John Morgan & Co.
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By Appointment

John Morgan & Co

(founded 1825)

John Morgan purchased the freehold property of no.5 Albemarle Street from the Dowager Duchess of Lansdowne, whose residence it had been, and opened his tailoring shop in 1825.

It was a large premises fronting two big arched windows, with the front door to one side that gave onto a hall; from there an entryway led into the shop.

They were spacious premises: two stout marble pillars supported the twenty-foot-high ceiling. It was furnished with leather armchairs, and a petite Turkish carpet. A long mahogany counter with twenty-one deep drawers was situated below the windows and went across the width of the entire shop. Rolls of cloth were kept on top of it.

Two large country-house upright mahogany cloth racks were fixed to one wall. Several mirrors were also attached to the walls: the largest was ten-feet by five-feet. To one side of the Adam-style marble fireplace stood a ten-foot-high sword case with dress regimental swords in the top portion, and it contained dress uniforms and shakos in the lower half. Many mahogany-framed pictures, mostly of officers in regimental uniform, also hung on the walls.

The fitting rooms were situated beyond the front shop. Behind these were the cutting and trimming room. From there a back entrance lead into Old Bond Street. The tailor’s workshop was situated below, in what had been the Duchess’s kitchens.

A husband and wife caretaker lived in the front portion. There was access to a small open area at the rear. A flight of steps gave access from the street down to the front area in the workshop entrance. Two large cellars went under the road. An iron spiral staircase connected the cutting room with the workshop.

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John Morgan lived above the shop. A story handed down is that he opened the workshop at 6.00 am and closed it at 6.15 am; then he reopened it at 9.00 am. Any journeyman tailor who came to work after 6.15 found himself locked out until 9.00 am and thus ‘lost a quarter’ (quarter of a day’s pay).

There is probably some fault in this, as ‘industrial relations’ in the bespoke tailoring trade were not much better one hundred years later!

During 1939 to 1945 the shop was twice severely damaged by Nazi bombs. On both occasions the basement was flooded and nearly all the records were destroyed.

John Morgan was believed to have come from Edinburgh. He probably had a good trade before opening in Albemarle Street, as he received the Royal Warrant in 1836 from the King of Hanover, Prince Ernest Augustus, a younger brother of King George IV and King William IV.

At one time, the only daughter of the Duke of Kent (later Queen Victoria) stood between him and the throne of Great Britain. There were some fears for her safety as he was of a violent nature.

John Morgan also had the Duke of Cambridge (later army chief in Victoria’s time), another of the king’s brothers, as a customer.

Later in the century, John Morgan received the Royal Warrant for Queen Victoria and the Prince Consort. A five-feet by four-feet mahogany-framed blue glass and gold leaf inscription hung in the front shop proclaiming as such.

John Morgan made clothes for George Canning, and foreign secretary and later prime minster, Lord Palmerston, two of whose silk embroidered waistcoats hung in a mahogany frame in the shop.

John Morgan banked with the Western Branch of the Bank of England in Burlington Gardens, formally the house of Lord Melbourne, prime minister of Great Britain.

In 1833 John Morgan was awarded the contract to make all the bank uniforms, pink parlour coats, bank managers’ uniforms and capes, bullion men’s outfits, and more.

The order was placed on 1 January each year and was completed by mid-March. The Bank of England was a very important customer, as it filled the two-and-a-half dead trade months, or off season, when many businesses closed.

The contract lasted one-hundred years, until 1933. A wooden sign hung in the front shop with the legend painted on it: ‘To the Hon. the Gov. Coy of the Bank of England John Morgan & Co. 1833’.

At some date in the nineteenth century, John Morgan was appointed the official London tailors to the Royal Company of Archers, the Sovereign’s bodyguard in Scotland.

In later years, a ten-inch-high Dresden Porcelain model of an archer in field uniform was given to the firm by the Hon. David Bowes-Lyon. A mahogany blue glass and gold leaf sign hung in the shop commemorating the appointment.

It is not known how long John Morgan managed the business, or who took over from him; not until the 1880s does any definite history emerge.

At that time there was an older firm called Lewis Sons & Parker (formally Willis & Co), situated in St. James’s Street. They later moved to Albemarle Street, opposite Morgan’s.

They had in their employ a packer named F.A. Smith. He was a go-ahead young man and the partners decided to promote him as their representative, traveling to the universities and country towns of England and Scotland.

He was very successful; so much so that he eventually asked for a partnership. This was refused. He then approached the then (unknown) head of John Morgan & Co and was taken on traveling to the same places with the addition of Paris and Boulogne.

It is not known when, but Smith eventually became the proprietor of John Morgan & Co, probably in the 1880s. He became a partner in the City firm of **Bush manfges** Chestnut. Cooper and Coy**. Cooper family members were customers until the 1970s. F.A. Smith married a Miss Lindsay and afterwards called himself F. Lindsay-Smith.

He became an Alderman of the City of London. In 1900 he sold the freehold premises of no. 5 Albemarle Street to Lloyds Bank Ltd for an unknown sum of money and a fifty-five-year lease without rent reviews.

He had taken a partner in the 1890s: Lewis Douglas Wilson. It was to these two men that J. K. Wilson (no relation to L.D. Wilson) applied for the trimmer’s position in 1906.

He was asked by Lindsay-Smith, “How little can you live on?” My father added ten shillings (fifty pence) to the one pound he had been getting paid previously, and was taken on.

He took over from Mr. Sheppard who went on to found the business of Anderson & Sheppard of Savile Row.

J.K. Wilson, who came from Scotland, joined the London Scottish Rifles. Significantly, Lindsay-Smith, L.D. Wilson and the head cutter, Mr. MacNaughton were all ex-London Scots. Mr. MacNaughton left about this time and eventually took over the trade of Raught & Co, who were diplomatic tailors.

J.K. Wilson became a junior cutter and recommended that his trimming position be taken by a friend, who was a coat-maker for Henry Poole of Savile Row, George Quick.

The senior cutters at that time were Mr. Chapple and Mr. Cannon. At Christmas-time 1910 they were overheard by L.D. Wilson discussing what they would do when they eventually opened their own business at some uncertain time in the future.

Wilson promptly sacked them! Some years later they established the firm of Chapple & Cannon in Sackville Street.

J.K. Wilson and George Quick recalled in later years how L.D. Wilson always had one-and-a-half hours’ afternoon sleep in one of the leather armchairs at the front shop. Customers were careful not to wake him.

After his sleep he took a walk in Green Park and if he was urgently needed, J.K. Wilson or George Quick were sent to fetch him, anticipating where he would be on his known route. On the way back to the shop Wilson or Quick would walk on in front, often to be told on arrival at Albemarle Street: “Wilson/Quick, your jacket hangs badly on the right shoulder: I will look at it in the morning!”

On one occasion, a tall distinguished man came in and was greeted by L.D. Wilson. “Have you any connection with Morgan of Cowes?” asked the distinguished gentleman.

“No, none whatever,” shortly replied Wilson.

“Oh, I see. Well, I have had my clothes made for some years by Morgan of Cowes, but as my affairs do not necessitate me visiting Cowes anymore, I shall need a new tailor.”

L.D. Wilson replied: “If you have been going to Morgan of Cowes, may I suggest you continue to do to so.”

“I have just explained,” said the man, “that I shall not be visiting Cowes anymore. Are you prepared to make me two or three suits?”

“Well,” said Wilson, doubtfully, “we shall have to take up the usual references sir. What is your name?”

The man replied: “The Earl of Albemarle.”

L.D. Wilson, backing away and gesturing with one arm, said “Step this way my Lord. In what way can I be of service?”

JKW and Quick used to say they knew what kind of day it was going to be by the force with which LDW put his umbrella onto the stand when he came in the morning!

Mr. and Mrs. Travel were the housekeepers at that time. Mrs. Travel came up from the basement each day in winter at 4pm to put the fire out. Cutters at that time often worked until 7 or 8 pm.

JK Wilson left John Morgan & Co around 1911 and started his own trade in Moorgate. He took as a partner, Mr. Grainger, who was not a practical tailor and they traded as Grainger & Wilson.

Grainger had contacts with the corn and Baltic exchanges, where most of their trade came from. The shop did well, but in September 1914 JKW, who was a territorial, sailed for France with the London Scottish Regiment, in the SS Winifredian. When demobilised in 1918, the business had closed, owing to the death during the war of Mr. Grainger in the absence of JKW.

In the aftermath of the First World War, JKW moved to Newcastle and began a job cutting in a department store named Gray Peverell & Co Ltd.

The owner, Mr. E.T. Harvey used to tour each department on Friday evenings, asking each head of department what were the figures for the week. On asking Mr. Steer, head of hardware, “Figures, Steer?” he was informed of the amount. Harvey replied, “Hrrumph. Perfumery has beaten you!”

When he discovered J.K. Wilson played golf, he, who did not, announced one Saturday morning, “I read a book on golf last night, Wilson. I’ll give you a game tomorrow!”

JKW left Gray Peverell and took a job with the bespoke tailoring firm of Bernand. The proprietor, Dickie Bernand, used to look through the obituary column of the local paper each week and if he saw that a customer had died, while making lamentations, he would look along the ‘dead rail’ (misfills) and find a suit as near as possible in size to the deceased. He’d put new name tickets on it and send an account to the executors!

JKW left to start his own business. But as E.T. Harvey had put an injunction on him not to trade within twenty miles of Gray Peverell, he opened a shop with a non-practical partner in John Street, Sunderland, and traded as Fraser & Wilson.

The trade struggled at the start, but JKW obtained a loan from a local magnate for £1000 and he repaid it in cash and kind over the next seven years. JKW travelled the area to farmers often having to conduct a fitting in the fields. On one occasion, on the way down to Stockton and Middlesbrough, he sold two suits on the train to a local ship builder, while a third passenger wrote down the measures, with some amusement. JKW went first class for this reason.

He used to buy short lengths of cloths, two-and-a-half yards at a time, and sell them to Japanese merchant seaman officers. After three years, the trade was going well.

On one occasion, JKW mentioned to Fraser that Mr. Thompson, a local ship builder, had not paid his account. This was unusual, as this man had always settled his account by return. Fraser said he would type a letter asking for payment. They both signed it. JKW then went to Stockton for the day conducting fittings. Upon his return late that evening he went to the shop to drop off his bags. A nagging suspicion had troubled him all day. He glanced in the wastepaper basket where Fraser had carelessly thrown the letter.

He confronted Fraser the next morning, by inserting his fingers on the inside of Fraser’s stiff collar and twisting. Fraser then admitted that Thompson had some weeks before called in and paid in cash and settled the account and that he had kept it, meaning to pay it back when his finances were better. The trade carried on very successfully.

But in 1930, JKW’s first son had died, aged eight years. Around the same period, he was offered a partnership in John Morgan & Co.

At John Morgan’s, Lindsay-Smith had died during the 1914-1918 World War. L.D. Wilson had run the business with George Quick as head cutter since then. In 1930 L.D. Wilson retired. George Quick needed a partner, particularly as Morgan’s trade had shrunk disastrously.

JKW returned in 1931 and soon found that the existing trade was not big enough to support two partners, the staff and establishment. GQ, JKW and Frank Mann (a Yorkshireman from Leeds, who had joined Morgan’s as a trimmer in 1922) did the cutting. Then Clark Charles Strong, who had also joined Morgan’s in the 1920s, doubled as a traveler, going to the universities, Liverpool, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and Perth.

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JKW started conducting regular visits to Newcastle, Sunderland and Liverpool, calling on his old customers and bringing back substantial trade. He also made friends with R.C. Kelley of A. Sulka & Coy of Bond Street. In those days Sulka was one of the premier shirt and robe makers in the West End.

Wilson recruited all the salesmen there, and the manager, Mr. Bright, who shortly retired, and was succeeded by R.C Kelley.

JKW’s brother-in-law, Bruce Thompson, was the robe cutter there. A good quantity and quality of trade came in from Sulka’s, often seven-to-eight new customers in a week. One of which was the American Ambassador to the UK: Joseph P. Kennedy and his father-in-law J.F. Fitzgerald.

In 1933, George Quick and JKW purchased the trade of Lewis Sons & Parker (ironically the firm from which Lindsay-Smith had originally come). Their business had been declining since the First World War, prior to which they had a large German trade, including the Kaiser.

A certain amount of trade resulted from this, but the main gain was the acquisition of Mr. and Mrs. Bargstedt, who were the top coat maker and tailors in the West End working for Lewis Sons & Parker at that time. Phil’s brother, Chris, was a top waistcoat maker and joined John Morgan & Co as well.

JKW also got Joe Sexton, with whom he had worked as a coat maker and joined John Morgan & Co as well, with whom he had worked as a coat maker in J.B. Adam’s workshop when JKW first came to London.

Joe, with his son, Jack, and daughter Mary, also joined John Morgan and Co. Other tailors were Maxwell & Co (1917) H. Thie Lunsden and his father, Amos Reeves (alteration tailor), J. Ayton, S. Ford, H. Cooper, S. Redman (breeches maker), and B. Prange (trouser maker). S. Barnet worked outside and did the bulk of the bank uniforms, until 1933 when the contract came to an end.

Lewis Sons & Parker had customers in the north and JKW took over traveling completely. In those days, the traveler called on homes and offices in a small area. JKW said that in Edinburgh you only had to go around St. Andrews Square, along George Street and around Charlotte’s Square to see everyone.

He called on J.G. Crystal, one of Lewis Sons & Parker’s customers, who said to JKW, “I am sorry, but it’s time to call a halt. I have not been able to wear L.S & P. clothes for years! But I have been unable to refuse the two old gentlemen (the Borley brothers, ex proprietors of L.S & P.) and did not have the heart to say “no”. I also could not resist their letters and have given the clothes away.”

JKW said he understood, that it was unfortunate for him, and offered to make a suit without obligation to keep if he did not like it. J.G. Crystal accepted the offer and remained a customer until his death some ten years later.

JKW had made a good friend in Willy Steele, who was the owner of the Royal George Hotel in Perth. He recommended many customers, among them Archie Maclaren Whyte, an old tea planter retired from Assam.

When he died during the 1940s I (JKDW) was sent a crate, six-foot-long and eighteen-inches square. I still remember the excitement of a twelve-year-old boy when I opened it and saw his collection of spears, war axes and bonnets, his claymore sword and many souvenirs of his life in Assam.

I still remember him with his walnut face and passion for bagpipes. Even in his late 80s he would leave whoever he was with and march along behind the pipe band.

Also in Perth, JKW used to call on RWR Mackenzie, who had been a customer since the 1880s (I still have his pattern). He lived in a large house on the bank of the River Tay. JKW had a standing appointment to call, each time he was in Perth, at 3 pm on Saturdays.

He was always greeted with, “Come away in, Mr. Wilson, and take a cup of cold tea (whisky). Will ye take potash (soda) or water with it? If ye’ll tak ma advice ye’ll tak neither, il’s ower weak already!”

On one occasion they were listening to an England versus Scotland rugby match. Old Mackenzie, who had played for Scotland as a young man, was saying, “Ye would not think it to look at me now Mr. Wilson, but as a youth I was verra fleet o’ foot.”

A climax in the game occurred and Mackenzie swallowed a double amount of ‘cold tea’ and erupted in a coughing fit. “Ma god,” he said when he had recovered enough to speak. “It ought to ken the richt wey doon by now!”

Willie Steele had joined the Royal George Hotel when he was a boy, as the ‘boots’ and by grim determination and thrift became the owner.

He and his wife ran the establishment on their own at first, working a nineteen-hour day. His baby son climbed onto the kitchen table. While Steele was preparing lunch, the boy fell off into a large soup tureen and was scolded to death. His wife eventually went into a mental home.

 

True customer stories

Lord Slim

Former Chief of the Imperial General Staff and General Commander-in-Chief of the 14th Army in Burma, Lord Slim was the first commander to beat the Japanese Army on land. When he became Field Marshall in 1947, he ordered a new Field Marshall’s uniform and it was duly made.

However, when he saw it finished he said that he really wanted the Guards shade of khaki. The one we made was correct, as Slim was not a Guards man. He would have had to accept it if we had insisted but JKW, in the interests of good future relations, made a new one in the Guard’s shade of khaki and Slim was more than pleased. As the old man (JKW) remarked to me afterwards, “There’s not much sale for secondhand Field Marshall’s uniforms!”

Some months later, Madame Tussauds approached us to make a uniform for the waxwork bust of Field Marshall Slim that they were preparing. We undertook the order and put some white basting cotton on the uniform we had! Tussauds was amazed at the speed with which we carried out the order.

Some years later, Slim sent his uniform in for a ‘going over’ before going on an important parade. He came into the shop to put it on before going to the parade. When he was dressed he said, “I shall always appreciate your remaking the uniform.” At the door he turned and said, “The original looks fine in Madame (Tussauds).”

When he was Governor General of Australia he was attending a reception when an Australian newspaper man called out, “Give us a smile, Bill.” (Bill Slim had a rather grim face at times). Slim replied, “I am smiling, damn you!”

When he was old, I was fitting him with a new suit. He said that now he was old his sight was going and he could no longer see to read and had to be read to, to which he said, “This does not improve my temper,” and went on: “However, I can see well enough to tell you these sleeves are too bloody short!”

My father once took his arm to walk across the road to his official car, when Slim was Chief Constable of Windsor Castle. The traffic was heavy and Slim stopped JKW and said, “Go back. If I get killed it won’t cause a ripple, but if you do I shall have to answer to all sorts of people.”

JKW had an appointment to meet the famous criminologist, Sir Leon Radzinowicz, for lunch at the Athenaeum Club. When he arrived, Sir Leon was crossing the hall to greet him when Lord Silm, who also happened to be there, charged across the hall and greeted JKW before Sir Leon could get there: one up to the old man!

Sir Leon Radzinowicz

Sir Leon was a very exacting customer and once he had got the initiative it was difficult to get it back! Percy Deas, our American traveler, said he would “not have him as a customer at any price”. I pointed out to Percy that at least a dozen good customers in the USA were recommended by Sir Leon; more in the UK, and that Sir Leon was well worth a ‘few’ grey hairs.

Once, Sir Leon, who had spent two-to-three hours looking at cloth, said he could not see anything and suggested we went to a woolen merchant. So, I took him to Moffat’s in Warwick Street.

After turning their warehouse inside out he had narrowed the field to two lengths. He said to old Bunton, a dour, but excellent Scot, “Which one?” Bunton said with some asperity: “With your kind of money, I should have both!” Fortunately, he only chose one. One at a time was quite enough with Sir Leon.

Lord Chief Justice Widgery

My father and Jim Gipps were standing somewhat apart facing Lord Widgery when I entered the shop and came to a halt between them. Widgery said: “Enter, third robber!”

He was once picking out cloth on the front counter with Jim Gipps, when I came out of the fitting room with two East End customers, Wilde and Fawcett, who made a living in some doubtful way. As I saw them out, Wilde said, “That’s yer Widgery, in it?” Fawcett nodded and I confirmed it. When I re-entered the shop Widgery said, “Ah, mutual customers I see, Mr. Wilson!”

Robert S. Wolff, the R.K.O. film boss once saw him in the shop and asked who he was. “Widgery? Widgery?” he queried. “Sounds like something to eat!”

Commander Douglas Service of Torsonce

Douglas Service was a large rotund man of great style who usually wore Glenurquart checks, grey flannel, or his family tweed: Bulloch (Bearish?) tartan, a heavy cloth in a dogtooth pattern, olive green on off white.

He always had thirteen pockets in his jackets. The side pockets of his trousers were made of chamois leather.

When he came to the shop he was often accompanied by two or three terriers that were usually named after a drink: Brandy, Whisky, etc. Once, when he called, only Whisky was with him. The dog slunk underneath the settee in the fitting room, unlike his usual lively self. I said, “He’s not his usual self” to which Douglas Service replied, “He’s not very popular this morning, Mr. Wilson. He’s just put up a rat in Fortnum & Mason’s grocery department!”

He was given the Order of the Golden Coffee Bean when in Brazil. He temporarily halted two opposing factions in a revolutionary fight by raising his walking stick as he crossed a wad under fire in order to board a ship.

He called with his wife one day and when they had left the shop my father noticed she left a glove behind. He went out with it and caught them up. She said, “Oh, thank you, Mr. Wilson, but I shall have to find the other one now!”

On one occasion I had been showing cloth to a couple for a long time and couldn’t see much chance on settling on anything, when the door flew open and, proceeded by dogs, Douglas Service came in. Seeing I was engaged, he marched across the shop, stabbed a suit length with his umbrella and said “That’s the one. Same details. Let me know when you are ready for a fitting.” He then marched out, all in less than thirty seconds. The couple I was with were amazed, but didn’t come to a decision.

The Bearish (Bulloch?) tartan before mentioned had been made before the 1939-45 war by Standen & Co of Jermyn Street. We had a ‘piece’ (i.e. approximately sixty-five yards) made in Scotland at Douglas Service’s request. When it arrived he came out with his wife and family, and with great delight ordered for himself a suit and overcoat, shooting jacket, laced walking breeches, and plus fours.

His son had the same and his wife a coat and shirt. She said with a sigh, “I had hoped he would have finished that, but it seems there is enough here for generations!”

Douglas Service had the unusual distinction of being in the Royal Flying Corps in the 1914-18 war and commanding a destroyer in the 1939-45 war.

He was a publisher of sporting books. The old firm was called Seeley Service & Co.

I just remember Douglas Service’s father, Stanley Service. He carried an English/French pocket dictionary in his waistcoat pocket. He studied it in the lavatory and remarked that it was the best place to learn French!

Douglas’s brother, Ian, also a Naval Commander, once appeared in a newspaper photograph, in the act of helping a lady to her feet who had just been knocked down by a taxi. As he bent to help her to her feet with one hand, the other was raising his bowler hat!

W. Campbell (Dundee)

W. Campbell was a thin saturnine man who told my father that his father had died, and died a pauper. “He only left £150,000.” He was quite serious about this. This was around 1930!

When we moved to 11 St George Street W1, the notice brands of various defunct tailors had not been taken down. G.W. Campbell came in and announced that our doorway, “Looked like a brothel and I should know!” he finished off.

Mrs. Margret Low was G.W. Campbell’s sister. I once called to fit her with a skirt at her home in Broughty Ferry by Dundee. Before, during and after the fitting she gave me schooners of gin and when I got married she sent us half a dozen of the crystal glasses we had used.

 

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Eric Thompson (Dundee)

Every time I went to Dundee he always ordered one or two suits and fitted the   ones he had ordered the previous trip. They were always heavy tweeds and on one occasion he was away, but left a message to finish and send them so that on the next visit to Dundee I had no reason to phone him. (I did not have the gall to ring him and suggest he ordered something!) However, I had sent him a card.

He phoned me in the afternoon and suggested I called at his house in Broughty Ferry that evening. I had never been to his home and got the bus to Broughty Ferry. A thick sea ‘harr’ or fog had settled and I had some difficulty in finding the house. I eventually thought that I had and rang the bell.

A man answered, on my asking for Mr. Thompson. He laughed and said, “This is the lodge. Mr. Thompson’s house is at the end of the drive.”

I trudged on, found it and Mr. Thompson let me in himself. The front door opened onto a large hall lined all around the walls with books. This was the ancestral home. Mr. Thompson was an elderly bachelor; all his brothers and sisters had married, leaving him in sole possession of this big house.

We went into the billiard room, which was paneled in Honduran mahogany. He picked out a couple of suits, then went upstairs to his bedroom where he had a dinner jacket he wanted letting out.

On the way around the house, every so often he produced a small spanner from his pocket and turned on a radiator. He said: “My housekeeper complains that the central heating creates dust and turns them off. Well, I would rather be dusty and warm than clean and cold, so I turn them on!”

When he opened his wardrobe I noticed at the bottom, a double suit box unpacked, which we had sent him six months before. When I left, I thanked him for the order (he needed suits like a hole in the head!) and he replied, “You can’t come all this way for nothing.” His type was not uncommon before the war, but a rarity nowadays!

P.S. Brown (Brown & Tawse of Dundee)

My father, in the early 1930s, fitted P.S. Brown at the Royal British Hotel, Dundee at around 11 am with two suits. At 2:30 pm Brown returned and said, “Welcome to Dundee, Mr. Wilson. I thought I should look in and try on those two suits.”

My father said nothing, but fitted the two suits again! P.S. Brown was very old!

M. Lindsay (Dundee)

When he came in to have a fishing jacket fitted he always brought in the butt end of a fly rod to make certain the sleeve did not hold the cast back!

Daniel Macmillan

The elder brother of Harold, Lord Stockton, Daniel Macmillan, called in our Sackville Street shop, with a pair of trousers worn through at the knee, asking to have them invisibly mended.

My father told him it could be done, but that the area around it was so thin it could go at any time, or really was a waste of money. Daniel Macmillan said, “Better have a new suit then, same cloth; and if I have to call in to fit this one (grey), I might as well have a new blue one. Make it in the same cloth as the last.”

By the time he and my father had finished he had additionally ordered a tweed suit and overcoat. All he had come in for was a small repair!

He lived in a flat above the old American Embassy, directly opposite the new one in Grosvenor Square. I went up there to see him once after the Embassy moved and they told me that he had been living there before the Americans came and, despite their efforts to move him, was still living there after they had gone.

When asked if he visited Harold Macmillan, who was then prime minister, he said, “My brother lives in the country and the country is far too noisy! Always a river or stream nearby, farm machinery at all hours, cows, cock crows and rooks. Here in Grosvenor Square, between 8 pm and 7 am, hardly a sound is heard!”

 

Maurice Macmillan M.P., son of Harold, Lord Stockton

Maurice Macmillan was a tall, saturnine, good-looking man with a nice way of wearing clothes. He came into our St George’s Street shop one occasion wearing a bowler hat, blue hopsack jacket, white shirt and tie, black shoes and socks and yellow riding breeches.

I kept a straight face and said, “Good morning.” He said, “Could you let these breeches out, Mr. Wilson? They are a bit tight!” I then noticed he was carrying the trousers, which went with his jacket under his arm. He saw my look and said, “I have just been fitting a pair of riding boots at Rogers in Jermyn Street and had to fit them with the breeches on. I could see no point in taking them off only to have to put them on again when I got here!”

So, he would have walked across the best part of the West End in that rig-out. Not many people would do it for a bet. He did it quite naturally!

When I got married the old man and uncles insisted I had a morning coat, so I had to make it myself. After the wedding it hung up, unworn, for a year or so until Maurice Macmillan came in and said, “Have you a morning coat I can borrow? I have to attend a memorial service with my father and he has got ‘our’ morning coat. He was much the same size and figure as me, so I produced mine without letting him know whose it was. It fitted him very well.

“It might have been made for me,” he said. “Is it for sale?” I said, “I thought perhaps it might be!”

Lady Caroline Faber Daughter of Harold Macmillan, Lord Stockton

Lady Caroline Faber came in one day and announced, “Mr. Wilson, now that my father is a member of the House of Lords, he does not like to wear the tweed Inverness cape when he attends sittings and so wears the black overcoat you made him (the firm that is) in the 1930s.”

She went on: “It’s so thin that the wind goes straight through it, as he insists on going to London by train from Haywards Heath, which must be the coldest station in England. He gets frozen. He won’t go on first class carriages. When the train stops, he waits further down the platform in the open, to be opposite the second class compartments where the train stops and gets frozen!”

She went on. “I want you to make him an Inverness cape in a dark cloth which will be a present from the family!” Lord Stockton was then ninety-one years old and the cape under Macmillan ‘management’ would last at least fifty years. My hint that in due time it could be made to fit Alexander Macmillan (Harold’s grandson) was well received.

 

Lord Stockton (Harold Macmillan)

In the 1960s when he was prime minister, and Nikita Khrushchev and John F. Kennedy were in power, an Italian tailor called Brioni presented each of them with a suit (as a publicity stunt). Khrushchev and Kennedy accepted their suits, but Harold Macmillan turned it down saying, “I don’t need a suit.”

“But it’s free,” said the tailor.

“That is beside the point,” said MacMillan. “I don’t need one. When I do, I shall go to Morgan’s and get one!”

Once, when he was being fitted for a suit, MacMillan paused in the process of putting the trousers on (he was ninety years old), and said, “A word of advice. When you get to my age, if you stand with your feet together like a solider, you fall over, so keep them apart”.

He once brought in an old shooting suit in, which had worn through in the knee and suggested we cut the waistcoat up and insert a patch. This we did and, sometime later, he was photographed in the Daily Mirror wearing the suit, with the patch outlined! This did not bother him. So far as he was concerned, there was no point in ordering a complete new outfit when the only thing wrong with the old one was a hole in the knee! He would not have enjoyed shooting in a new suit.

When he was in his late eighties he came in and said, “Mr. Wilson my dinner suit is in a worse condition than I am and, though tempting providence, I will have to order another!

My father and I used to go to 10 Downing Street to fit his clothes. Once, we did the usual look-around and sat in the PM’s Cabinet Chair, when a surprised PM emerged from the bathroom, stark naked! One thing had to be done: let out his tail coat, which had been made by us in 1919. This was 1963! Later we altered it for his grandson, Alexander.

Eric Capstick

A pitman who was lost his right arm at the shoulder in World War One, Eric Capstick was put in the office and sold out his mine when the mines were nationalised after World War Two. He was a good one-arm golfer, a good shot and fisherman, and drove a car. He told me the only time to drink champagne was at sunrise in the summer, on the river bank and drink from a pint pewter pot. “Drink it down, big mouthfuls. It will set you up for hours, lad!”

Brian St. John

Brian St. John cut for Morgan’s in the late 1950s to the mid 1970s. I once said to him on a Monday morning, “It was a fine sunny weekend, St. John”. He answered, “Was it? I didn’t look out!” He wore a small brown hairpiece, which failed to turn grey with the rest of his hair.

 

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Melbourne CBD


84 William Street

Melbourne, Victoria

Australia 3000

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Melbourne


111 Toorak Road

South Yarra, Victoria

Australia 3141

Tel. (03) 9820 0007