Luton in old picture postcards

Luton in old picture postcards

:   F. Hackett
:   Bedfordshire
:   United Kingdom
:   978-90-288-2132-3
:   144
:   EUR 16.95 Incl BTW *

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Fragmenten uit het boek 'Luton in old picture postcards'

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119. The wars against Napoleon benefitted the hat trade because imports of fine leghorn hats from Italy were restricted. Enterprising businessmen such as Thomas Waller a plait merchant, began to buy plait from the French Prisoners-of-war at Norman Cross near Peterborough. This oil painting by A.C. Cross depiets the trading that went on despite efforts by the authorities to stamp it out.

120. This watercolour painting shows bonnets being sewn by hand, arranging the plait in a spiral starting at the centre and working to the edge. The shape was checked from time to time by placing it on a wooden block. Most of the sewing was done in the workers' homes or in small establishments, but there were some large sewing rooms in the surrounding villages where up to five hundred people were employed.

121. After sewing, the hats were dipped in gelatine prior to being pressed into shape on a blocking machine. This postcard shows an early blocking machine, dating from 1841. The hat was placed on the wooden block and rotated while an iron box containing heated 'slug' was pressed against it. This partially melted the gelatine and at the same time formed the hat into the required shape. This method replaced the earlier simple wooden mal1ets or mushroom-shaped glass slickenstones.

122. Hats, like all items of clothing, underwent changes in fashion and the hat makers were required to modify the shapes, materials and trimmings to suit the style of the moment. As there were no designers in the earlier years, changes in shape were usually carried out by the block makers. Final trimming was done in the millinary departments of the larger retail stores. In later years, however, trimming rooms were set up as part of the larger factories.

123. The first hat in Luton to be sewn from centre to rin by machine was made in 1873. Originally, modified domestic machines were used, but soon hat-sewing machines were developed and improved so that they cou1d pro duce concea1ed stitchwork. The town was fortunate to have a souree of cheap electricity in the early years of this century and most of the tread1e-operated machines were converted so as to be driven by electric motors. This photograph shows a hat machinist werking in about 1931.

124. The only relatively heavy machines used in the process of making hats were those used for blocking. They were required to heat the hat while, at the same time, pressing it into shape, The blocking machines seen in this photograph are heated by gas and were imported from France. Other types were invented in Luton, which used hot water to provide both the heat and the pressure. A small boiler was designed, probably unique to this industry , which could fit into a domestic chimney. Blocking hats was the only process to be carried out solely by men.

125. Although straw hats were the original product and continued to be the mainstay of the industry, felt hat making was introduced to the town in the 1870's. This had the beneficial effect of filling in the slack periods associated with straw hat making, but it meant competing with the more traditional felt hat making areas of Lancashire and Cheshire. By the end of the First World War many of the larger factories were making felt hats. This photograph shows the buffing and polishing process that was necessary to pro duce the finished texture.

126. This photograph was taken in the ear1y 1930's in the finishing room of Walser's hat factory. The girls are applying rib bons and trimmings to the hats so that they cou1d 1eave the factory ready to wear. Photographs like this confirrn that, in the hat trade as weil the engineering industry, there was quite high ernployment and the depression which affected most of Britain at this period had litt1e effect on Luton.

127. The plait required for the making of hats was originally traded in the open-air market in George Street. Each Monday morning the plaiters would come in from the surrounding villages to sell their work. In order to re move the market from the street, the Plait Halls were built in Cheapside and Waller Street in 1869. They later became the general covered market. This photograph shows one of the plait stalls piled high with bundles, known as 'scores' of plait.

128. One of the best-known and colourful figures in the town was Charles Irons, who was the Town Crier, Keeper of the Pound and also the town's bill poster. As well as crying information in the streets, his job was to catch and impound any stray animals and place them in the Pound at the corner of Windmill Road and Lea Road. In order to claim them, their owners had to pay a fine to 'Charlie'. He was an ardent salvationist and could always be relied upon for a biblical quotation and advice on how to live a good Christian way of life.

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