[My Chamber of Textile Thoughts. No: LXIX | By Viveka Hansen]

Clothes and domestic textiles were important for health and fighting illness in the Victorian era. One aspect was that it was healthy to keep warm, and in this respect woollen clothes were unbeatable. Hence the Woollen Movement introduced in the 1870s; central to this was woollen underclothes, but all kinds of woollen garments now became more popular even among the wealthy, who had previously preferred cotton and silk material. Medical or health aspects were emphasised. This case study will give a few examples of woollen clothes of these types sold by the hosiers, glovers and shirts makers Greensmith & Thackwray in Whitby among others traders.

This contemporary photograph by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe taken in the 1870s or 1880s, gives a good view of the position of St Ann’s Staith by the River Esk, where Greensmith & Thackwray’s shop was situated around that time. Their shop at No. 12 must have been behind one of awnings to the left in picture. (Photo: Frank Meadow Sutcliffe).

This contemporary photograph by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe taken in the 1870s or 1880s, gives a good view of the position of St Ann’s Staith by the River Esk, where Greensmith & Thackwray’s shop was situated around that time. Their shop at No. 12 must have been behind one of awnings to the left in picture. (Photo: Frank Meadow Sutcliffe).

A study of advertisements in the local Whitby Gazette only gets some evidence for “the Woollen Movement” in this small coastal town of North Yorkshire, but in the 1870s an increased amount of woollen clothes were despite this for sale. Whitby’s position as a holiday centre and health resort may also have been a factor for that some hosiers and drapers stressed the importance of woollen underclothes! For example on 9th November 1878, Robert Gray & Co at Old Market Place announced with a large advert describing all possible varieties in their stock. Listing ‘Wool Under Shirts, White and Shetland’, ‘White Merino Shirts’ and ‘White and Shetland Wool pants’ among many wares. Unlike cotton and silk underclothes, woollen models worn mainly to keep warm are not represented in the Whitby Museum Costume Collection.

Greensmith & Thackwray at no. 12 St. Ann’s Staith in Whitby, particularly emphasised the importance of all sorts of ‘Winter Underclothing – Many Articles of which are strongly recommended by the Medical Profession’ in this advert (part of) from 18th November in 1876. (Whitby Museum, The Library). Photo: Viveka Hansen.

Greensmith & Thackwray at no. 12 St. Ann’s Staith in Whitby, particularly emphasised the importance of all sorts of ‘Winter Underclothing – Many Articles of which are strongly recommended by the Medical Profession’ in this advert (part of) from 18th November in 1876. (Whitby Museum, The Library). Photo: Viveka Hansen.

This family hosiers, glovers, and shirt makers was however a short-lived business in Whitby according to advertisements during a few years in the late 1870s. Greensmith & Thackwray in Whitby was a branch of the main shop with a longer life in Scarborough – founded in 1845 and still active according to Bulmer’s Directory in 1890 under the heading Hosiers, Glovers &c and lived on as a store up to the late 1980s.

This print gives a rare opportunity to study the kind of wares Greensmith & Thackwray had for sale, as well as their technique of window dressing to attract their clientele. Judging by the ladies dressed in skirts supported by bustles viewing the shop windows of their shop in Scarborough, this print originates from the 1870s or 1880s. (Print on paper bag).

This print gives a rare opportunity to study the kind of wares Greensmith & Thackwray had for sale, as well as their technique of window dressing to attract their clientele. Judging by the ladies dressed in skirts supported by bustles viewing the shop windows of their shop in Scarborough, this print originates from the 1870s or 1880s. (Print on paper bag).

More to read about “the Woollen Movement” can be found in Alison Adburgham’s research into the subject from a broader perspective – Shops and Shopping 1800-1914 (pp.184-198) printed in 1964. Among many matters Adburgham described:

– Dr Jaeger and Sanitary Woollen Underclothing.
– The Rational Dress Society and Hygienic Wearing Apparel.
– Chamois Leather Underwear.
– Knitted Outerwear.
– Parcels for the Poor and for Servants.
– Welsh flannels
– Tennis clothes.

Previous post in this series:
‘Early Photographic Portraits & Victorian Advertising’.

Sources:
– Adburgham, Alison, Shops and Shopping 1800-1914, London 1964 (The Woollen Movement pp. 184-198).
– Hansen, Viveka, The Textile History of Whitby 1700-1914 – A lively coastal town between the North Sea and North York Moors, London & Whitby 2015. For full list of Notes & Bibliography, pp 404-423. (Additionally: Research material from the period 2006-2014, including surplus photographs and various facts not possible to fit into the book).
– Whitby Gazette, 1870-1890 (Whitby Museum, Library & Archive).

(The monograph The Textile History of Whitby 1700-1914 is available here: The IK Foundation).

PLEASE REFERENCE AS FOLLOWS:

Hansen, Viveka, ‘The Late 19th-Century Woollen Movement & Health Aspects’, TEXTILIS (September 27, 2016); https://textilis.net/ (Accessed: Day/Month/Year)