Wednesday, 7 August 2013

The monster ready made and bespoke clothing establishment, Borough

"The monster ready made and bespoke clothing establishment." This is a most bizarre formulation. If they wanted to say this was a very large shop, why not use "the largest" instead. "Monster" seems slightly off-putting. But maybe it's just me.

The earliest document about the Albion House Clothing Company I could find dates from 1890. However this clothier does not appear in the 1891 edition of the Post Office London Trades Directory. One possible reason may be that the company was founded in 1890, too late to feature in the Directory. By 1895 the Albion House Clothing Co was operating from three locations in London: 161, 163, 165 and 167 Borough High Street (where the name "Albion House" was proudly displayed on the façade at number 163), 83 Aldgate High Street and 157 Minories. Actually this should only count as two locations as 157 Minories is adjacent to 83 Aldgate High Street.

By 1899 the company's premises on Aldgate High Street had been extended from the original number 83 to numbers 84, 85 and 86 (buildings along Aldgate High Street are numbered consecutively, starting on the north side and then continuing clockwise back down on the south side. Strangely, in later editions of the Directory, the address given is 83, 85, 87 and 89 Aldgate High Street, even though no renumbering had taken place). The shop in Borough High Street had a different fortune though. In March 1899 the company instructed Debenham, Tewson, Farmer and Bridgewater to sell the buildings at 163, 165 and 167. The notice published at the time indicated the premises covered about 7,000 square feet. Yet in the end only two out of the three buildings were sold: according to an advertisement that particular branch was still made of 161 and 163 Borough High Street in 1906. Part of the money generated by the sale of the two buildings at 165 and 167 went towards the acquisition of 37 Jewry Street, the building round the corner from 89 Aldgate High Street.

The Monster

Ready Made & Bespoke




The 1900s marked the heyday of the Albion House Clothing Co. According to the aforementioned advertisement printed in 1906, it had branches not only at 83-86 Adgate High Street and 161-163 Borough High Street, but also at 59-61 New Oxford Street, on Rye Lane in Peckham (opened between 1896 and 1901), and at 86 Western Road in Brighton (opened between 1899 and 1905). However this apparent success was short-lived. By 1910 the branches at both Borough High Street and New Oxford Street had been closed and the one in Peckham followed suit at some point between 1911 and 1914. The Brighton branch was kept open for longer but I do not know exactly for how long.

The Albion House Clothing Co remained in business during the depression of the 1930s but did not withstand the War. In August 1942 its members appointed a liquidator and by November that year all the company's assets had been disposed of.

Two advertisements from 1906 show some of the clothes the Albion House Clothing Co sold to men and boys and to women and girls. Looking at these, its seems it targeted upper-middle class customers. Interestingly, in his book A brief outline of the Surinam gold industry: Geology, technique, hygiene. Description of the gold placer and the prospects at the Guiana gold placer, published in 1911 (the original version in Dutch dates from 1909), J. H. Verloop mentions another kind of garment available at the shop of the Albion House Clothing Co on Aldgate High Street: thin oilskin, ideal for the tropics. He even precised it came in different colours.

Unfortunately I have not found any information, whether in English, Flemish or French, about the company's branches in Belgium (in Ghent and Antwerp) and in France (in Paris).

Since the Albion House Clothing Company had a branch in Borough High Street during the last decade of the 19th century and the first years of the 20th century, this ghost sign was painted more than 110 years ago.

Location: Borough High Street / Pictures taken in April 2008


Anonymous said...

Thank you
for this interesting and brief history of The Monster clothing company otherwise known as Albion clothing company.
I noticed this when driving through the Borough High Street and was curious my family had resided in the district before and after WW1 and could have well purchased items from this store.
These old business signs are vitally important for the historical heritage of Southwark and particularly the Borough High Street.


Roderic Vincent said...

Thank you for an informative post.Did you know that Southwark Council are now considering a planning application for a 7 storey hotel that would mean the end of this historic wall?