City fac­to­ries made the shirt on your back

Gloucestershire Echo - - NOSTALGIA -

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GLOUCES­TER’S shirt­mak­ing in­dus­try thrives to this day. Turn­bull and Asser shirts are made in the city, sold in the most ex­clu­sive gents’ out­fit­ters and worn by A-list celebri­ties.

But the ori­gins of shirt­mak­ing in the city date back at least to 1882 when The Glouces­ter Shirt Com­pany was founded in Mag­dala Road.

The firm was started by Mr HTTT Hig­gins and by the early years of the 20th cen­tury em­ployed a work­force of over 200, the ma­jor­ity of them women.

Dur­ing the Sec­ond World War, pro­duc­tion switched to mil­i­tary uni­forms.

An­other well-known name in the trade was Seaward’s, which had a fac­tory in Al­fred Street.

Seaward’s didn’t ac­tu­ally make en­tire shirts – they just man­u­fac­tured the cuffs and col­lars, both of which were de­tach­able items held to the body of the gar­ment by studs that were as un­com­fort­able to wear as they were time-con­sum­ing to put in.

In the 1930s, the girls who went to work at Seaward’s af­ter leav­ing school at the age of 14 were paid on a piece­work ba­sis, re­ceiv­ing the princely sum of two shillings and twopence (14p) for each gross (144) of col­lars they stitched and turned.

Just be­fore the Sec­ond World War, Seaward’s went bank­rupt and was taken over by John Cromp­ton’s of Swin­don.

Pro­duc­tion then switched from cuffs and col­lars to Army uni­forms and work­ing in teams the women com­pleted a bat­tle­dress jacket at the rate of one ev­ery 15 min­utes.

Mon­days to Fri­days the girls clocked in at 8am, stopped for lunch at 1pm, started again at 2pm and fin­ished at 5.30pm. It was com­pul­sory to work from 8am un­til 1pm on Satur­days.

For this 47.5 hour work­ing week the girls were paid 30 shillings (£1.50).

Cromp­ton’s also made uni­forms for the Great Western Rail­way.

The change from mak­ing del­i­cate cuffs and col­lars to serge mil­i­tary uni­forms took its toll on the women work­ers, whose fin­gers be­came red raw.

They com­plained, but the man­age­ment pointed out that this was wartime and con­tracts had to be met by strict dead­lines.

By way of small com­pen­sa­tion, each worker was given a bowl of alum in which to soak their sore fin­gers, with the vague prom­ise that this would har­den their skin.

Glouces­ter Shirt Co, Mag­dala Road

Sean Con­nery as James Bond be­ing mea­sured for a Turn­bull and Asser shirt

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