In an earlier article I discussed how the two companies, Messrs. Gieves and Messrs. Hawkes, had quite separate developments until they merged in late 1974. So also have their archives experienced very different fates over the years. In a way it is surprising that, at No. 1, Savile Row, we have inherited as much as we have.
Hawkes, the famous military tailor, was for many years located in Piccadilly and in 1912/13 repaired from there to Savile Row. The company was owned at that time by the family of Henry Thomas White who had acquired the business in 1856. His grandson relates how, at the time of the move in 1912, the directors, the sons of H.T.White, decided to have a complete clear out and to dispense with most of their Georgian and Victorian records, an appalling idea by modern standards. But one of the directors did have the foresight to retain and pass on some knowledge and memorabilia to the next generation. It is therefore fortunate that we still have the memoirs of the said grandson and at least some of the customer ledgers from the mid 19th. century as well as quite a few other precious and rare volumes. We even have several of the items that were on display in the Hawkes & Company showcase at the Great Exhibition of 1851 and a photograph of the showcase to prove it. [More on this showcase in a later article].
It has been another matter altogether with Gieves, the famous naval tailor, as was indicated in the earlier article. Generations of Gieves religiously kept records from the time that the first member of the family, the first James Gieve, entered the business in 1852, soon thereafter to take over sole ownership in1887.
They also kept the records, patterns and other memorabilia passed down from the trade that preceded Gieves ownership, in other words the naval tailoring businesses of Meredith, Joseph Galt, Seagrove, Fraser & Davis which dated back to Portsmouth in the latter part of the 18th. century.
What befell in September 1940 in the form of German firebombs, entailing the total destruction of the Gieves shop at 21 Old Bond Street, could perhaps have been foreseen by the directors as a terrible possibility during the Blitz.
What they had not envisaged , however, was that a supposedly fire proof, blast proof strong room in the sub-basement, and reinforced by the Ministry of Works, would melt and be reduced to ashes, resulting in the loss of the all important Nelson memorabilia along with other precious items and day books, as well as a significant number of artworks belonging to a well-known Anglo-American art dealer who also made use of this storage facility. Such was the hole in the ground that the fire services used it as a fire hydrant for the remainder of the war.
What happened next was equally disastrous, the IRA bomb attack on 27 Old Bond Street, the shop to which Gieves moved post war and where, again, customer records and heritage pieces were lost.
Thus it is that the current state of the Gieves & Hawkes archive is very surprisingly more comprehensive than one might have supposed after the ravages of war and peace over almost two and a half centuries.
- H.T.White’s grandson’s hand written record.
- One of the Hawkes customer ledgers open to entries including those for Col. the Duke of Rutland and the Marquis of Granby.
- 21 Old Bond Street on the morning after the incendiary bomb attack of September 16th. 1940.
- The basement of 21, Old Bond Street, converted into an emergency water reservoir for the London Fire Brigade for the remainder of the war.