Tuesday, 30 July 2013

In Cornwall

Because I tend to travel abroad on Hackett business quite frequently, I like to take the opportunity to holiday in England.

I rented a cottage in Cornwall on the Tamar River this summer. In fact, I rented two because they were so close together that I was nervous that I might be lumbered with neighbours from hell, so I invited some friends along.

This part of Cornwall was famous for it's tin mining industry and the cottages were originally the blacksmith's forge and the counting house where the miners picked up their paltry pay packet. The buildings have been converted and are now both tastefully 'Farrowed and Balled'.

On the first morning I strolled down to the local village, Calstock via a bridle path alongside the river accompanied by Browney and Muffin - my Sussex Spaniel and new puppy.

In it's heyday Calstock would have been a thriving mining community - now it is a quiet backwater with just a couple of pubs and a general store. 

Picking up the paper and fresh bread from the store I noticed as I left, that the store had at one time been a men's outfitter. The shop front still  had the original art nouveau windows and below the window frames stamped in to brass plates were the words 'outfitter', 'tailor', 'hatter' and 'hosier' along with the name of the proprietor - an 'S.C Bowden'.

Walking back to the cottage I began to muse about what the shop must have been like in the early 1900s...

I imagined mahogany and brass glass counters, gas lighting, wooden floors and solid tables stacked with rolls of cloth - likely to be West of England flannel from Fox Bros. I imagined Mr Bowden behind his counter resplendent in a sturdy three piece suit made from charcoal serge and worn with a tunic shirt made from Thomas Mason fabric in Lancashire, and a rounded stiff collar.

His trousers would be worn shorter with lace up black boots not as a fashion statement but because of the muddy streets. I can see him perusing his ledger, checking on his stock and whether he had enough of the oiled wool jerseys  hand knitted by local women and so much in demand by the crews of the barges that plied their trade on the Tamar. I wondered if he made clothes for the local squire and the Gentleman farmers in the surrounding countryside - perhaps tweed suits or a set of riding clothes?

Carrying on this fantasy, I thought 'what if I were transported back to the summer of 1900 and happened upon Mr Bowden's emporium looking for some holiday kit?'. He might show me a coarse flaxen suit or a striped flannel blazer. He might suggest a navy reefer coat with cream flannel trousers or Brixham red sail cloth trousers held up with bridle braces made by the local saddler. Or would I be tempted by the all-in-one woollen bathing costume just arrived from London and made by Jaeger - assuring me that they were all the rage.

Lord knows what Mr Bowden would think of the brands Speedo's or Aussie Bum!

Dressed as I was in a Thomas Mason blue Bengal stripe button down Hackett shirt, ancient Hackett khaki shorts and beaten up L.L.Bean blucher moccasins, I couldn't help but think that it would have been rather nice to have been kitted out by Mr S.C. Bowden.

Jeremy Hackett

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