I had the pleasure of meeting Master Tailor Charles Smith who has generously gifted me his precious tailoring patterns. It was also a chance for me to leave London for a day to visit the scenic Leagh-On-Sea where he lives to spend a memorable day out with him, his daughter Peggy-Jane and her lovely Alsatian.
A quick history of his tailoring background starts with his Great Grandfather, John Anthony Smith who lived in Chelsea and worked in Savile Row…also had a shop in Lisson Grove, Marylebone. (see above photo). Three of his sons became tailors (and his daughter Jesse became a trouser maker), Harry Smith, who it is said walked from London to Southampton and got on a boat to South Africa and opened a tailors shop with a Dutch Bore…however because he would not fight against the English in the Bore war he returned and worked for Savile Row. Thomas Smith who opened a shop in the High Road, Marylebone in competition with his father and later moved his business to Leigh-on-Sea, Essex. Charlie’s father Arthur Reginald Smith worked for his father until he joined the army in 1911. He was a trouser maker (everything was made by hand)…but because of the war, he didn’t at that time learn tailoring through to the final process. When he was demobbed as Sargent in 1919 he took the shop over from his father who died from the Spanish Flue. He met and married Charlie’s mother, Ellen Annis Read who was a S.R. waistcoat maker and served her apprenticeship who became a fully qualified tailoress. She allegedly made for royalty and worked for tailors Pooles and Hawkes (now Gieves & Hawkes). Her sister, Alice also worked there. It transpires that her uncle was also a tailor.
Charlie’s parents not only had the shop in Marylebone, Church Street, but opened a shop in Notting Hill, 244 Lancaster Road. When war broke out for the second time they moved to Luton where he run a factory making army uniforms. Many tailoring firms like Dege & Skinner survived the war by making uniforms. Later the family moved down to Essex where Charlie had been evacuated and bought a house but commuted to London and worked for Jane and Judy, Wilton Place, Knightsbridge. This was apparently a fashion house that worked for the famous. Later they opened a tailors shop in Broadway, Hadleigh. Charlie then served his national service but worked for his parents…he did a cutting scholarship at the Tailor & Cutter ( he still has the receipt!) but was already a very good tailor. He went on to work for some very good tailors including Verani of Hamlet Court Road (who in turn worked for Collins & Lawrence/Wells) and Brackley’s. One of Charlie’s overcoats was put into the Tailor & Cutter competition and won a diploma in 1953/54. It was made for the cartoonist, Roy Uliate, from the Daily Express.
Charlie, took over his fathers shop in Hadleigh and after a short spell in Leigh-on-Sea (near his uncles shop) he opened a shop in Southend-on Sea in 1980 till his retirement in 2002 aged 72. He made clothes for Dr. Feelgood and got a write up in Melody Maker, and more recently made clothes for Reece (not his stage name) front man of the ‘Horrors’. He has worked for the Tower of London, Lloyds of London, the west end etc., etc…and now at 83 years old regularly receives telephone calls from old clients begging him to make for them…on occasions he makes exceptions and obliges!….
I am so priveledged to make acquaintaince with Charlie and hope you enjoyed reading his story. Will post once I have responded to these special patterns all rolled up and waiting to be made.