence was firmly established.
Historic SWAINE & Co. Whip Mount, the inspiration for the Company's emblem today, c.1798-1830.
The Royal appointments were renewed by H.M. King GEORGE IV. Swaine & Co's collaborative success showed no bounds. Mr. Swaine's only son EDWARD SWAINE and indeed Mr. Slocock's son BENJAMIN SLOCOCK Jr. was apprenticed back in 1810 as they stood to inherit the company. Mr. Slocock was a freeman of the Brewer's Company and so were also apprenticed to acting master Mr. Slocock.
Mr. JAMES SWAINE's Hand Post, awarded the Silver Medal by The Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, 1812.
James was known to be a creative and innovative thinker. In 1812, he was awarded a silver medal by The Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacture and Commerce for his elegantly efficient design to improve the Guide-Post. The cast-iron arms created a hollow frame and contained spaced letters therein. His idea was to enable signage that was easily distinguishable either by day or night. His accepted design was inexpensive to manufacture and needed only two alphabets. Rare examples can still be found, dotted throughout The South of England today. On March 3rd 1813, Mr. Swaine proudly wrote to the Managing Director's Secretary, Mr. CHARLES TAYLOR and said:
Since I had the honour of sending the model of a guide-post, which was approved by the Society, I have made an improvement by placing the distance in the bracket, which adds considerably to its strength and utility. I have the pleasure of acquainting you, that they are likely to be generally adopted. Sir Wm. Gibbons has erected some in the parish of Stanwell, and others will also be erected in that of Almsworth, and in Devonshire, Oxfordshire and Salop:—Some of the Commissioners of the roads have promised to adopt them, and the Surveyors have so far approved of them as to express their intention of introducing them in the drawings where the new roads are to be. I am informed that new roads are about to be made in the Isle of Wight, and that posts according to my plan will be there erected. The model which I have sent includes the improvement.
I am, Sir,
Your obedient Servant,
The Piccadilly Nuisance by Mr. GEORGE CRUIKSHANK, showing congestion along Piccadilly, c.1818.
London meanwhile itself was growing at an alarming rate, and congestion was becoming a problem. In 1813 one of Britain's foremost Architects JOHN NASH, put forward plans for a new arterial route through this bustling and expanding London. REGENT STREET was completed in 1819, allowing more coaches into St. James's. This bold and innovative design created OXFORD and PICCADILLY CIRCUS and cut through Jermyn Street down to Pall Mall. No. 238 Piccadilly suddenly became No. 224. It must have made for quite the sight and became a hugely successful time for the business; despite years of upheaval.
A SWAINE & Co. account book showing customers of Royalty and Nobility, October and November 1818.
Post Office Directories show that between the years of 1820-1829, the company was listed SWAINE, SLOCOCK & SWAINE. Edward completed his apprenticeship three years beforehand and was ready to step up and take his place by his father's side. Sadly, Benjamin Jr. died on 15th March 1825. This devastating blow seemed to be the catalyst for his father's retirement from the partnership, for when Benjamin Sr. rewrote his Will the following month he described himself as a gentleman of Camden Town, who had been formerly in partnership with James Swaine of Piccadilly, Whip-Maker.
Britain underwent somewhat of an identity crisis in the early part of the 19th century. The Industrial Revolution brought about melancholy for the working man; cheated of the satisfaction of a hard days labour. People of all classes found themselves yearning for the romance of the Middle Ages. To this day, Britain, unlike many other countries, would prefer to forge ahead by harking back. Author, Sir WALTER SCOTT was well aware of this, as too was Textile Designer, Novelist and Social Activist, WILLIAM MORRIS later on. Despite being at the cutting edge of technology, Britain felt more empowered and even renewed when buying into something that was presented steeped in history and honouring the past. This is perhaps best showcased by the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, with its unmistakable Gothic Revival style. Britain respected and wanted the handcrafted ornamentation of an overnight past, and Swaine & Co. gave its customers exactly that.
SWAINE & ISAAC.
ATHER and son flourished and with the introduction of a new business partner in 1825, business was booming. Mr. WILLIAM ISAAC, was a Stick Supplier and brought a fresh mindset to the company and broadened horizons. For the next eleven years the company was listed as SWAINE, SON & ISAAC, becoming SWAINE & ISAAC up until around 1846. Together they were making around £592 a month, according to the receipts in peak season, which would be around £43,000 today. The company decided it was time to relocate west. Piccadilly Circus had become a major through route by that time, and one can imagine that they felt that they deserved a premises more befitting of their outstanding reputation.
SWAIN | 185, the earliest depiction of the relocated shop, as seen on the far left, c.1825-35.
Swaine & Isaac opened their doors at the 'more eligible' premises of No. 185, Piccadilly. Replacing the previous tenant, Mr. CHARLES OWERS, Ironmonger, they found themselves confidently nestled between Mr. EDWARD PARKER's Perfumers at No. 184 and Mr. JOHN HATCHARD's historic Bookshop, at No. 186, they were in good company. Also, Mr. RICHARD FORTNUM's successful Grocer and Wine Merchants, FORTNUM, MASON & Co., was located at No 182. The company was now amidst the gentlemen's clubs of St. James's, and records suggest they were to now focus on the elite end of the whip market.
Yet, despite its smart location, the new premises was eminently suited to manufacturing. Behind the retail quarters' elegant façade, the building stretched back a hundred feet. In parts, it was five storeys high, on top of a basement, although most of the workshops were to be concentrated on three floors only. Moreover, Swaine & Isaac had secured the building on a long lease at a near-peppercorn rent from its landlords, the Governors of the Bethlehem Hospital. It was ideally suited to the company's needs and would remain its home for the next 160 years.
Gilded Silver-Mounted Racing Whip by SWAINE & ISAAC., a pencil study by Mr. JOS. P. MARTIN, 17th May, 2021.
H.M. King WILLIAM IV succeeded his brother, H.M. George IV in 1830 and would reign over the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and indeed Hanover for just seven years. Shortly after, aged 71, James Swaine died at his home in Stanwell. He had undoubtedly honoured the respected efforts of his predecessor, Mr. Ross, and secured his whip-making legacy in his son and heir Edward and partner Mr. Isaac. In his Last Will and Testament, James had left the princely sum of £1500, the equivalent of at least £90,625 today, to his son Edward and the same sum again was also left to his daughter; Mrs. MARY ANN ADENEY, the wife of Mr. WILLIAM ADENEY, a respected Tailor to the Clergy, of No. 16, Sackville Street.
Portraits of EDWARD SWAINE and his sister MARY ANN ADENEY, painted by an Unknown Artist, c.1830.
Mr. Adeney's father, of the same name although an Adney, owned a tailoring business in Charles Street, Westminster. Incidentally, a lease in the form of 'Adeney' was placed to secure the correct pronunciation. The family name is linked with BOUTROY and the partnership of ADENEY & BOUTROY is the oldest name on Savile Row, dating back to 1774; though the family trade of tailoring dates back as early as the 17th century. It wasn't until 1804 that the business relocated to Sackville Street, where it would both remain and thrive for some 170 years. Sadly William Sr. died two years before the wedding, but by the time his son and successor married the daughter of a whip-maker, William was worth around £20,000, the equivalent of at least £1,148,608 today. Both James and Edward were the signed witnesses at their marriage, a role traditionally reserved for both sets of parents.
Photographs of Mr. WILLIAM and Mrs. MARY ANN ADENEY, Mr. ZACHARIAH and Mrs. SARAH ANN WESTBROOK, later in life c.1860.
Also in Mr. Swaine's Will, the sum of £500, £30,000 today, was bequeathed unto Mary and another daughter Mrs. SARAH ANN WESTBROOK, annually for life. Sarah was the wife of Mr. ZACHARIAH WESTBROOK, a Coal Merchant and brother of Edward's second wife Sarah. Their growing family lived some 33 miles away in the historic village of Cookham. After a brief time living in Brunswick Place, London, they eventually emigrated to the United States.
Throughout the late 18th and early 19th centuries, there was what was described as an evangelical awakening. Edward and William together played senior roles across various societies, throughout Westminster. Mr. Adeney is noted by the family as being the founding father of a long line of pioneering evangelical clerics within the Adeneys, that subsequently emigrated to a young Australia and would become prominent figures in their own right.
1837 was a very important year, not just for Swaine & Isaac but for the entire world. It marked the dawning of a new age. One of unprecedented growth and success for the family-run company, it saw the introduction of all sorts of new goods, and ultimately it was to be an age of what James wanted for the business all along; worldwide recognition, for unparalleled excellence. It was the beginning of the Victorian era.
A trade-card for SWAINE & ISAAC, Whip Manufacturers to the QUEEN & ROYAL FAMILY, c.1837.
Renewed Royal Whip Manufacturers to H.M. Queen VICTORIA, Swaine & Isaac were reported to have created a whip of 'beautifully novel and elegant pattern' for her personal use. The first young monarch to have been appointed since H.M. King George III had come to the throne in 1760, a 22 year old ALEXANDRINA VICTORIA was a fine horsewoman in her own right and a breath of fresh air for the British Empire.
Mr. Swaine also injected fresh air into the company when taking on his nephew Mr. JAMES ADENEY as an Apprentice in 1841. Census records show that Mr. Adeney was 15 and his uncle by this time was 45 years old. James married Edward's daughter Miss CAROLINE BOOT SWAINE, his cousin, just four years later. The business demanded an eventual successor and would certainly find it in the newly weds. SWAINE, ISAAC & ADENEY traded for around two years until Mr. Isaac retired from the partnership on 30th of September 1848. One can imagine this was to familiarise customers with the introduction of Mr. Adeney ahead of William's departure.
'Piccadilly, London, Middlesex', by Mr. THOMAS DUGDALE, as featured in London Street Views, by Mr. JOHN TALLIS, c.1838.
SWAINE & ADENEY
F you were to have taken an omnibus along London's Knightsbridge in the summer of 1851, you would have seen an astonishing sight. Glittering among the trees was an ethereal palace made of glass, designed by Mr. JOSEPH PAXTON. It was as tall as the trees, indeed taller because the building arched over two of them already growing there, as if, like giant plants in a glasshouse, they had been transplanted with no disturbance to their roots. A shower of rain washed the dust from the glass and made it glitter all the more. Nothing like this had been seen in London, ever.
Officially known as The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations, the purpose was to display the wonders of technological and aesthetic innovations from around the world - as Alfred Lord Tennyson put it, ‘All of beauty, all of use, That one fair planet can produce’. Across a floor space of almost 20,000 square metres, more than 60 nations displayed the latest in industrial design. The exhibits included rail engines of every type, prototype bicycles (‘velocipedes’), raised ink (the forerunner of braille), high-speed printing presses, as well as jewels, textiles, artworks and of course whips from Messrs. Swaine & Adeney.
The Opening Ceremony of the Great Exhibition, painted by Mr. HENRY COURTNEY SELOUS, c.1852.
The Great Exhibition was the brainchild of H.M. Queen Victoria's Consort and husband, H.R.H. Prince ALBERT of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Britain was at peace. The Chartists had meekly delivered their Petition to the House of Commons in three cabs and gone home. H.R.H was now able to write to his cousin H.M. King William of Prussia, that ‘we have no fear here either of an uprising or an assassination.' England was experiencing a manufacturing boom. This was the time to show off, on the international stage.
All sorts of SWAINE & ADENEY Whip Mounts, mostly from The Exhibitions of 1851 & 1862.
Seizing the day, the Queen's Whip-Maker showcased their best to the world. As part of a celebration of exquisitely handcrafted delights and the practical and logical engineering of modern industry. For the very first time, tradition and innovation beautifully complemented one another under one roof. There were some 100,000 objects, displayed along more than ten miles, by over 15,000 contributors. Divided into categories and classes, Swaine & Adeney entered into Class five, Saddlery and Harness, and Class 16 for Whips and Canes and were situated on the ground floor by the western entrance. It was a typically highly organised stroke of genius from H.R.H. Prince Albert, and over its five-month run, it attracted over six million visitors to a vast space four times the size of St. Peter's in Rome.
The Prize Medal, from The Great Exhibition of 1851, engraved by Messrs. WILLIAM and LEONARD C. WYON and produced by the Royal Mint.
Uncle and Nephew Messrs. Swaine & Adeney won the only Prize Medal in its category for its silver-mounted Racing Whip. It was heralded as being 'illustrative of the universal and pacific character of the Exhibition.' Valued at 35 guineas, the equivalent of at least £3,000 today, it was not the most expensive nor lavish whip on display, one whip was mounted in gold and set with 'brilliants and rubies', but with the Angel of Peace stood smiling back at the world, it was the most poignant for the occasion. The Great Exhibition was a major success and sparked the beginning of many global exhibitions right across the world, and with a firmly secured reputation for excellence beyond compare, Swaine & Adeney would go on to be commended at no less than 11 exhibitions at home and abroad.
With the passing of the illustrious 1850s, The British Empire suddenly found itself in mourning. In December 1861 H.R.H. Prince Albert succumbed to typhoid fever in the presence of H.M. the Queen and five of their nine children. Just four months later on 22nd April 1862, whilst in preparations for the much anticipated second act of the Great Exhibition of 1851, Edward Swaine died, aged 66. He is remembered today not just as a pioneering philanthropist and Whip-Maker, nor deacon of 40 years and hymn writer, poet, activist and lecturer, nor simply for founding the London Aged Christian Society; no, Mr. Swaine is remembered as a forward-thinking, multifaceted and above all else loving father and grandfather whose world revolved around adored his beloved daughter Caroline.
It might be thought that with all these interests, Edward would not have had sufficient time to devote to the family company, but he was a man of immense energy and application and prided himself on being able to say, 'I never neglect my business.' Also, he wove his beliefs into the conduct of the company and how he treated his workers. It was clear to him that honourable labour was ennobling and one of the cornerstones of a civilised, virtuous society. As an employer, he believed that he had a Christian duty to care for the material and moral wellbeing of his workers and to assist them in times of genuine need.
The Prize Medal winning Case of SWAINE & ADENEY Whips and Canes featuring the Exhibition Whip, from The Great Exhibition of 1862, drawn and engraved for Cassell's Illustrated Exhibitor.
Swaine & Adeney was left in the best possible hands. James confidently took the reigns and with his wife and two sons Messrs. EDWARD SWAINE ADENEY and JAMES WILLIAM ADENEY by his side, led the company into The International Exhibition of 1862. Needless to say, it was a resounding success and triumph. The boldly named 'Exhibition Whip' led an entire case of beautifully ornate whips and canes worth upward of 1000 Guineas, the equivalent of over £62,000 today. Swaine & Adeney had obtained the Prize Medal, just as they had done a decade earlier. It was a befitting tribute to the life and legacy of Mr. Edward Swaine and an official nod to Mr. Adeney for transitioning the business into an ever fruitful future.
The following year Swaine & Adeney received a game-changing royal commission. They were tasked with the manufacture of two processional carriage whips ahead of the marriage of T.R.H. Prince ALBERT EDWARD of Wales and Princess ALEXANDRA of Denmark. The 'Nuptial whips' were reported to be 'unique in magnificence, as well as in good taste'. This fresh and youthful patronage played a crucial part in the company's future direction. As the advancing railways ate into the market for coaching whips, Swaine & Adeney concentrated on building custom among aficionados of hunting and horse racing. The young prince lived for sport and was hailed as the saviour of British equestrian pursuits, something that the royal figurehead had been missing for so long. Another commission from H.M. was to produce a 19th birthday present beyond compare for H.R.H. Prince ALBERT VICTOR, the Duke of Clarence and Avondale. The riding crop was of pale plaited horsehair with a gold knob handle chased with deer in a forest setting, the tip inscribed with a coronet. Complete with his monogram and inscription, 'From GRANDMAMA VRI.'
H.M. Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee decorations outside the SWAINE & ADENEY's shop at No. 185, Piccadilly, 1877.
Twenty years later a British Shipowner, social researcher and reformer by the name of Mr. CHARLES BOOTH launched an Inquiry into the Life and Labour of the People in London. It was one of several surveys of working-class life carried out in the 19th century. Mr. Adeney was happy to get involved. In 1893 records show that there were 30 employees, all men, working at the Piccadilly shop. Only two were shop boys; the others were skilled tradesmen, earning between 25 and 60 shillings a week. James went on to explain in great detail the entire whip-making process and added that Swaine & Adeney were still very much a whip-making concern. While they retailed a lot of other items, and in particular walking sticks, whips remained the core of their manufacturing business. The motor car would shortly change that, but the speed of that revolution would have been hard to foresee in 1893. Unknowingly, the survey had captured an image of the whip-making industry as it stood on the edge of its greatest challenge.
Mr. James Adeney died on 26th February 1898. He was 76 and had lived to see his grandson Mr. EDWARD SWAINE ADENEY Jr. trained up in the business. He bequeathed the sum of £1919 6s, 3d to his sons, the equivalent of at least £150k today. The assurance of continuity was vital as Swaine & Adeney confronted the rise of the motor car. The English word car originated from Latin carrus/carrum "wheeled vehicle" or via Old North French, Middle English carre "two-wheeled cart," both of which derive from Gaulish karros "chariot." It originally referred to any wheeled horse-drawn vehicle, such as a cart, carriage, or wagon. At their first startling appearance on the nation's roads around 1895, these self-propelled vehicles, powered by electricity, were commonly known as 'horseless carriages'. However, this was not a new idea. In the early part of the 19th century, innovators in Hungary, the Netherlands and the United States—including a blacksmith from Vermont—began toying with the concept of a battery-powered vehicle and created some of the first small-scale electric vehicles. And while Mr. ROBERT ANDERSON, a British inventor, developed the first crude electric carriage around this same time, it was not until the second half of the century that French and English inventors built some of the first practical electric vehicles.
The London Electric Cab Co.'s short lived 'Bersey' Fleet of electric taxis, individually known as the 'Hummingbird.'
Years later, Mr. WALTER CHARLES BERSEY, a British electrical engineer, set about refining electric-driven vehicles. He developed a new form of dry battery that enabled him to build, in 1888, an electric bus that he ran successfully for at least 3,000 miles. In March 1894, he constructed an electric parcel van used in central London and later developed private electric cars. Mr. Bersey also developed an electric cab design, 75 of which were built and used by the LONDON ELECTRICAL CAB Co. to run a service between 1897 and 1899. They were not financially successful owing to noise and vibration leading to excessive damage to tyres and batteries. Also, with the discovery of vast oil fields in the United States, decades later, the electric motor and steam engine eventually gave way to the cheaper but less environmentally conscious internal combustion engine.
'The horseless carriage' name filled with foreboding for whip-makers and other manufacturers of equestrian goods, but rather than rue progress, Swaine & Adeney turned their leather-working skills to the manufacture of luggage sets for the new leisure activity of motoring. The car was nowhere near as democratising as the railways; until the Second World War ownership was restricted to the wealthy. This meant that well-heeled motorists compensated Swaine & Adeney for the falling off of trade in the coaching market, but other companies reliant on demand for horse-drawn transport were not as fortunate; this marked the end of the 19th century. And with the passing of H.M. the Queen in 1901, so too, the Victorian era came to an end.
SWAINE & ADENEY Ltd.
N the early part of the 20th century, Whip-Makers by Royal Appointment to T.M. King EDWARD VII and Queen ALEXANDRA, Swaine & Adeney found themselves needing to branch out. To combat the rise of the car, they decided to focus their attention on the manufacture of a wide variety of hunting goods. The business employed its vast wealth of expertise to produce all sorts of crops, whips and hunt accessories. These ranged from wire nippers, hunting knives, dog collars, ear-tattooing forceps, spurs, canteens and flasks, and the acquisition of the infamous J. KÖHLER & SON allowed Swaine & Adeney to produce splendid hunting horns and whistles. This dual approach of consolidating old markets while also creating new ones meant that Swaine & Adeney were quick to see opportunities in the sport of polo, which army officers had imported from India back in the 1860s. The company not only made polo whips but polo spurs and umpire canes with whistles. Mr. Swaine even provided decorative and ornate engraved whips as Tournament and Gymkhana prizes.
In July 1910, after the death of H.M. King Edward VII, Swaine & Adeney were registered as a limited company at Somerset House, with a capital of £18,000 in £1 shares. Just as H.R.H Prince GEORGE FREDERICK ERNEST ALBERT became King GEORGE V, Edward Jr. was named Managing Director of the new company. His father continued to work there until 1916. Known to his family and friends as Ward Adeney, Edward Jr. remained in the driving seat for almost another 40 years until his retirement in 1949. He was in many ways a remarkable businessman, and it is doubtful whether the company could have survived the upheavals of the early 20th century without his inspired leadership.
A selection of SWAINE & ADENEY Ltd. advertising from the early 20th Century.
Passionate about the company's traditions of fine craftsmanship, Mr. Adeney Jr. repeatedly invented new product lines whilst improving existing ones. Substantial advertising budgets were introduced and he registered more patents for new or improved products than at any time before or since in the company's history. Incentives were introduced for his workers, including share options for key staff and tool insurance for pieceworkers, and he invested heavily in a network of national travelling salesmen and international agents.
These changes, although significant, are not easy to illustrate today, but one sign of his business sense can be seen in some of the company's manufactures from this era. In October 1902 he had registered the maker's mark 'ESA' with the London Assay Office; he renewed the registration in 1910 (and additionally registered it at the Birmingham Assay Office) and henceforth the silver and gold collars on the company's whips and sticks were stamped with this mark, rather than that of an independent silversmith.
During the Spring of 1909, The new shopping arcade and future home of Swaine Adeney Brigg, The Piccadilly Arcade, opened to the public. Mr. GEORGE THRALE JELL of Waterloo Place acted as Architect while Messrs. LESLIE AND Co. of Kensington Square were in charge of the construction. A ground-floor arcade of originally twenty-eight shops laid out between Piccadilly and Jermyn Street. On the site now covered by the Piccadilly Arcade, formerly stood Mr. HENRY LUDLAM & Co's shop, at No. 174, Piccadilly. Famed for his Cricketer's Cap, Mr. Ludlam enjoyed great success as a Hosier to the British royal family. To the rear of his shop once stood Brunswick Hotel at No. 52, Jermyn Street. It was here that, as Prince, H.I.M. NAPOLEON III took up his residence in May 1846, under the assumed name of the Comte d'Arenberg, after he escaped from captivity in the fortress of Ham.
SWAINE & ADENEY Ltd. Specialities, World War I war time advertisement, 1915.
Edward had not long been in charge of Swaine & Adeney when the First World War erupted in 1914. The war had profound consequences for the company. Initially perhaps, when people had hopes of a short, glorious, and even rather stylish war, it did not threaten to change things much. However, as time passed, Swaine & Adeney had to develop entirely new product lines. By 1915 they were in full war-production mode. There was an element of commercial necessity in this, of course, but also a patriotic desire to be seen to be channelling production into wartime supplies rather than leisure goods. Also, the war came unhappily close to home. Mr. WILLIAM HENRY ADENEY was a cousin of Edward Swaine Adeney Sr. who had inherited the family's long-standing tailoring business in Sackville Street. His only son, Mr. ROBERT EDWARD ADENEY, was commissioned Lieutenant in the Surrey West Regiment, but in January 1917 he was seconded as a Flying Officer to the Royal Flying Corps. He survived barely three months. On 11th April 1917, a few days after his 19th birthday, he was shot down and killed over Douai in France.
The next year, death had found its way into the heart of the business with the passing of Mr. James William Adeney. He died on 25th June 1918, aged 69, shortly followed by his brother Edward Sr. on 22nd November 1920. He had retired from the company by this time and died at home aged 73, in Gerrards Cross in Buckinghamshire. He bequeathed the sum of £12571 6s, the equivalent of at least £365,293.06 today, to his devoted wife Mrs. CATHERINE ADENEY and of course his son.
"GOOD HANDS" 1750–1927, booklet written by Mr. EDWARD SWAINE ADENEY Jr., Pg. 5, 1927.
Seven years later, a determined and focussed Mr. Adeney Jr. wrote a small booklet setting out his company's philosophy. The booklet, Good Hands 1750-1927, is a lovely production in itself and was printed by THE BAYNARD PRESS, which produced many of the early lithographic posters for the London Underground. It is illustrated throughout by beautiful woodcuts of processes and tools, which Edward had commissioned as an example of fine craftsmanship in another field. His approach was one which an earlier generation of craftsmen-philosophers, such as Messrs. JOHN RUSKIN and William Morris, would have recognised and welcomed. 'Why "protest so much" about fine craftsmanship?' he asked and went on to write:
'Because the machine always sets out to simulate the 'signature' of handcraft. This simulation cannot be helped nor need be too harshly condemned — it must be accepted as one of the legitimate devices of eager competition. But it is worth noting that this simulation is in itself the most significant recognition of the qualities of hand-work. It does not, and cannot, reproduce those qualities — qualities conspicuously of strength and long service. And the by no means unimportant — to many, indeed, the most important — quality of pleasantness in use: which is to say, character, texture, finish — a sort of 'freedom of drawing' as it were; an avoidance, not deliberate and mannered but natural and necessitated by the process of dull mechanical uniformity.'
Mr. Adeney was, however, careful to stress that he was not anti-machine or inimically opposed to progress :
'Lest any modernist should think that Swaine's are so much behind their time as to make handcraft a fetish for its own sake, we would ask the reader to note that machines are used at certain stages of the work for the sake of speed, which means economy, but never for those processes which are essentially done better by hand and produce results more pleasing to the eye and more satisfactory in use. The machine is, in fact, used as servant— not master. This, then, is the formula: honest material and the finest craftsmanship that can be put into the moulding of it.'
"GOOD HANDS" 1750–1927, *booklet written by Mr. EDWARD SWAINE ADENEY Jr., Pg. 8 1927.
Edward dedicated his booklet to those who were 'concerned to see the great tradition of English craftsmanship preserved in a machine-made age'. His idealism still radiates from its pages almost a hundred years later. The booklet also illustrates the increasing diversity of the company's products at the end of the 1920s, another part of the plan to survive and thrive in the machine-made age. To the whips and sticks, they added the natural bedfellows of umbrellas and sporting seat-sticks. To the motoring luggage, they added handbags and document cases. In the 1920s, whilst still contracted to the British Government's War Office, Swaine & Adeney developed a range of renowned leather gloves and soon found themselves appointed as Glove-Makers to H.M. King George V. Edward also championed Swaine & Adeney's enthusiasm to tailor goods to customers' requirements, making luggage bespoke to any model of car.. This tradition of customisation gave rise to the notion at Swaine & Adeney that 'two of anything' constituted a bulk order. Also around this time, Mr. Adeney collaborated with an artist and friend of the company, Sir WILLIAM NICHOLSON. The front cover of An Almanac of Twelve Sports, with words by Mr. JOSEPH RUDYARD KIPLING, published in 1898, depicted a well-dressed coachman complete with long riding whip would go on to symbolise Swaine & Adeney.
The Cover of An Almanac of Twelve Sports by Sir William Nicholson, with words by Mr. Joseph Rudyard Kipling, the direct inspiration for the collaboration between SWAINE & ADENEY and the Artist to produce an iconic piece of signage, 1898.
In 1939 Swaine & Adeney faced the challenge of another war. They quickly switched, as before, to retailing items of military kit. But this was a very different war from the last one and no experience could have prepared a company for the trading difficulties it would bring. Most obviously, the horse had all but disappeared from modern warfare and the cavalry officer was now only an occasional consumer of equestrian accessories. Beyond that, there were fundamental problems with materials. Local manufacturing was necessarily channelled into wartime needs; silk was destined for parachutes, not umbrellas. Enemy attacks on shipping and the Japanese conquest of much of Asia cut off supplies of exotic raw materials, while bombing raids in Britain knocked out many local suppliers.
The Blitzed St. James's Church and Bomb damaged Piccadilly, 1940.
Mr. Adeney was 65 years old and living in Surrey with his dear wife Mrs. FLORENCE ADENEY when on the night of 14th October 1940, he came perilously close to losing the Piccadilly retail premises to one of many devastating air raids across the country. The nearby and much-beloved St. James's Church, designed by Sir CHRISTOPHER WREN, was decimated by two high explosive bombs. The blast severely weakened the Church’s brick and Portland Stone fabric. The north wall was fractured, and pieces of shrapnel lacerated the building’s east end. When the smoke cleared, the next morning, St. James’s was a burnt-out ruin, open to the elements. It remained a roofless shell for nearly seven years. The next year, services resumed after the addition of a temporary roof covered parts of the south aisle. Newly constructed air raid shelters in the Church gardens remained for the rest of the war. Also, the corner of Duke Street, leading onto Jermyn Street, suffered a far more devastating explosion on 17th April 1941. The Luftwaffe had just introduced a new terrifying weapon – the parachute mine – it was packed full of high explosives, was eight feet long, two feet wide and weighed two and a half tons. Manufactured to explode in mid-air to cause maximum damage, no shop in the area avoided damage in some shape or form and No. 185, Piccadilly was no exception.
Even if Swaine & Adeney had been able to maintain supplies and production at acceptable levels, most of their Continental and East Asian customers were lost to them and they had no means of guaranteeing delivery to Australasia, Africa, or the Americas. In this, they were not alone, of course. Just around the corner, at No. 23, St. James's Street, Umbrella-Makers THOMAS BRIGG & SONS were also struggling. Indeed, their situation was perhaps worse, as they had lost their flagship showroom in Paris to the Nazi occupation. In February 1943 the two companies decided to join forces. From 1943 until 1990 the company traded as SWAINE, ADENEY, BRIGG & SONS Ltd. Edward Swaine Adeney Jr. was appointed Chairman for life, and one was one of three Company Directors, along with his son, Mr. GILBERT LATTIMER ADENEY, and Mr. BERTIE WALTER BRIGG.
SWAINE, ADENEY, BRIGG & SONS Ltd.
AVING steered the new company through the final stages of the war, Mr. Edward Swaine Adeney Jr. finally retired in 1949. He enjoyed just four years of retirement before his death in Eastbourne on 23rd October 1953. He was 78 years old. He was succeeded briefly by his only son, Mr. Gilbert Lattimer Adeney who had been working with his father since the 1920s. Aged 45, he was the sixth generation of the family to run the company since Mr. James Swaine had bought out Mr. John Ross back in 1798, but he had inherited an economic climate like none that had gone before it. There were shortages in supplies, swingeing taxation rates, and a cultural impatience with the old, mannered world of the gentleman that provided the company with so many of its customers. Mass-production techniques and cheap imitations of modernist design trends were inimical to the company ethos of traditional craftsmanship, which was in any case imperilled by a decline in workers with specialist skills. Some of Gilbert's discomfort with this brave new world can be discerned in his chairmanship in 1959 of the newly founded Duodecimal or Dozenal Society, which listed among its objectives 'constructive opposition to any legislative proposal to extend the decimal metric base'.
SSWAINE ADENEY BRIGG & SONS Ltd., advertisement 1953.
The 1960s were not without their opportunities, however. Swaine Adeney Brigg prized good design, and their luggage ranges evolved to reflect the neat, clean lines and changing tastes of the decade without any compromise in quality. With some luxury goods around this time labelled as 'SWAINE-BRIGG', this was particularly apparent in the women's department, where brighter umbrellas began to jostle for attention among the serried rows of black silks, and sharply styled boxy handbags and bright red vanity cases stood out against the traditional briefcases. New technologies compensated in part for the loss of old supplies; hand-woven silk might have become scarce and exceedingly expensive, but nylon fabric came a close second in tension, crease-resistance, and waterproofing. Nylon also replaced the increasingly rare whalebone in the core of many whips. Zair made these whips, which were trademarked 'Sabson' - derived from the parent company name.
There was also a welcome burst of publicity from the television series, The Avengers. Mr. PATRICK MACNEE's character of John Steed starred opposite Cathy Gale, played by Mrs. HONOR BLACKMAN. His witty, eccentric and exaggerated Englishness helped bring about a rebirth of the umbrella as a prop for the style-conscious gentleman, and the series was well-received particularly in the United States. This opened up Brigg umbrellas to a new generation overseas. Meanwhile, Mr. SEAN CONNERY's James Bond was working much the same magic for the company luggage range. Swaine Adeney Brigg made Bond's briefcase for his 1963 outing in From Russia with Love. This was faithful to Mr. IAN FLEMING's original novel written in 1957. in which Mr. Fleming wrote:
'Q Branch had put together this smart-looking little bag, ripping out the careful handiwork of Swaine and Adeney to pack 50 rounds of .25 ammunition, in two flat rows, between the leather and the lining of the spine. In each of the innocent sides, there was a flat throwing knife, built by Wilkinson, the sword-makers, and the tops of their handles were concealed cleverly by the stitching at the corners.'
The briefcase was to become a classic in Bond Gadgetry, a sleek black beauty full of personal touches that is revered by many to this day. As Swaine Adeney Brigg did make a lively range of sword sticks and umbrellas, and as they happily customised objects for the discerning customer, Bond's murderous briefcase was a fantastic piece of advertising for all things bespoke and handcrafted.
Modern Times, A Gentleman and His Purchase from SWAINE ADENEY BRIGG & SONS, c.1955.
Mr. Gilbert Adeney had done all he could for the company. Still suffering from an injury he sustained in a severe motor accident in World War II, he retired as chairman early in 1965 and relocated to the Isle of Wight. He handed on the baton to his 27 year old son, Mr. ROBERT EDWARD JOHN ADENEY:
"I remember meeting in his office above the shop where a huge table served as a desk. Indeed it so dominated the room that when offered a seat opposite him, you had to bend your legs to fit in, between the seats and the table. They sold very high-quality leather goods, and from time to time, when feeling reasonably flush, I used to buy the Dingo skin driving gloves, which I used for flying."
Looking back, Robert recalled that the early years of his chairmanship were 'exciting, but harrowing.' In an interview published in 1990, he said, 'I felt duty-bound to into the family business, but I was totally without aspects of business training which might have equipped me better.' Indeed Mr. Adeney's time as Chairman was a roller-coaster of positive and negative experiences, with an almost decade long divorce from businesswoman Mrs. ELIZABETH ANNE ADENEY and failed attempts to open up retail quarters at No. 434 Post Street, San Francisco and even in Tokyo, the cripplingly high rent of expanding into No. 186, Piccadilly next door, the company was on its knees on many occasions. In the summer of that year, he and the remaining Adeney and Brigg family shareholders sold their 80% stake in the company for a reported £4 to £5 million.
Sales at SWAINE ADENEY BRIGG & SONS, c.1984.
The Swaine & Adeney bloodline finally came to a reluctant end. Mr. Adeney retired early and said to have lived out the rest of his life abroad, in the South of France or the United States. The new controlling shareholder was the Ensign Trust, the investment arm of the Merchant Navy Officers Pension Fund.
The company of course kept its name but the following years were wracked with debt and mismanagement. For the first three years, the company haemorrhaged annual losses of over £3 million. Rudderless, Swaine Adeney Brigg changed hands several times in 20 years, with each successive owner claiming to have worked the necessary magic on the company's fortunes. A bewildering array of names accompanied these changes. None of these owners could be characterised as corporate raiders - far from it. Nor however, did any of them envisage sticking with the company for long. In each case, the formula was to rescue, rebuild, and sell on - a recipe that precluded the stability that the company's reputation and its dedicated customers and workers deserved.
The merchant banker Mr. ANTHONY TYRON, 3rd Baron Tyron, was the first Chairman of the company after Robert sold up. Mr. ROHAN COURTNEY spent a year at Swaine Adeney Brigg as Executive Chairman and 'Company Doctor' on behalf of the owners. He successfully turned a £1.7 million loss to profit in six months, and in completing his assignment, the business sold in June 1994.
The Ending of an Era at SWAINE ADENEY BRIGG & SONS, December 1994.
After Mr. Courtney came Mr. JOHN DE BRUYNE, who bought the company—and paid far less than Mr. Adeney had sold it four years previously—with an ambition to turn the company into a successful global luxury brand, a British Hermès or Gucci. Then, ideally, he would 'sell the company to a trade buyer, retiring as a hero'. Mr. de Bruyne certainly lifted the profile in a short time. However, he controversially chose to halve the company's workers and relocate the company away from its home of over 220 years on Piccadilly to cheaper premises to save money. Whilst the latter move did achieve substantial financial savings it is questionable whether giving up such historic roots was worth it in the long run.
As it turned out, the move to No. 10, Old Bond Street was not a permanent one; in 1998 Swaine Adeney Brigg moved again into a double-fronted shop at No. 54, St. James's Street. This was not far from Brigg's old retail quarters at No. 23, and was a location that better reflected the company's long association with St. James's. As part of his programme to refocus the company on its core business, Anthony was keen to develop the company's luggage range. By 1996 Swaine Adeney Brigg was making over 2,500 briefcases a year, and in 1997 this capacity was augmented when they bought the luggage-making department of PAPWORTH INDUSTRIES. This followed the purchase in 1996 of another venerable name, the Hatters HERBERT JOHNSON. With the purchase of the Papworth luggage-making department, Mr. de Bruyne gave up the Great Chesterfield factory and consolidated the Swaine Adeney Brigg's manufacturing at a new factory in Bar Hill, Cambridgeshire.
Mr. Anthony de Bruyne's time with Swaine Adeney Brigg has been lauded as a textbook example of how to turn around an ailing company, but again this success appears to have been ephemeral. In 2003 the company was sold to Harris Watson Holdings PLC, a Birmingham-based company with an explicit corporate rescue mission. In 2009 Swaine Adeney Brigg was sold again to Mr. ROGER GAWN, a Norfolk businessman with a passion for preserving and nurturing traditional craft skills; with the determination to make the finest quality leather goods, umbrellas, and accessories for people who appreciate the beauty, integrity, and durability if handcrafted goods.
HE story began with Mr. CHARLES BRIGG, born on 24th November 1783 in the parish of St. Gregory by St. Paul, in the City of London. He was the eldest of the five children of Mr. THOMAS and Mrs. MARY BRIGG, who had married in the same church, just a few weeks before his birth. The Brigg family were no strangers to the key ingredients now associated with the finest Brigg umbrellas today.Hailing from Norfolk and Yorkshire, their history stretches beyond the 13th century to Norfolk, with no less than three noblemen during the reigns of T.M. EDWARD IV, HENRY VIII and EDWARD VI. One could argue that this particular story however began with Charles' very successful uncle, Mr. WILLIAM BRIGG, born on 26th November 1752. He was a co-partner and joint trader in a silk manufacturing company in Gold-smith-street, Wood Street near St. Paul's Cathedral, along with Messrs. THOMAS BANBURY, ROBERT FRITH and CHRISTOPHER HUMPHREY BANBURY. When he died, he bequeathed his share in the company, capital and other property estate and effects to his nephew, Charles' father Thomas.
Mr. Thomas Brigg, listed as a gentleman, then lived out his days at No. 27, Alfred Place, Goswell Street Road. He died on 28th June 1813, aged 51, and bequeathed a vast majority of his estate and personal effects to his beloved wife Mary and their children. Charles, who was 30 years old and with a family of his own by this time, initially inherited the sum of £700, the equivalent of at least £32,567 today. His six children, Messrs. THOMAS EDWARD, JOHN and WILLIAM BRIGG and Mss. FRANCES, JANE and JULIA ELIZABETH BRIGG received £20 each from their grandfather, the equivalent of at least £930 today. Charles and his two brothers, Messrs. HENRY and GEORGE BRIGG, would go on to inherit everything when their mother Mary died years later in 1831. Before his father's death however, Mr. Charles Brigg had trained as a Plumassier at BERROW'S, No. 3, Little Warwick Street, 'Ostrich and Fancy Feather & Flower Manufactory' by Charing Cross. This trade involved the cleaning, dyeing, and styling of feathers into plumes and flowers for decorating hats, dresses, and ladies fans. In this era, many of the feathers for flower-making came from domesticated poultry species, but plumes court and military dress were often made from exotic birds, such as African ostriches and American egrets. Charles' speciality, initially at least, was in supplying plumes for the military, for in 1809 aged 26 he appeared on an insurance record as 'Brigg, army feather maker'.
With his inheritance from his parents, Mr. Brigg, now aged 34, was able to open up his very own retail quarters by 5th December 1817. He traded under the name of BRIGG & CO. Feather & Artificial Flower maker at No. 63, Charing Cross. This was opposite the King's Mews that would eventually become the site of Trafalgar Square. Charles remained trading there for the rest of his life. Curiously, in that same year of 1817, the silk manufacturing company that belonged to Charles' great uncle was no longer trading. It was last listed in 1816 under the name of GARSTED, BANBURY, FRITH, BRIGG & Co. and research is ongoing to determine a possible link between the two companies at this time, as this would help to explain the expansion of the business into a second outlet some years later.
Besides the military plumes, Charles early branched out into women's fashion accessories, thanks in no small part to his wife Mrs. ELIZABETH BRIGG, whom he had married on 22nd March 1804. An advertisement that Mrs. Brigg placed in 1826 reveals her contribution to the business:
'Lace and veils cleaned and mended, Pinking Flounces for Ladies' Dresses on a short notice, Fans Mounted and Repaired, Court and Dress Plumes Cleaned and Mounted, by Mrs. Brigg, No. 63, Charing Cross. A fashionable assortment of Feathers and Flowers. Ladies' orders from the country punctually attended to. Shawls cleaned twice a week.'
The booming accessories trade had plenty of tasks for small hands. Mr. and Mrs. Brigg's raised their six children to work in the business. The eldest, Thomas Edward, who was aged 24 by this point, fell victim to the colossal stock market crash, dubbed the Panic of 1825. He filed for bankruptcy on his feather bed manufacturers towards the end of 1828, and despite the upheavals of the time, swiftly reinvented and reopened at No. 23, St. James's Street, in search of a new market niche. The building stood on the corner of St. James's Street and Ryder Street, just two blocks north of St. James's Palace, which at the time housed several of the prince regent's younger brothers. No. 23 was to be the home of Brigg for the next 115 years.
One of Thomas's early advertisements, shows that in branching out he had added the sale and repair of parasols to his services:
'Birds of Paradise, Fashionable Dress Plumes, French and Ball Hat-flowers, elegant Summer Parasols, in great variety, at BRIGGS' Manufactory, No. 23, St. James's-street, corner of Ryder-street. Feathers dressed, Parasols new covered, Fans repaired, &c., &c.'
This branch in St. James Street may have become firmly established, when Thomas married on 16th February 1828 to Miss. Frances Grellier of Chelsea. Mrs. Brigg came from a large family of Grelliers and was a descendant of Huguenot silk merchants of Spitalfields. Her relations may have supplied Brigg with the silk used to cover parasols. But it seems that the stock market crash proved too much for father and son, for in August 1828, Charles appeared before the Court for Relief of Insolvent Debtors. The notice of his petition to the Court described him as:
'Brigg, Charles, late of No. 63, Charing-Cross, also at the same time of Little Chelsea, and also after that of Davies-Place, Great Chelsea, all in Middlesex, formerly a Plumassier and Florist, and lately an Umbrella-Manufacturer and Plumassier.'
Then in November, Thomas Edward Brigg was ordered to appear for his hearing before the Bankruptcy Commissioners; on 9th January 1829, there were reports that he too had been registered bankrupt. But somehow, The debts of father and son managed to be adjusted satisfactorily, and the creditors placated, for both the Charing Cross and the St. James's Street branches of Brigg continued to trade. In August of the same year, Thomas sought a 'respectable young lady' for an apprenticeship at St. James's Street, where she would train in 'two lines of business.' This advertisement seems to have been a reference to the traditional Brigg undertaking in the feather trade and the new line of making umbrellas.
The umbrellas were obviously of increasing importance, for in April 1830, when an ailing Charles Brigg wrote his Will, he described himself as an Umbrella-Maker. He died just a few weeks later and came to rest at St. Martin-in-the-Fields on 7th June 1830, aged 46. He left the Charing Cross business to his three daughters, Jane, Frances, and Julia. Sadly Julia died on 2nd October 1838, aged just 27, and so Jane and Frances, listed as J. F. BRIGG, Umbrella Makers, continued to run the Charing Cross shop until 1843. Research is ongoing to ascertain precisely why they closed or whether they just merged with the increasingly fashionable second outlet.
No. 23, St. James's Street, presented simply as BRIGG to the public but listed as THOS. BRIGG, Umbrellas Makers, was in the heart of the gentlemen's clubs of WHITE's, BOODLES', BROOKS', and in sight of St. James's Palace. Trade quickly changed and focussed on the essential trimmings of a gentleman's dress. In 1838, only ten years after Thomas founded his branch of Brigg, Mr. JOHN TALLIS published a pictorial plan of St. James's Street detailing its traders and their shop fronts as part of his London Street Views; Brigg, listed as 'Umbrella, Cane & Whip Maker' and in the accompanying letterpress as 'Walking Stick Maker and Hair Dresser'. Mr. Brigg was diversifying. Mss. Jane and Frances Brigg’s shop was listed in Mr Tallis’ 1839 Street Directory as Brigg, Umbrella and Parasol Maker. Business was good.
BRIGG & SON.
Y the middle of the 19th century, full bathing was not just a medical treatment anymore but considered a means to achieve cleanliness, a mark of moral superiority and better health amongst the middle and upper classes. Though even wealthy families did not take a full bath daily, they were not unclean. It was the custom for most people to wash in the morning, usually a sponge bath with a large washbasin and pitcher of water on their bedroom washstands. Women might have added perfume to the water. Men often liked a cold bath in the mornings, using a basin or a smaller portable tub, followed by a brisk towelling-off. It was the custom among Creole people to provide a basin of fresh cold water, soap and towels for their guests, In summer especially, sponge-baths were taken as often as needed. Mr. Brigg grew up amidst this growing market and sought to build a range of products for the next generation to develop further.
Thomas' surviving eldest son was Mr. WILLIAM BRIGG, born on 16th January 1831. He and Mrs. EMMA BRIGG lost two children; their firstborn, a son who carried his father's name, had died the previous year, aged just 18 months, and Miss JULIA SOPHIA BRIGG, who died in 1842, aged five. William was trained up in the family business as his father was before him. In January 1851, there were allegations of theft at the shop. Proceedings at the Old Bailey followed, and around his 20th birthday, William gave evidence:
"I am the son of Thomas Brigg, 23, St. James'-street, Pall Mall—his shop is part of his dwelling-house—the shop is divided by a partition, and there are two doors, one to each compartment; in one he sells umbrellas, and in the other sponge—on 20th Dec. I was in the umbrella-shop about two o'clock, serving a customer; and when I had done that, I went to the sponge-shop—there is a bell over the door of the sponge-shop, which ordinarily rings when a person enters—it had not sounded then, but I found the prisoner in that shop, at the till—he said he wished to see a sponge; I showed him some; they did not suit him, and he left—as soon as he was gone, I examined the till; I missed four sovereigns, two half-sovereigns, and two or three 4d-pieces—I pursued the prisoner, and overtook him—he was walking about three doors off—I stopped him, and told him I suspected he had been robbing the till, and to come back, which he did—I asked him if he had taken anything out of the till; he denied it—I called the policeman; he searched him, and found three sovereigns, one half-sovereign, and some silver—he was asked about this money; he said it was given him to buy a suit of clothes, by his sister."
The prisoner, a Mr WILLIAM WHITE, was ‘a most expert young thief’, and had been convicted several times. His story was dismissed as fiction and he was fully committed.
It was around this time that Brigg became known as BRIGG & SON. Father and son continued to retail shaving accessories and toilet kits in the company of Messrs. WILLIAM SLARK, Hair-Dresser, and WILLIAM DEIGHTON, Tailor and Turner, for several years. However, despite diversification, it is clear that umbrellas continued to form the core of Thomas' business. The rise of the umbrella in the Brigg family business mirrored its triumph as the essential water-proofing accessory in British society. In the 1780s when Mr. Brigg's father, Charles, was a boy this revolution was in personal dress was far from complete. A portable, personal canopy, usually carried by an underling, had been a symbol of secular or sacred rank in many world civilisations, from the ancient Egyptians to the first Hindus. It appears in a small guise in Europe in the Middle Ages and by the 15th century, lavishly decorated canopies hovered above the heads of popes and doges alike. In so far as they served a practical purpose, the canopies were sunshades, and both of the English-language terms for them reflect this origin: parasols protect against the sun, while umbrellas (from the Latin umbra) create shade. It was as sunshades that their use spread in wider society, especially among upper-class women.
The British were slower to adopt umbrellas, and indeed they never adopted France's version that kept off the rain - the parapluie. 'Parasol' remained the term for a sunshade, while 'umbrella' was pressed into service for a rain shield, possibly because victims of the British climate has no trouble in associating shade with clouds. The parasol was still something of a novelty for women in the 1730s when it appeared as a fancy-dress accessory in portraits of society ladies. But by about 1780 it had become part of the arsenal of a fashionable white complexion and a formidable aid to flirtation. For the next 150 years, parasol fashions were to change with bewildering rapidity, providing a seemingly limitless market for the craftsmen and women who made and recovered them.
Umbrellas took a little longer to make headway in British society. Snobbery played a part here. Whereas a woman twirling a parasol was advertising her fair skin and her independence from the world of work, someone of either sex carrying an umbrella was effectively admitting that they could not call upon a sedan chair or carriage during inclement weather. For many years umbrellas, deemed an eccentric, effeminate and foreign indulgence, were permitted only to doctors and clergymen to carry, however by the 1820s they had established themselves as a staple of British life. Leap forward a century to the interwar period, and it had become the height of vulgar behaviour for a gentlemen 'in town' to carry anything but a neatly furled umbrella. As in so many other areas of British life, to keep dry had become a matter of class.
THOMAS BRIGG & SONS.
OR their 32 years of marriage, Mr. Thomas and Mrs. Frances Brigg had together raised a family and secured a future for the business. Their surviving children were all married and were ready to start their own families when their mother died at home on 17th November 1860, aged 56. Thomas introduced his youngest son of the same name, born on 13th December 1844, into the family business. THOMAS BRIGG & SONS was born. Thomas Sr. continued to run the company until his death on 23rd October 1881, aged 77. Thomas' hard work was royally recognised just three years after his death; Brigg received its first, of many, Royal Appointments from H.M. Queen Victoria. The Royal Warrant, from Master of the Horse and the Duke of Westminster, H.G. HUGH LUPUS GROSVENOR, was the first-ever appointment bestowed unto an Umbrella-Maker and was an honour for the Brigg family. Two years later, Mr. WALTER ALBERT BRIGG, born on 22nd January 1860, named his first-born son Mr. BERTIE WALTER BRIGG, possibly as a tribute to the son of Her Majesty affectionately known as 'Bertie', the future King EDWARD VII.
Four Generations of Royal Sovereigns, featuring two THOMAS BRIGG & SONS dress canes c.1899.
As Brigg's reputation and commercial success depended on keeping pace with the times as well as upholding the standards of craftsmanship, Messrs. Brigg developed an early form of canopy for the motor car, a large umbrella with a hinge that allowed the canopy to be folded flat against the shaft and swivelled to head off rain and win from a number of directions. This type of hinge was called a marquise and was in fact one of the oldest tricks in the umbrella world. The original marquise had been invented in France in the early 18th century as a way of making a stiff-framed umbrella more portable. They also branched out into multiple-use objects. The first of these, in the 1880s, was the en-tout-cas, a British invention with a French name, which was both umbrella and parasol, and was neither too heavy nor too frivolous could be used in all weathers. Another Brigg innovation was the 'Perfect', a shooting-stick that combined walking, silk umbrella, and pigskin seat in one. They sold very well and were advertised as the ideal accoutrement for hunters, golfers, fishermen, and artists. There was also the 'Brigson', a telescopic shooting-stick.
William and Thomas ran the business jointly as a partnership until the February of 1886 when young Thomas retired. He may have had to step back due to ill-health, as he died on 14th March 1888, aged only 43. His brother William remained at the helm until his retirement in 1898. During this time, William made a bold and brilliant move in taking the business to the continent. In 1889 Mr. Brigg opened a showroom in Paris, at No. 33, Avenue de L'Opéra. It was a resounding success and went on to attract many more royal patrons, including T.R.H. King ALFONSO XIII and Queen consort VICTORIA EUGÉNIE of Spain, King DOM CARLOS I and Queen consort DONA MARIA AMÉLIA of Portugal, King HAAKON VII and Queen consort MAUD of Wales, of Norway and H.R.H. SOPHIE, The Duchess of Sparta, later Queen of the Hellenes, nee of Prussia.
By 1914 Mr. Brigg had established an extensive network of outlets across the world, and, besides London and Paris, you could purchase a Brigg umbrella from an approved retailer in Nice, Biarritz, Brussels, Florence, Palermo, Rome, Naples, Vienna, Berlin, Barcelona, Madrid, and Buenos Aires. The extensive range of French and Italian outlets had an irony about it, given that it had been the Italians and French who had first adopted the umbrella in Europe. Now they were buying them from the British.
BRIGG & SONS.
RIGG was now an international business although they would always officially as Thomas Brigg & sons, they were now known publicly as BRIGG & SONS. William was in partnership with his sons, Walter and Mr. WILLIAM HENRY BRIGG, born on 15th June 1858. They had both been the public face of Brigg in St. James's for many years before coming partners. Willam Henry died on 28th June 1903, aged 45 and had left £18261 5s, equivalent of at least £1,434,777 today, to his retired father and brother. As Walter took Brigg into the 20th century, with his wife Mrs. JESSIE CONSTANCE BRIGG and children by his side, the historic shop itself came to the end of its life.
The original building of No. 23, St. James's Street, was one of the first built on the eastern side of St. James's Street, was rebuilt on a much grander scale. The original dated back to the mid 18th century and was architecturally very similar to the current home of Hatters, LOCK & CO further up at No. 6. In 1903 and 1904, the Commissioners of Woods and Forests agreed to grant separate building leases to the three tenants who between them occupied the five houses, Nos. 23–27 St. James's Street. The property was rebuilt, as three separate buildings, each with a ground-floor shop and offices or flats on the upper floors. The buildings were not to be masked behind a uniform façade, but the Commissioners ensured a certain degree of uniformity by specifying the height of the main frontage and restricting the attic to a single storey. All three buildings were faced in Portland stone and were to harmonise with each other. The former site of No. 24, St. James's Street was divided between the new Nos. 23, 24 and 25, while Nos. 26 and 27 were then rebuilt as a single block. The architects of No. 23 and Nos. 26–27 were Messrs. HYMAN HENRY COLLINS and MARCUS EVELYN COLLINS, of No. 61, Old Broad Street. Nos. 24–25, were designed by Mr. FREDERICK ERNEST WILLIAMS of No. 34, Henrietta Street. The buildings were finished in carcase at the end of 1905 and fully completed during the following year.
In 1919 when Mr. Brigg bought up the goodwill and stock of Messrs. BÉTAILLE, a leading French parasol manufacturer who traded ten minutes away from Brigg & Sons, No. 20, rue Royale in Paris. One French admirer was the Modernist Painter, Mr. AMÉDÉE OZENFANT, a young man during the First World War who had pined for an umbrella he saw in Brigg & Sons' Paris shop window. It had a handle formed from a superbly gnarled root. Desperate to own it, he paid the 35 francs for it, the equivalent of at least £277 today, only to suffer the ultimate umbrella nightmare: he left it in the Métro the very next day. Writing in his memoirs half a century later, the story of his parapluie perdu was still fresh in his mind.
After the First World War, walking stick sales dropped dramatically as an accessory for the urban man. Rustic sticks for country use were still in demand, but the market for gentlemen's canes dried up. A newfound taste for leisurely motoring might have been the cause, but perhaps more likely, it was because the stick had so obviously become a vital mobility aid for the war's casualties. Fortuitously for the business however, the decline of the walking stick as an accessory was countered by the rise of the umbrella as a gentlemen's accessory. It was a walking stick in all but name and with the introduction of cinema at the turn of the century, there came a new wave of patrons and worldwide publicity. Acclaimed American composer and lyricist, Mr. IRVING BERLIN wrote in 1927:
'Come let's mix where Rockefellers walk with sticks or umbrellas in their mitts, Puttin' on the Ritz.'
Dancing icons such as Messrs. FREDERICK AUSTERLITZ ASTAIRE and EUGENE CURRAN KELLY opted for the reliability of Brigg & Sons' canes, sticks and umbrellas when performing their onscreen solos. Mr. Astaire tapped and twirled a polished chestnut two-piece umbrella for A Damsel In Distress, and in embracing the elements, Mr Kelly too danced with his two-piece umbrella in Singin' In The Rain. Brigg umbrellas have since featured widely throughout the entertainment industry. From Dame JULIE ANDREWS' sensible black silk, complete with a prim parrot's head automaton, carved by Mr. AUGUST CZILINSKY for Mary Poppins, Mr. COLIN FIRTH's deadly polished chestnut for the Kingsman franchise more recently.
H.M. QUEEN MARY's Dolls' House was the largest, most beautiful, and most celebrated dolls' house in the world. Designed by leading British architect Sir EDWIN LUTYENS and presented as a gift to Her Majesty from the people it served as a historical document on how a royal family might have lived in Edwardian England. Built between 1921 and 1924, it included thousands of 1:12 scale objects from the finest artists, craftsmen, and manufacturers of the early 20th century. From life below stairs to the high-society setting of the saloon and dining room, a library bursting with original works by the top literary names of the day, to a fully stocked wine cellar and garden. The house even includes electricity, running hot and cold water and working lifts. Brigg & Sons produced two items for the Dolls' House. Within the royal chambers, tucked away neatly in both wardrobes, you would find a dress cane for The King and a black silk umbrella for The Queen; both finished in ebony with amber handles.
Brigg & Sons had few rivals for the quality of their umbrellas, or indeed the illustrious nature of their client list. Throughout 1936 father and son proudly celebrated what they believed was the centenary of their retail quarters at No. 23, St. James's Street. To mark the occasion, they rolled out a new streamlined and ultra-slim gentleman's umbrella, named the 'Centenary'. The goal was an umbrella that was barely a whisker thicker than the displayed walking stick. Advertisements for the 'Centenary' proudly proclaimed that it 'rolls much smaller' and that its newly invented neckless tips were not only neater but 'preserve an almost unbroken line from the handle onto the silk, and . . . do not wear ugly rings around the surface of the cane.'
War was in the air when one particular gentleman's black silk umbrella achieved world fame. The British Prime Minister, Mr. ARTHUR NEVILLE CHAMBERLAIN and his 'umbrella of appeasement', purchased from Brigg & Sons in 1889 by his wife Mrs. ANNE DE VERE CHAMBERLAIN, took centre stage during talks with the Chancellor of the German Reich, Mr. ADOLF HITLER in Munich, and again the following year in Rome with the Italian Prime Minister, Mr. BENITO MUSSOLINI. Photographs emerged of Chamberlain's immaculately furled umbrella. Newspapers devoted column inches to this unlikely symbol of hope, with one or two of Brigg & Sons' salesmen providing discreet insights into the great man's brolly behaviour. Every few years, Chamberlain personally brought his umbrella into the St. James's shop to be recovered. After handing his umbrella over, he would while away the minutes admiring and fondling the more flamboyant styles on display, but he was never tempted to buy another and always ordered simply that his old one 'be recovered'. It was a heavy black silk affair, with a Malacca cane handle, seven-eighths of an inch thick, spliced onto a Tonkin cane shaft with a gilt collar. Reportedly costing £2 17s 6d, the equivalent of at least £224 today, Brigg & Sons reported that if the collar had been solid gold, the price would have been six guineas, the equivalent of at least £492 today. Brigg & Sons at the time said:
"It's what one might call a Rolls-Royce of an umbrella, natty but quiet, solid but a light dasher. The sort of umbrella which becomes part of a man, if I may say so."
Mr. Chamberlain was not the only prime minister to invest in Brigg & Sons. Sir WINSTON LEONARD SPENCER CHURCHILL had also been a lifelong customer. Whether it was for a dress cane or a faithful Malacca walking stick, for Mr. Churchill there was only ever Brigg & Sons. On his wedding day, Mr. Churchill received a gold-topped Malacca cane from Brigg & Sons, gifted by H.M. Edward VII, which he proudly used for the remainder of his life.
For a few short months, the 'umbrella of appeasement' had gained so much popularity worldwide that umbrellas were no longer associated with soggy gloom but wielded in a spirit of hope and optimism. For his part, the Führer, Mr. Hitler, who resented the diplomatic conference of 'equals' at Munich, could barely contain his scorn. Though the British and French were pleased, as were the Nazi military and German diplomatic leadership, Mr. Hitler was furious. He felt forced into acting like a bourgeois politician by his diplomats and generals. He exclaimed furiously soon after the meeting with Mr. Chamberlain:
"Gentlemen, this has been my first international conference, and I can assure you that it will be my last."
Mr. Chamberlain was treated with utter contempt. A British diplomat in Berlin, informed by reliable sources, reported that Mr. Hitler viewed the prime minister as "an impertinent busybody who spoke the ridiculous jargon of an outmoded democracy. The umbrella, which to the ordinary German was the symbol of peace, was in Hitler's view nothing more than a subject of derision". Also, Hitler reportedly said:
"If ever that silly old man comes interfering here again with his umbrella, I'll kick him downstairs and jump on his stomach in front of the photographers."
In one of his public speeches after Munich, Hitler declared:
"Thank God we have no umbrella politicians in this country."
At the time, all this fuss must have seemed like magnificent publicity for Messrs. Brigg, but ultimately, of course, it was an ironic prelude to the ending of the company's independence. A few months later, the war that Chamberlain had tried to avert erupted, and soon afterwards, Brigg & Sons lost their Paris showroom. The merger with SWAINE & ADENEY at No. 185, Piccadilly, followed in 1943. When the war was over, a new era of economic austerity and political levelling ensured that the art of making and selling quality umbrellas would be quite the same again.
Mr. Walter Albert Brigg remained joint Company Director with Mr. EDWARD SWAINE ADENEY Jr. for the rest of his life. Walter died on 4th April 1950. He was 90 years old and had seen it all with his wife of some 60 years, Mrs. JESSIE CONSTANCE BRIGG. Bertie was now 64 and had a family of his own. before the company merger. One could argue that he had already been running the business with his beloved wife, Mrs. INES ROSE BRIGG, by his side for decades. Records from as early as the 1920s indicate that father and son had managed to weather the storms of the First World War, as seen in one of the final directory listings:
'Brigg & Sons (W. A. Brigg & B.W. Brigg) 23, St. James's St. Pall Mall SW1 (TN 3023 Mayfair) & 33 Av. de l'Opéra, Paris)'
Their two children were the first sole descendants not to have been raised in the family business, for over 150 years. Instead, Ms. JOAN MARY BRIGG enjoyed a rewarding career as a Teacher and Mr. GERALD WALTER GEORGE BRIGG spent his life as a well respected Chartered Accountant. The Brigg family remained stakeholders in SWAINE ADENEY BRIGG Ltd. until early 1990 when the Swaine Adeney and Brigg family stakes in the luxury goods manufacturer was eventually sold.
HROUGHOUT the 19th and 20th centuries, headwear was recognised universally as one of the most integral and indispensable articles of human attire. If an expression of "character" was found in any article of everyday dress, it was manifested best in the well-made hat! Mr. BERTHELIER, a 19th century French humanist and writer, was wont to assert that the hat makes, or completes, the man, and thousands will at once agree with him. What is a man without a hat, 'an unfinished pillar, a jar without a lid.' He goes on to write:
'Show me your hat, and I will tell you what you are.' In short, 'a man and his hat are two elements which, apart, represent folly and chaos, and, together, make up an individual.'
A recital of the history of hats and the various manners of wearing them, of the changing fashions relating to them, and of the laws of etiquette governing their use among different nations would fill many a bulky volume and make intensely compelling reading. According to history, hats, properly so-called, were first made by a Swiss in Paris in 1404; and about a hundred years later, the manufacture was introduced into England by the Spaniards. Throughout Britain, the industry has since flourished and been vigorously developed. In the 19th century, the finest hats in the world were made in London, while the markets of a hundred different lands, far and near, derived immense supplies of all kinds of headgear from the English hat factories.
The illustrious LINCOLN, BENNETT & Co., was established at the turn of the 19th Century by STROUD LINCOLN, Esq. He soon went into partnership with his younger brother Mr. BENJAMIN LINCOLN. Together, they sold only the finest hats at No. 2, Sackville Street. Some years later, the name of Bennett first became connected with the hat manufacturer by the accession of Mr. JOSEPH BENNETT to the partnership, shortly after the younger of the Lincoln brothers Benjamin retired. Mr. Bennett's ancestors had held high positions as hatters and hat manufacturers and brought a wealth of contacts, expertise and knowledge to the company. Messrs. LINCOLN AND BENNETT, were already renowned for quality when, in 1836, the son of Mr. Bennett, Mr. JOHN FLETCHER BENNETT, a practical hat manufacturer of a thoughtful and ingenious mind, turned his attention to one of the wants of that time, namely, a hat lighter in weight and of more durable material than the renowned and costly Beaver hat, with its kindred Merton and Wool hats.
Progress for the first two or three years was slow, but after overcoming some of the initial difficulties, the beaver hat trade, a staple branch of British industry, was shaken to its foundations by the transition from the beaver to the silk hat, which, by its utility and cheapness, displaced the beaver hat entirely. This new production immediately gave rise to various modes of making silk hat shag, or plush, the manufacture of which thrived in England for several years, to be soon followed by imitation aver silk. Velvet-piled silk soon followed and was used for a hat for Lord JOHN SINGLETON COPLEY, 1st Baron Lyndhurst. A liberal patron of everything English, Baron Lyndhurst is said to have been the first nobleman to have worn a silk hat. Soon after this success, another innovation followed in the introduction from France, and later Germany, of a richer and more lasting material, with a much shorter pile, under the name of velvet-napped silk. In the construction of a velvet-napped or silk hat, the body plays an important part. At first, the silk was placed upon a stuff or felt foundation, followed by the sieve-like “willow body,” known as the famous gossamer hat. One or two makers ventured to use textile fabrics for this purpose, with brims of drugget. Many unsuccessful devices were also employed to overcome a great difficulty then experienced in the art of hat-making, which was to obtain a suitable compound with which to fix and hold together the several materials used in making hats, and at the same time to render them firm, durable, and rain-proof. Various compounds had been tried, such as size, glue, resin, pitch, oil, naphtha, and other bituminous materials, all of which were objectionable, and chiefly so because they became offensive when brought into contact with the warmth of the head.
Mr. Bennett successfully overcame this difficulty and introduced changes, among which should be named the use of muslin and cambric for bodies and a chemical compound for stiffening and proofing. These changes completely revolutionised the trade and amounted, in fact, to the introduction of an entirely new form of art, in which it was necessary to train the workmen. This, Mr. Bennett undertook to do; selecting men of character and capacity, able to adapt themselves readily to the new order of things, he taught them his new process, and in giving them full liberty, without restriction nor limitation, to carry the art thus acquired throughout the entire trade, he became a real benefactor to the operative hat-makers of all countries.
Enter one Mr. WILLIAM JOHNSON, born 9th September 1821 in Newcastle. He was John's brother-in-law through sisters of the SPRIGGS family. Mmes. SARAH JOHNSON and ANNE BUSWELL BENNETT, along with their other siblings, were also raised in the millinery trade of their father, Mr. WILLIAM SPRIGGS, who was a hatter and haberdasher. Mr. Johnson started his career as a clerk and accountant in the 1840s and worked his way up. Over the years, the business continued to thrive, and eventually, he became a senior partner in Lincoln & Bennett. Before long, William found himself running the company at their long-standing headquarters at No. 1, Sackville Street, alongside Mr. Bennett's only son of the same name. Keeping his family close, to try and encourage them into the business, one of William's sons, in particular, found the process all too captivating and inspiring.
Mr. HERBERT LEWIS JOHNSON was born on the 14th November 1856 and was the second of four sons. William had his son educated at Mount Pleasant House, a preparatory school in Sunbury. Sadly, on 3rd July 1865, his mother Sarah passed away, aged just 38 years old. It must have had a significant impact on the 12 year old, and when he graduated seven years later, as fellow pupils left for public schools, Herbert apprenticed into Messrs. Lincoln, Bennett & Co. Taken under the wing of his father, he started his career as his assistant. William mentored his son and proceeded to teach him all there was to know about the business. He would have seen the factories in Nelson Square, which gave employment to hundreds of people. These works were splendidly equipped and turned out an average of about 300,000 hats annually. Many of these were for the home trade, but thousands were also distributed by agents worldwide. One order completed was for no less than 1,900 hats. Eager to prove himself, Herbert was appointed as a Commercial Traveller. He lodged at No.16, Duke Street, in St. James's, and for at least eight years, he would have ventured out to all corners of Great Britain, and perhaps even internationally to help establish relationships with prospective agents and new collaborators; networking and personally familiarising himself with the company's contacts.
Duke Street is not far from St. James's Palace, and it may have been while he was living there that he had his life-changing encounter with H.R.H. Prince Albert Victor, the Duke of Clarence and Avondale. Around the mid-1880s, Mr. Johnson, whilst taking a stroll, witnessed the young Prince's hat blown off by a gust of wind. He quickly retrieved what was most likely a Lincoln, Bennett & Co. silk top hat and smoothed its battered surface with a professional hand. A brief and happy exchange took place between the two of them, and no doubt Herbert's years of promoting the craftsmanship involved within his father's business impressed the Prince. He advised his eager helper to strike out boldly and open his very own hat shop and that if he did so, he would send his friends along to support the venture. It is unknown whether Mr. Johnson really did take inspiration from such a happy occurrence or whether he was already thinking of branching out for himself. Herbert married Miss MARY ELIZA GEDEN in the summer of 1884, and before he knew it, had three children, a family of his own to provide for; this, combined with the aforementioned, along with his burning ambition to be his own man, came to a head at the end of that decade.
On 10th June 1889, not long after filing his final patent for an invention that improved the ventilation of hats and helmets, William Johnson died at his Regent's Park home, No. 26, Ulster Place. He was 67 years old. In his Will, Mr. Johnson bequeathed the majority of his estate of £19,121 2s 2d, the equivalent of at least £1,568,873 today, to his second wife, Mrs LUCY JOHNSON, and generously lefts sums to his children and grandchildren. Herbert, who was running No. 40 Piccadilly, a branch of Lincoln, Bennett & Co. at the time, inherited £500, the equivalent of at least £41,024.65 today. He opened up 'Business on his own account' that same year, at No.45, New Bond Street, where he trusted to gain a continuance of that confidence and favour so generously accorded to his father and himself, by a very numerous and distinguished body of Patrons. Being of frail and ill health around this time himself, Mr. Johnson commenced at the inauguration of one of the worst periods of depression England had known for years, with the extinction of the South American markets and the crisis precipitated by the Baring failure, also known as the Panic of 1890.
Financial and practical assistance came from his business partner and lifelong friend, Mr. EDWARD JOHN GLAZIER. He was born in October 1864 and was the eldest son of Mr. JOHN THOMAS GLAZIER, a successful and well respected Funeral Furnisher on Tottenham Court Road. Edward came from a wealthy family. He also inherited the Freedom of the City on 6th December 1887 and entered a long line of Bowyers attributed to the Glazier family. Bowyers are master craftsmen who make bows. Once a widespread profession, the importance of Bowyers and bows was diminished by the introduction of gunpowder weaponry. However, the trade has survived, and many bowyers continue to produce high-end pieces today. In Mr. Johnson's company, however, Edward is listed as being very much a Hatter.
In 1890 the new hatters of New Bond Street took out a full-page advertisement for his hat shop in the sixth edition of London of To-Day. Written by Mr. CHARLES PASCOE, this was a guidebook for wealthy Americans. Mr. Johnson's patronage of the guide probably explains in part the fulsome write-up he received in its 'Shop for Gentlemen' chapter, but Mr. Pascoe seemed to have genuinely respected Herbert's abilities and those of his father before him:
We may dismiss the subject of the Hat in a brief sentence. Go to Mr. Herbert Johnson (son of the late managing partner of Lincoln, Bennett, & Co., and himself for seventeen years with that firm), who has his place at No. 45, New Bond Street. His father was one of the best known and appreciated of leading West End tradesmen; always courteous and obliging, and the son is no less so. Mr. Herbert Johnson will inform you of all the latest shifts, curves, and shapes of the silk hat; and will make you one, or sell you one, of the most approved fashion, and as comfortable 'as they make them,' in silk, velvet, felt, cloth, straw, 'pith,' or other material suitable for all climates and all weathers.
The advertisement in Mr. Pascoe's goes on to describe the fledgling shop in more detail. It had several 'departments' in which he listed as:
Gentlemen's Velvet Napped and Silk Hats, in all fashionable shapes
Gentlemen's Hunting Hats, fitted with safety pads
Velvet Hunting Caps
Crush Hats, for the Opera and Theatre
Felt Hats in all colours
Tweed Shooting and Fishing Caps
Tweed Caps of newest designs
Club Caps in Silk and Tweed materials
Youths' Silk and Felt Hats
Ladies' Silk and Felt Riding Hats
Due to the volatile financial climate, it was a slow start for Mr. Johnson. The first three years brought little but discouragement, not the least of which was the death of the company's first Royal patron, H.R.H. Prince Albert Victor, who died at Sandringham House in Norfolk on 14th January 1892, less than a week after his 28th birthday. However, thanks to the immediate high class and aristocratic connections and a preceding reputation for outstanding craftsmanship, the tide did eventually turn, and the following three years saw Herbert Johnson thrive. Often asked for his insights on trends and opinions on the trade, in 1895, Mr. Johnson was quoted as saying:
"The silk hat will be from an eighth to a quarter lower for spring, and on an average 5⅞ deep. The fashionable bell will be similar to that of last year, but a little deeper, say ½ full to ⅝. Brims will be 1¾ to 2 inches, a little wider than last year.
''In stiffs, the tendency is toward a higher crown, and in most cases wider brim. More blacks are undoubtedly going than heretofore, but I do not think there will be much of a falling off in colours. As to what colours will go, of course, one cannot tell until the spring dyes are out. The probabilities are, however, that all ruddy brown shades from 'Cuba' to a dark 'Tobacco' will secure favour. In soft felts nothing will supersede the ever-popular Alpine, although the crowns of these will, I understand, be much less taper."
By 1895, the retail quarters at No. 45, New Bond Street, were becoming very cramped for the flourishing business, so soon after in 1899, Mr. Johnson decided to relocate to the larger premises of No. 38, just a few doors down, where the celebrated hatters would remain for some 75 years. Sadly, the original shop of No. 45 no longer exists and was swallowed up by its neighbour No. 44 during the extensive redevelopment of New Bond Street. It had previously been occupied by the well known violin-makers, W.E. Hill & Sons, who moved across the road to No. 140, New Bond Street.
Listed proudly as 'Hatters' Shop Keeper' with Mr. Glazier as 'Hatter', the two gentlemen made very few hats themselves. Instead, they commissioned and designed a range of headgear from the small hat-making workshops dotted around London and from the hatting centres of Luton and Stockport. Utilising the skills of master craftsmanship and using only the finest materials, they produced Herbert Johnson creations. By the end of the 19th Century, Herbert Johnson was the hatter of choice for the majority of the Royal Family.
With the dawning of a new century came the Edwardian era. Herbert Johnson, who had previously been appointed Hatter to H.R.H. Prince Albert of Wales, was promptly rewarded with a warrant of appointment as Hatter to H.M. King Edward VII upon his succession to the throne. Renewed for every year of Edward's reign, the Royal patronage continued through subsequent sovereigns. Not only for the British Empire but other monarchies too, as The King was closely related to royalty throughout Europe. In 1904, for example, Herbert Johnson was also Hatter to The King's nephews, H.I.M Nicholas II, Tsar of Russia, and H.R.H Constantine I, The Crown Prince of Greece; but also to H.M. Christian IX, King of Denmark, who was father in law to The King; all of whom purchased headgear for all occasions and of course silk-velvet top hats.
Buying a silk hat, however, was not just a question of choosing a quality item. One had to know when to wear it, what to wear with it, and even what to call it. It was apparently in these matters that Herbert Johnson excelled himself. Mr. Pascoe did not think a man could have a better guide:
As for your hat, which you will do well to consult Mr. Herbert Johnson upon (he is au fait of all pertaining to the Hat), let no consideration of mere personal comfort ever tempt you to appear in any other but the orthodox 'silk-hat' — the 'tall-hat' vulgarly so-called—when suitably dressed for the promenade. The low-crowned felt hat and short-walking or shooting-jacket if you will; but never the low-crowned felt hat and the frock coat. The low-crowned hat with with the ill-balanced frock coat at once stamp the wearer as a 'cad.' Why? No one has yet been able authoritatively to determine; but the fact nevertheless remains, that the low-crowned hat is an article of dress to be cast aside immediately the frock coat is assumed.
"May the Franco-British Exhibition encourage rivalry and stimulate interchange of ideas, strengthen the brotherhood of nations, and in so doing help on the work of civilisation, and promote peace and prosperity throughout the world." - H.R.H. The Prince of Wales' speech extract from opening the Exhibition on 14th May 1908.
The Franco-British Exhibition of Science, Arts and Industry was held in London between May and October 1908 at the initiative of the Chambers of Commerce. Dubbed the "Bush Exhibition" and "The Franco", it took place in an area subsequently known as The Great White City; a vast 200-acre complex built beside Wood Lane with 25 palaces and halls, most covered in white stucco, a network of Venetian-style canals and a 150,000 capacity stadium. The stadium was a last-minute addition when London took over hosting the 1908 Olympics. Suffice to say that the spectacle was an impressive public fair, much like the splendid exhibitions of the Victorian era. However, Mr. IMRE KIRALFY, a famous exhibition organiser in his time, a 'permanent counsellor of the British government for foreign shows', set out to create a permanent exhibition space moving forward. The Jewish-Hungarian émigré was also a member of the London Chamber of Commerce Commissioner-General for the Franco-British Exhibition. He appropriated its name from the White City at the Chicago Columbian Exposition, which he had visited in 1893. Also, the Exhibition reinforced the Entente Cordiale, which was the understanding between Britain and France, reached in 1904, that formed the basis of Anglo-French cooperation during the First World War. The French Ambassador, Mr. PIERRE-PAUL CAMBON (signatory of the Entente Cordiale and founder member of the Alliance Française in Paris), relayed the idea to the French government, who agreed to get involved and finance part of the project. Also of note, at the same time, the first notion of a channel tunnel was mooted.
At five o'clock on Saturday 4th July 1908, a meeting of silk hat manufacturers took place to promote the welfare of the silk hat trade at the Exhibition's grand Machinery Hall. A spectacle in of itself, the meeting was organised by a committee consisting of Mr. CHARLES GRIFFIN, of VICTOR JAY & Co., Chairman; Mr. W. L. DAVIES of Lincoln, Bennett & Co., and Mr. OXFORD of CHRISTIES & Co., representing the masters, and Messrs. LEESON, C. WATKIN, W. GRINT, J. SPENCER, President of the Journeymen Hatters' Trade Union, and J.W. NEWTON, secretary of the same, representing the men. All the principal English and French manufacturers were well represented and among them, including Messrs. Herbert Johnson, Lincoln, Bennett & Co., Christy & Co., Victor Jay & Co., WHITES, TRESS & Co., HENRY HEATH's, TOWNEND & Co., McQUEEN & Co., ELLWOOD & Co., J. SCHORESTENE of SCHORESTENE FRÉRES, Mons. LABBÉ, of FOURNIER COUREL & LABBÉ; LÉON CASSÉ, of MAISON CASSÉ FILS ET CASSÉ LAUREAU, who, was also mayor of Essonnes until 1914; F. S. MEWSEN, GEORGE BING and many others.
At 6 o'clock, tea was provided in the tourist room. Afterwards, Mr. Charles Griffin, the Chairman, rose and stated the reasons for calling together the trade. Aware that many perhaps would not get another opportunity of visiting the beautiful White City, he commenced by saying that he would not occupy their time in making a lengthy speech. He then continued:
"We are not assembled here today to ask for sympathy, but we wish to demonstrate to the public, and particularly to the rising generation, the value of the silk hat, and I feel certain the gentlemen of the press who are with us will use their powerful journals, to point out to everyone, that a silk hat is not only the smartest and most gentlemanly headgear, but ranks first in hygienic value."
"As you are aware, the birthplace of the silk hat is Paris, and as early as 1770, there were two manufacturers in that city. The silk hat did not make very rapid progress at first but, in 1838, it began to expand, and after that date went rapidly ahead and, it is most gratifying to me to have with us today, so many of our French brothers who have come over specially to support us. It gives me great pleasure to see so many of our trade gathered here today, and I feel that our efforts will be rewarded and that we may, with confidence, look forward to seeing the silk hat in all its former glory, shining in our midst. I should like to take this opportunity of thanking my committee and our French delegate, M. Schorestone, for the great assistance they have rendered me in bringing this meeting to a successful issue."
Mr. W. L. Davies, Lincoln, Bennett & Co., then rose to propose a resolution and said:
"Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen:—I have been asked to move a resolution, and I have great pleasure in doing so and think that you will all agree with me, that it is one that commends itself to every one of us. I am sure that the silk hat deserves the support of the public inasmuch as it is produced under the best hygienic conditions, and also under trades union conditions.
"The shops have to be clean, light and airy. The men have to serve seven years apprenticeship to learn the art of hat-making. I venture to say that there is not a more respectable body of men and women connected with any trade, and the article they turn out is light, healthy and beautiful.
"Here is the resolution: 'That the silk hat is deserving the hearty support of all gentlemen as an article of dress, and this meeting pledges itself to use every means in its power to advance the interests of the trade!'
Mr. J. SPENCER then rose and said:
"I am very pleased to be able to support such a resolution because whatever may be said, the silk hat has never been superseded and is still the best form of headgear for lightness, durability, appearance and comfort.
"A writer asked the other day: 'Why should we have our brows bound in bands of iron?' There was no reason at all, we guarantee to make a hat fit the most awkward shape of head, and make it to be the most comfortable of any hat and to keep its oval as long as it is a hat.
"We are proud to say that we are members of the oldest trade union in the kingdom and that our relations with our employers are of such character that we have not had a serious misunderstanding for years. We are also happy to say that almost every factory and every silk hatter are members of the trade union. Therefore, we contend that no matter what school of thought a gentleman subscribes to, be it Reactionary, Liberal, or Advance Liberalism, he need never be ashamed to appear in a silk hat, because he will have the satisfaction of knowing that this particular form of headgear was manufactured under the very best conditions, which is more than we can say of some of the other forms of headgear."
The resolution was loudly applauded and carried unanimously. Mr. Herbert Johnson then rose and said:
"In the name of the English Hat Trade, I have the distinguished honour to offer to the Hat Manufacturers of Paris our most cordial expressions of welcome and goodwill.
"We thank you, Gentlemen of France, for your presence, and we hope that your visit will be a most pleasant one to yourselves and that it may long remain associated with the happy recollections of your lives.
"To commercial people, there is no more gratifying expression of the age than that voiced by our King, and so nobly responded to by your own distinguished presidents and by the most thoughtful of all nations, in the Alliances of Peace and the pursuits of Prosperity. Between the great nation which you represent and our own, that relationship has been happily christened "L'Entente Cordiale", and we earnestly believe there is no sane person on either side of the Channel who is not prepared to do his utmost to maintain it.
"We meet at a time when our trade is depressed on both sides of the Channel. The conditions which cause this depression may be of a more or less transient character, but they have called forth an expression of sympathy on both sides, which will be long cherished in the hearts of all those present today and by the trade as a whole."
In response to this welcome, Mr. J. Schorestene, Couseiller du Commeuse Exterieur de la France, rose and said:
"Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen:—I come to address my sincere thanks to you, Mr. Chairman, and to the committee of the Hatters' Society of London, for the honour, you have conferred on me and my fellow countrymen to participate in this demonstration. If more time had been allowed, we would have come more numerous to assist our English brothers in this great enterprise.
"I ask your indulgence as a Frenchman to make you listen to my English, for I have learned it mostly through Webster's unabridged dictionary, but I endeavour to speak the language you know best.
"About the silk hat, I come to bring you the most hearty sympathies of your French brothers, who have told me to give you words of encouragement in reviving the industry of the silk hat to its flourishing times. Is the silk hat decadent? No! It is only for the time being. Social evolution, sporting development, motoring, may have given some check to it, but this will not last. The silk hat will always reign, as it is the hat for a well-dressed gentleman. It is only left to the silk hatters to demonstrate that they can make it more graceful yet, and more light in weight.
"I further bring you the most hearty wishes of success to this demonstration, not only from your French brothers, but also from the President of the Syndicat de la Chapellerie in Paris, who gives his best wishes for the good result and welfare of this demonstration. I compliment the organisers of it, and I respond to the good words of our Chairman and Mr. Herbert Johnson by saying that your Franco-British Exposition is a success, a marvellous triumph of the "Entente Cordiale." As it is cemented now, I hope it will last forever.
"Let us hope that with this "Entente Cordiale" that promises peace and an era of prosperity, the silk hatters and the Hatters' Society of London will see a renewal of their most ardent wishes, that, is to say, the silk hat flourish again and be as successful as ever."
After the loud applause which this speech called forth had died down, further pertinent words followed from Sir JOHN BAINFORD BLACK, and Mr. J. S. MERONSEN, the latter of Amsterdam. After a vote of thanks to the chairman and the committee, which was heartily endorsed by all present, proceedings terminated with the singing of the national anthems of Great Britain and France.
One of the earliest surviving—and most poignant—silk hats by Herbert Johnson is an 'Extra Quality', collapsible article retrieved from the wreckage of R.M.S. Titanic, which sank in the North Atlantic on 14th April 1912. Amazingly, the hat's label remains legible and clearly displays all the elements of the Herbert Johnson logo, depicted as early as 1894. It features a crest depicting a seated antelope, coloured silver or white, marked with black billets, with a ducal coronet around its throat and an attached cord reflected across its back, both coloured in gold. It's origins are still being investigated. Underneath, displayed on a decorative scroll, is the Johnson family motto of 'NUNQUAM NON PARATUS', which translates as 'Never unprepared'. Though relatively common today, the origin dates back to the 13th century Border Reiver Scottish Clan of Johnstone—and beyond. Traditionally, both crest and motto sit above a shield with the Herbert Johnson name and address contained within. Despite the wording on the shield varying over the years, this combination has survived and remains the company's logo today. The gossamer body of the silk hat readily lent itself to protective headgear for equestrian activities with the result that the Herbert Johnson brand appeared on an increasing number of hunting hats, polo hats, and cavalry helmets. In the early years, most of their hats for women were of this nature—specialist riding and hunting hats. They did not stock the fashionable feathered and frothy hats that you would find in a ladies millinery shop.
Another specialist line that emerged more gradually was the supply of hats for the military. By the First World War, this had become a substantial part of the shop's business. It was necessarily boosted during the war, not simply because of the dramatic expansion of the armed forces but because the new style of warfare required different forms of headgear. In response to calls from army officers for a cap that would be both practical and comfortable for field operations, Mr. Johnson devised a new soft-topped cap with what became known as a 'floating bevel' top, rather than the stiff-edged fixed top of before. This field cap was adapted later for the dress caps of many regiments. Also, in the cramped confines of the armoured tank, the traditional peaked khaki cap proved to be an awkward bit of uniform. After the war, Herbert worked with General Sir HUGH ELLIS, Commandant of the Royal Tank Corps, to produce a beret styled dress cap made of black Astrakhan wool with a feather hackle. Herbert Johnson's provision of military headgear continues to play a pivotal role to this day. They are the official hatter to almost 90% of regiments in the British Army, including units in the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, and Royal Air Force.
Both Messrs. Johnson and Glazier had personal knowledge of the conditions in which their military customers found themselves fighting. Herbert had three children. Two daughters by the names of Mss. CATHERINE ISOBEL and DOROTHY MARGARET JOHNSON, and a son, Mr. WILLIAM GEDEN JOHNSON, born on 2nd April 1889; the youngest of the three. He was commissioned as Lieutenant with the Royal Engineers and sent to France. Edward also had a son of fighting age. He had married Miss MARGARET EMILY JONES on 16th February 1897, the daughter of Mr. SAMUEL JONES, a reputable and successful Printer & Stationer. Their first son, Mr. GEOFFREY JOHN GLAZIER, was born on 30th May 1889. Geoffrey trained as a pilot and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps in November 1917. Edward himself, now in his early fifties, joined the Surrey Volunteers as 2nd Lieutenant in 1917.
After the war, Mr. Johnson continued to run the shop until 1928, when he retired, aged 72. Edward Glazier remained at the helm of the business until his death on 16th May 1939, aged 74, describing it proprietorially in his will as 'my firm'. However, in the 1930s, much of the shop running fell to his two sons, Messrs. GEOFFREY JOHN and MAXWELL HENRY GLAZIER. Herbert's children had shown little interest in taking on their father's trade. William had pursued a successful career as a Civil Engineer, and neither he nor his two daughters ever married. So Herbert decided to sell his stake in the business to his dear friend and partner, Mr. Glazier. Edward turned Herbert Johnson into a private limited company, registering it on 17th June 1929 as HERBERT JOHNSON (BOND STREET) Ltd. Hats that bear this labelling date to after the incorporation. Also recently discovered in the same year, there was a 'JOHNSON & CO. hatters' registered at No. 38 New Bond Street—Though short-lived, little is currently known. Besides Edward's majority shareholding in Herbert Johnson, he also owned a wealth of shares in BATTERSBY & Co. Ltd., one of the big hat-making firms of Stockport, Cheshire. It is likely that in the 1920s and 30s, some of Herbert Johnson's hats were being made by Battersby's. These were most probably the felted hats, which were a speciality of the Stockport industry.
As for 'the admirable artist', Mr. Herbert Johnson enjoyed seven years of well-earned retirement with his beloved wife Mary, who died on 21st August 1935. She was 76 years old. In Mr. Johnson's final years, he was cared for by his son and daughter, William and Dorothy, who had lived with him at No. 82, Upland Road in Sutton. Just seven years later, Herbert himself would follow his wife to the grave—he died on 3rd August 1942, at the age of 85. He commanded universal admiration and respect through his actions, his vision and his selfless concern for others. He bequeathed the sum of £44187 18s and 8d, the equivalent of at least £1,738,636 today, to his two children. One thing was for sure— after the best part of five decades in business, Herbert Johnson had now become entirely a Glazier family affair.
HERBERT JOHNSON (BOND STREET) Ltd.
NVENTIVE new product lines began to be developed in the 1920s and 30s to tap into the brand new market of the motorist. The rise of the motor car saw entire industries rise and fall, with those in-between having to innovate or disappear almost overnight. Where some companies faced ruin, the Glaziers saw opportunities. Motoring caps soon became a must-have, with models for women that had integral tie-scarves for restraining their hair. These new 20th century creations took direct inspiration from the velvet-covered gossamer riding caps of the Victorian era. But perhaps the most notable decision was to introduce a brand new line of the first crash helmets for motorsports.
In the early 1930s, the celebrated racing driver Lieutenant-Colonel GOLDIE GARDNER approached Mr. Geoffrey Glazier to design a protective hat for his speed runs. Mr Glazier employed the gossamer-body technology to create a robust but lightweight helmet that fitted snugly around the temples but sat high on the head, leaving a cushion of air between the head and the shell of the hat. Then, lined with cork, it could be coloured according to preference and accessorised with a canvas neck protector, leather chin strap and peak and celluloid wrap-around visor. The finished product was undeniably stylish, with few racing drivers in the 1940s and 50s that did not covet one. But they were not cheap. In the 1950s, the shellac shell cost £7 10s, while the extras cost another 30 shillings, the equivalent of at least £1,170 in total today. The celebrated British driver, Sir STIRLING CRAUDFORD MOSS, recounting the early stages of his career, stated that he could only afford one; a white model with the entire set of leather and canvas accessories. He wore his much loved Herbert Johnson when he won the British Grand Prix at Aintree on 20th July 1957 and, four weeks later, the Italian Grand Prix at Pescara. He subsequently sold it to the British Formula Ford Championships, which they sponsored in the early 1970s. When the helmet, complete with gold leaf, came up for auction at Bonhams in 2009, it fetched a staggering £23,000. Mr. Moss meanwhile, had become so nostalgic for his lost Herbert Johnson that in 1996 he was introduced to the veteran hat-maker Mr. RAY CORNE of historic hat manufacturer and longtime Herbert Johnson collaborator PATEY's. The Corner family of hatters had made the original Herbert Johnson helmets, and Ray made him a replica, using the form and gossamer-body technology. It took some special pleading on Mr. Moss' part, but eventually, he won a dispensation from the British racing authorities permitting him to wear the helmet when he took 1950s cars for a spin. An inductee into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, Mr. Moss won 212 of the 529 races he entered across several categories and is heralded by many to be the greatest ever driver never to win the World Championship.
Other original helmets have appeared at auction with less exalted examples fetching smaller sums, often with their original branded box. In the late 1950s, Herbert Johnson conformed to new safety regulations introduced by the Royal Automobile Club and the British Standards Institution and began retailing fibreglass helmets. These were by Mr. EVERITT WILLIAM VERO's hat cap and helmet manufacturers E.W. VERO Ltd. and finished with additional Herbert Johnson's traditional, high-end extras. But these new models never had the cachet of the original gossamer-body helmet and Herbert Johnson soon left them to other retailers.
With the death of Mr. Geoffrey Glazier on 5th July 1950, and with his brother Maxwell retiring by the end of the decade, the responsibility of broadening Herbert Johnson's appeal fell to Geoffrey's son, Mr. TIMOTHY EDWARD GLAZIER. He was the third generation of the Glazier family to have gone into the business and brought a younger eye to hat design and marketing during an unprecedented time of change. Despite the enthusiasm and rigorous valour expressed at the Franco-British Exhibition's meeting of silk hat manufacturers, two world wars later, capacity and demand had all but ran out. Most of the large scale Victorian hat manufactories that escaped the bombing raids now stood derelict or faced demolition; to make way for new housing estates. The few remaining master craftsmen found themselves in a strange new world.
Mr. DAVID PALMER, one of the great craftsmen of the trade, was regular given the task of completing hats away from the factories. He had started his working life as a kiln-boy at the turn of the century. He stoked the coke fires to warm the hats for the shapers, with as many as 25 hearing irons nearby. Mr. Palmer would often lean over the shapers and watched how they carried out their work. Fascinated by the process, he became an apprentice in 1907. Each apprentice fell under the care of a “Whimsey Master” who taught him the rudiments of the trade. The boy had himself to pay the craftsman for teaching him, and unfortunately for David, he had no money to pay either for his tuition or to buy the tools he needed. His qualities in those early days must have been apparent as his employer came to his rescue and advanced the money; owing to the way he had watched the shapers beforehand, Mr. Palmer soon picked up the technique. In fact, after only three months of body-making and finishing and after six months shaping, he was told one memorable morning, “Go on your own.”
He had still, of course, to complete his whimsey, or period of apprenticeship, for another six years and, although paid on a system of piecework, it took him all that time to repay the money lent to him. David was claimed by The First World War just before he had completed his apprenticeship, but despite this, his master signed his indentures. In 1959, at the age of 70, he was still using those same tools he had worked so hard to earn as a boy. Since there was so little demand, tools such as these were no longer available to purchase. They had the simple beauty of folkloristic art: their wooden parts had acquired all the patina of an antique, the hard brass had been worn smooth by the felt in the way that St. Peter's toe is worn smooth by the soft kisses of the faithful. One of his instruments was already old when he bought it in his youth, from an aged craftsman for a few pence.
In his attic at Herbert Johnson's shop in Bond Street, even though at first sight, the place looked not unlike a particularly untidy potting shed full of hat boxes, he could lay his hand instantly amid the apparent chaos on each and every one of those old tools as he required it. He worked, like those in the different surroundings at Battersby's had worked; with the absolute unfumbling certainty of the true craftsman, and beneath his expert touch, the hard-felt hood from Stockport, sprang with an extraordinary speed into something that although incomplete, was instantly recognisable as a fashionable bowler hat.
A simple little tool in which a nail formed the essential element then scratched a line at a standard distance around the edge of the hood. Allowing for a wide or a narrower brim, Mr. Palmer cut along this line, moistened the hat's brim, stretched calico over it, took a hot iron, rubbed it on a greasy pad to make it run more readily and applied it to the outer edge. This outer edge, now temporarily pliable, he turned over quickly and accurately, first at the sides and then at the ends. A cold iron smoothed out such few insubordinate wrinkles as had appeared. He held the embryo in his hand and gazed at it with a critical eye, assuring himself unnecessarily of its absolute symmetry. It was now ready for setting. David placed it in a kind of cradle known as a horse in front of the popping domestic gas fire that acted as a substitute for the coke kiln of his faraway youth, and while the hat was warming to make it pliable, he spoke of the past.
He had been 38 years with one firm. Then, one night during the Second World War, the workshop was destroyed in one of many air raids. But for the fact that he had taken his old tools home with him that evening (though he did not know why: it was not a thing he usually did), they would have been lost with the rest of the building. He took them eventually to Herbert Johnson. The trouble was that the young fellows of the 1950s had no respect for a man's tools. Instead of putting them back where they found them, they would leave them any-old where. They would fling them down, too, without thinking: although the bench was of wood and the tool was of brass, it was surprising how easily the smooth surface of the metal could become pitted, and once that happened, a hat would be ruined by applying the tool to it. It was a job in which you could not afford to make a mistake, either. There was no going back. For this particular order, he looked at his instructions. It was for a 6% head, regularly shaped but requiring a slight bulge over the right temple. Selecting a heavy wooden template, known as a standard oval brow, he removed the hat from the horse and eased it while it was still temporarily malleable over the brow. To allow for the slight but distinctive bulge wedges of old cardboard was crudely but effectively forced, at the appropriate spot, between the brow and the malleable felt.
He ran a curling iron along the brim which rose under his hand from its flat, turned-over state to a snaking Edwardian shape, he pared the edge with a light plane to make it absolutely symmetrical, and he sandpapered it so that there should be no roughness to show through the silk ribbon of the binding. With a tool, he had manufactured himself from a ground-down open razor he made smooth, though none would ever see it, the tight underside of the curl.
He had finished. The whole perfect process in which the primitive hood had become a sophisticated hat, ready for the trimming, had taken no more than half an hour. But like all old craftsmen in the hat trade, he kept harking back, perhaps because of the added skill needed for its manufacture, to the great days of the silk hat. He had among the clutter on his bench a piece of plush from an old silk hat:
"Look at it," he kept saying, "look at the colour of that plush. Nearly as old as I am, that must be. 'Don't get plush like that nowadays: it's all a slaty colour today."
Racing drivers provided one form of British television drama in the 1950s and 60s. Gradually Herbert Johnson became a principal port of call for television producers and their costume designers. Mr. John Steed of The Avengers not only twirled a Brigg umbrella, but he also sported a deadly Herbert Johnson bowler hat. The grey felt version used in the 1968/9 series purported to contain a lethal steel brim. Meanwhile, in Dad's Army, Mr. ARTHUR LOWE'S Captain Mainwaring glowered beneath a Herbert Johnson floating-bevel peaked khaki cap. In the 1970s, a whole host of Benny Hill's comedic creations maniacally filled the small screen in Herbert Johnson tweed flat caps and felt trilbys. In the 1970s, Mr TOM BAKER made a floppy Herbert Johnson fedora an integral part of his Byronic portrayal of Doctor Who. That hat had several incarnations, moving from brown to green to burgundy throughout his tenure as the Doctor. He was not the only fan of the soft-felt fedora; other Herbert Johnson hats finished in velour were worn by Messrs. JAMES MARSHALL HENDRIX and Sir MICHAEL PHILIP JAGGER. Mr. Hendrix sported a purple model trimmed with a snakeskin hat-band. At the more rarefied end of the cultural scale, Sir ROY STRONG, Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum from 1973 to 1987, often strode about in a greenish-brown Herbert Johnson soft-felt fedora. He subsequently donated it to the V&A, where it possibly sits in the store alongside a similar Herbert Johnson given by Sir CECIL BEATON.
Under Mr. Timothy Glazier's inspired leadership, the notion of having a 'groovy Herbert Johnson hat' on sale, in TODD'S—the Chelsea home and salon of the revered stylist and future fashion designer, Mr. GARETH CRAZE—sat quite happily alongside being known affectionately as the Queen's Hatter. Something of this atmosphere, captured by author Mr. ROBERT KANE, who described Herbert Johnson in tones of admiring wonder as, 'surely the most off-beat merchant ever to hold a royal warrant.'
Timothy was also responsible for extending the company's costuming range from the small to the big screen. Herbert Johnson has featured so extensively throughout cinema since its introduction to Britain in 1896. Starring roles from Mr. Glaziers time include Mr. PETER SELLERS' character of Inspector Clousseau, with his soft-felt and then 'lucky' tweed trilby, in 1964's A Shot in the Dark; Mr. RICHARD WAYNE VAN DYKE's character of Caracatus Potts and his tweed trilby, in 1968's Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; Mr. JACK NICHOLSON's character of the Joker and his purple soft-felt fedora, in 1989's Batman; Mr. CLINTON EASTWOOD Jr.'s character of John Wilson and his high crowned cotton twill trilby in 1990. But perhaps the most celebrated exposure for Herbert Johnson came from a low budget American 'B-Movie' by Paramount Pictures called Raiders of the Lost Ark that would go on to revitalise Herbert Johnson's international appeal to a whole new generation.
Mr. Glazier chose to leave the company in the early 1970s to work as a freelance hat and clothing designer, subsequently branching out into corporate marketing. In 1975, not long after his departure, Herbert Johnson was forced by a proposed rental increase from about £3,500 a year to almost £35,000, the equivalent of half a million pounds today annually, to leave their old retail premises at No. 38, New Bond Street and relocate three minutes walk east to the more affordable No. 13 Old Burlington Street in London.
In 1980 two American gentlemen came into the shop and introduced themselves to the Chief Designer, Mr. RICHARD SWALES, as Messrs. STEVEN SPIELBERG and HARRISON FORD. Mr. Spielberg announced that he was on the brink of making an adventure film with Mr. Ford as the central figure and explained how the main character Indiana Jones should be wearing a hat pivotal to his persona and the storyline. A classic and tall stovepipe poet style was chosen and acted as the foundation for what was to become the iconic raiders hat. The Poet had been a staple of Herbert Johnson range of headgear since the 1890s. Known for its wide brim and tall straight-sided crown, made from the finest fur felt, it has always been deemed ageless. A shade of brown rabbit fur felt called "sable" was chosen, with additional modifications to give it a unique character. The aptly nicknamed 'Indy' hat was made distinctive by reducing the brim width only on the sides, creating a more dimensional brim. The bespoke ovoid shape allowed production to capture Mr. Ford's face from numerous camera angles whilst providing conventional protection to the eyes and neck. The now-iconic 'explorer look' was then enhanced by snapping the front brim down and altering the original ribbon from 50mm to 38mm, resulting in the appearance of an even taller crown. The re-worked and subtly modified Herbert Johnson Poet hat gave Mr. Spielberg what he had envisioned for the character of Indiana Jones, and the 'Indy' hat was born. Apart from the original hat made for Harrison Ford, Herbert Johnson made a further 45 'Indy' hats of assorted sizes, some for Mr. Ford and the remainder for the film stunt actors on the set of Raiders of The Lost Ark. Subsequent commissions followed for the following two sequels. The tremendous success of the Indiana Jones films have secured their place in popular culture forever, and just like the original Poet, the hero 'Indy' Poet remains ageless and enjoys enduring popularity to this day.
After 13 years of being on Old Burlington Street, Herbert Johnson struggled to find its place in the market. With Mr. Glazier having left over a decade ago, with no heirs to take over, the company appointed Mr. ROBIN BENSON as Managing Director. He embarked on an expansion programme designed to capitalise on the cachet of the Herbert Johnson name. Focussing on the brand rather than the product, he began marketing a range of branded outerwear, a collection of ties, socks, and leather accessories. In June 1987, the textiles giant, JOHN CROWTHER GROUP, paid £950,000, the equivalent of over two million pounds today, to buy Herbert Johnson (Bond Street) Ltd. and its sister company Herbert Johnson (Sales) Ltd., incorporated in 1976. The company also vowed to fund Mr. Benson's expansion plans, and as part of this plan, they relocated the shop in May 1988 to No. 30, New Bond Street, a few doors from Herbert Johnson's original site. Once firmly established, the plan was to expand and open branches throughout Britain and beyond whilst developing a network of concessions within department stores. However, through no fault of Herbert Johnson, these plans fizzled out as the over-optimistic decade came crashing to a recessionary end.
In the summer of 1988, just weeks after relocating back to New Bond Street, Herbert Johnson's parent company Crowther was taken over by COLOROLL, an aggressively ambitious home products group. Coloroll wanted the carpet companies in the Crowther group but not the clothing companies. They immediately sold these, including Herbert Johnson, to a management buy-out team called the RESPONSE GROUP. In December 1988, the Response Group announced that they would be selling off unwanted companies as soon as possible, with Herbert Johnson at the head of their disposal list. Thus, the company's centenary was not celebrated with quite the enthusiasm that it deserved.
In February 1990, as Coloroll teetered on bankruptcy, the Response Group went into receivership with debts of over 50 million pounds. Herbert Johnson's management then negotiated a price to regain control of the company, and the Response Group eventually accepted. The driving force here was Mr. ANTHONY MARANGOS, who became the company's new Chairman and Managing Director. He was a former Managing Director of CARTIER's UK operations and of LAURA ASHLEY in Europe who had been seeking a company of his own to mould for some years. He also had big plans for a network of overseas shops, but he was careful to refocus the company's activities on designing and selling quality hats. He brought in new designers, notably Ms SYLVIA FLETCHER, who revitalised the women's collection and rewarded the company with a much higher profile in the fashion press. In 1993, the young American Milliner PRUDENCE also began designing women's hats for Herbert Johnson.
Mr. Marango's tenure was relatively short-lived, as just three years later, in 1996, the company sold to Swaine Adeney Brigg, and it began to share retail premises with them. After a short time in Swaine Adeney Brigg's new premises at No. 10, Old Bond Street, they relocated to No. 54, St. James's Street in 1998. The move heralded a return to the hatters' earliest trading identity. Women's decorative millinery discontinued focusing on the manufacture of formal dress hats for gentlemen, sporting and hunting hats for men and women, and headgear for the military and other uniformed professions. The emphasis today at Herbert Johnson remains on stylish functionality for men and women alike.