Since the last newsletter the Committee has met two visitors with significant interest in Hatting and Feltmaking:-
- Chris Heal who is undertaking a 3-year history doctorate at Bristol University on the subject of “The Felt Hat Industry of Bristol and South Gloucestershire 1540-1900”. His talk covered the introduction of the trade in the 16th Century through importation of Spanish hats and meringo wool which triggered the decline of the cappers. The Feltmakers and Haberdashers formed a joint city Company in 1595 to protect their monopoly of trade in the City and the trade was readily practised in the surrounding towns and villages. However time saw the rise of worker “combinations” leading to trade unions and disputes, as manufacturers sought to defend their businesses. Such disputes led to the Great Strike of 1834 which broke the local men and thereafter, the trade declined and the last manufacturer closed in the1870s.
- Harry Duckworh, a retired Professor of Chemistry from the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada, contacted the committee in early 2011 to advise us of his long-term interest in hatmaking. This started through research in the archives of the Hudson Bay Company on the North American Fur Trade and the use of furs when they reached London. He offered to share the results of his studies, and a special meeting of the Historical Committee was arranged to meet him in July. In preparation, Professor Duckworth sent his “Notes on the Early History of Feltmaking in London and the Beginnings of the Feltmakers Company” which ran to 23 pages. The paper, with meticulous footnotes, was quite outstanding and revealed information which would help to fill gaps in our knowledge. Further conversations were held when Professor Duckworth visited London again in October and attended the Livery’s Installation Dinner as a guest of the Committee Chairman, Past Master John Bowler. Proposals are being developed for Professor Duckworth to continue research work with the Livery and our existing expert advisor Stephen Freeth.
- Liveryman William Battersby has been undertaking researches into “Taverns and Meeting Places used by the Worshipful Company of Feltmakers, 1682-1900” and presented a most interesting and entertaining draft report. This takes up the story from the time of the Great Fire and destruction of our Hall, after which the Company did not own or lease premises again. Instead meetings were held in a range of buildings from small and smoky taverns to smart restaurants and hotels. The Bell Tavern, from Court Minutes, was used in 1682, the Golden Fleece in Cornhill, 1734, (in earlier years used by Samuel Pepys), The Ship Tavern in Lime Street used regularly for 15 years from 1741 and still there today! In the 19th Century, dinners were held at places such as The Tivoli in The Strand and the Holborn Restaurant, both demolished, and the Royal Hotel Purfleet, happily still there. A final report is anticipated for early 2012.
Member, Historical Committee