Tag Archives: St James’s Street

George Hoby, Boot and Shoe Maker

I have posted before about shoemakers, cobblers and cordwainers (November 2014), but after a recent Twitter exchange about a George Hoby invoice I thought I would talk about it here, rather than in 140-character snippets! [I tweet as @LouiseRegency].

George Hoby (1759-1832) is probably the best-known London bootmaker, if only because he was the man Wellington went to to get his iconic Wellington boots made up. There is plenty of information about Hoby on-line, so I won’t repeat it here – but it took me ages to work out which corner of St James’s Street and Piccadilly his shop was on. The answer is the western corner which now has a shop selling caviar. Hoby, who died leaving £120,000, would probably have approved!

I own two of Hoby’s original invoices, from 1809 and 1818. Below is the 1808 one, both sides. It would have been folded so that the address was on the outside and sealed with red wax which is still visible on the front.

hoby-wood-front

 

hoby-wood-back Mr George Wood lived in Blandford Court which was on the south side of Pall Mall behind Marlborough House which is within a five minute walk of Hoby’s shop which is probably why the invoice appears to have been hand-delivered. I suspect that Mr Wood was a relative of Lieutenant-General Sir George Wood, ” the Royal Bengal Tiger” and his brother Sir Mark Wood, bt. Sir Mark certainly lived in Pall Mall.

The invoice is on very thick paper and shows that Hoby was ‘By Appointment” to four Royal Dukes – Kent, Cumberland, Sussex and Cambridge. The fact that he did a great deal of mail-order work is indicated by the box of “Instructions” for measuring yourself for boots. There is the hand-written number 311 on the left and 221 at the top right. These might be customer numbers, invoice numbers, ledger references – frankly, I have no idea, but the invoice for 1818 has 644 and 291.

Mr Wood’s bill was for:

Bill delivered £6 7s (ie he appears to be behind with his bills!)

Aug 9 1Pr (pair) Boots Soled & heeled 13s

1 Pr of [?] Bound 2s 6d

Sept 15 1 Pr Shoes 15s

1 Pr Boots soled & heeled 13s

The invoice is smaller than the later one and seems to have been cut off at the bottom because “Sir” can still be seen. It appears to have been sent like this because of the folds in the paper, so possibly the obliging note, shown below, did not apply to gentlemen owing £6 7s!

The 1818 invoice is on good paper, but nowhere near as thick. Hoby has retained the patronage of the four Royal Dukes and added their niece, the heir to the throne, Princess Charlotte and her husband, Leopold of Saxe-Cobourg.

hoby-crowder-front

hoby-crowder-back

This bill is to Major Crowder at the Plough Inn, Cheltenham. Major John Crowder was late of the 7th Regiment of Foot and had served with gallantry (according to his obituary in the Gentleman’s Magazine) at Copenhagen and in the Peninsula being wounded twice, once severely. He retired on half pay in 1815 and was promoted Colonel and knighted in 1838, a few months before his death.

The Major’s bill is for:

May 29 1 Pair Boots £2 18s

1 Do (ditto) Dress (presumably dress or evening shoes) 17s 6d

June 2 1 Do Boots £2.18

1 Do Dress 17s 6d

Box (presumably for packing) 2s

On June 2nd a pair of shoes and a pair of boots were returned. These must be the shoes sent out on May 29th, which says something for the postal service!

The message on the bottom of the page has been cut off on Mr Wood’s bill.

Unfortunately we cannot compare the price of boots over the nine years, but shoes seem to have increased by 2s 6d – although, of course, the Major’s may have been of a more expensive type.

 

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Jane Austen, Stays and Elegant Fig Leaves

At this time of year, when we are all thinking about shedding as much clothing as possible in the heat, I think with even more sympathy about the layers of clothing that women were encumbered with in earlier years – and corsets, or stays as they were more usually known in the early 19th century in particular.

Stays could be made of leather, which was then not washed (a fairly dreadful thought!) or a substantial fabric, which at least could be laundered. Stays normally laced at the back but, before the invention of mass-produced metal eyelets, they could not be pulled as tight as Victorian stays were because the fabric would rip. Their shape and their constricting powers therefore depended on their stiffening of whalebone or thin cane. They pushed the breasts up rather than cupping them and were normally fitted with shoulder straps.

ImageThe print by Gillray is plate 1 from a series called The Progress of the Toilet, dated 1810 and shows a lady being laced into long stays. She is wearing fashionable clocked stockings and, rather daringly, drawers, caught in tight at the knee. Because they resembled masculine costume, drawers were considered very fast.

Jane Austen’s letters contain virtually nothing on the subject of underwear, but she did have very definite views on the subject of stays. In September 1813 she was able to pass on the latest intelligence from London on the subject  to her sister Cassandra. ‘I learnt from Mrs Tickar’s young Lady, to my high amusement, that the stays now are not made to force the Bosom up at all; that was a very unbecoming, unnatural fashion.’

Stays could be made to measure, but were also available off the peg and Mrs Clark, whose shop was at no.56, St James’s Street, advertised in 1807,  ‘…a large assortment of corsets of every size, and superior make, so that ladies may immediately suit themselves without the inconvenience of being measured.’

Ladies living out of town could order stays by mail order as this advertisement from the Morning Chronicle of November 1 1810 shows.

HER MAJESTY’S STAY-MAKER. – MRS. HARMAN No.18 New Bond-street, London, has the honour most respectfully to announce to those Ladies who attend to the elegance of the female figure, that she has now ready for their inspection a very large and fashionable assortment of her much-admired LONG and SHORT STAYS. The great number of Ladies of Rank and Fashion, who honour Mrs. Harman with wearing her Stays, is a most convincing proof of their pleasantness, utility, and superiority to every other Stay. Mrs. Harman’s Stays are finished with that novelty and taste which has procured for her the countenance of Royalty, and the patronage of the first Nobility. Ladies living in the country, by sending a letter (post paid), will have proper directions sent them to send their own measure, so as to insure their fitting.

Newspapers were not constrained by notions of modesty when commenting on ladies’ fashions and undergarments, or their appearance in them as this piece from The Times in 1799 on the flimsiness of fashionable gowns and the fashion for false bosoms shows:

“If the present fashion of nudity continues its career, the Milliners must give way to the carvers, and the most elegant fig-leaves will be all the mode. The fashion of false bosoms has at least this utility, that it compels our fashionable fair to wear something.”

And The Statesman on 2 September 1808 broke into verse to criticise modern fashions compared to those of the days of Queen Anne, managing to incorporate a furniture pun about chests and drawers in the process!

 When panoplied in whalebone stays,

Such as were worn in Anna’s days,

Our fair kept Virtue in their breasts,

And lock’d her safely – in their chests.

 But, since their chests are open’d, how,

And where, do they keep Virtue now?

Is she protected by their lawyers?

Or do they keep her – in their drawers?

Historical re-enactors have told me that they find their stays are supportive, and help prevent backache when they are working in kitchens, so perhaps there was something to be said for stays. What do you think?

 

 

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Henry at Whites! Oh, what a Henry!

Club interior for JASt James’s Street was the heart of fashionable masculine London during the late Georgian and Regency period. Here gentlemen had their lodgings, kept their mistresses, bought their clothes and gambled in hells and clubs. It was not an exclusively male preserve, for modistes had their shops there and ladies could even buy ready-made corsets from Mrs Clark, whose shop was at no.56, and who advertised in 1807 ‘…a large assortment of corsets of every size, and superior make, so that ladies may immediately suit themselves without the inconvenience of being measured.’

SONY DSC However, it for the clubs that St James’s Street is famous and you can still view the exterior of many of them – getting inside is another matter! Membership has always been exclusive: who you knew mattered, breeding mattered – but money mattered less. Politics might influence which clubs a gentleman felt most at home in, although White’s, the most exclusive of them all, was non-political.

Boodles attracted the country set and hunting squires, the Four in Hand, sporting gentlemen. The Travellers’ Club was favoured by diplomats, Watier’s, in Piccadilly, by lovers of fine food and the Roxburghe was the haunt of bibliophiles. If you wanted high-stakes gaming, then Brookes’s and, after 1827, Crockford’s were the clubs for you.

Today, if you walk down St James’s Street from the top of the hill at Piccadilly you almost immediately come to Crockfords on your right and White’s on your left. White’s possessed the famous Beau (or Bow) Window where the elite would sit to view, and pass judgment on, the passing scene. It still has a bow, but, given that there have been some changes to the exterior during the 19th century, it may not be the famous one.
Henry Austen, Jane’s banker brother,  had some very respectable connections, but he was not a club man. However, he must have had connection with those who were. In 1814, after the first defeat of Napoleon, threw a great ball that cost £10,000. Guests included King George III, the Prince Regent, the Emperor of Russia – and Henry Austen. ‘Henry at Whites! Oh! What a Henry.’ Jane could hardly contain herself at the news.

A little further down on the same side of the road is Boodles club. It moved here to no.28 in 1783 to premises originally occupied by the Savoir Vivre, a notorious hell.

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To reach Brooks’s, you need to cross the road. Do take advantage of one of the traffic islands in this busy, very wide, street – they were originally introduced in the early nineteenth century to make life safer for the slightly inebriated clubmen making their way from one establishment to another. Brook’s is on the corner of Park Place and was one of Byron’s clubs. A stronghold of the Whigs, it moved here in 1778. this is the one London club I have been inside and the Great Subscription Room, illustrated here, looks just as it did then (although there were no Regency bucks engaged in gambling, much to my disappointment!).

In one corner of the Great Subscription Room a tense game is underway with a large pot of winnings in the centreJust a little further down was Arthur’s (not a great success) and the Cocoa Tree coffee house. The Cocoa Tree was not a formal club, but provided another sanctuary for like-minded gentlemen, such as Byron, who frequently visited.

Finally, to see the location of one of the gaming ‘hells’ where almost anyone who had the money to bet was admitted, cross the road again and walk down to the narrow entrance just before Berry Bros. & Rudd. This leads to Pickering Place, now a charming little courtyard, but once the home of some notorious hells, the reputed location of the last duel in London and, later in the 19th century, the home of the Texas legation.

Top: a club interior. The young man in breeches and carrying a riding whip and hat is being reproved for being improperly dressed.

Second: the bow window outside White’s Club (looking up towards Piccadilly)

Third: The handsome frontage of Boodles’s Club

Bottom: one corner of the Great Subscription Room at Brooks’s Club (1808). A high-stakes game is underway with a large pot of money to be won in the hollowed-out table centre.

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