One cold morning last January; the day following our research trip to the Royal Green Jackets museum; Steven and I met with Historical Consultant Ben Townsend to visit Meyer & Mortimer on Savile Row. The business can trace its origins to the first tailoring houses of the 18th Century and made its reputation as one of the most popular tailoring establishments among British army officers.
The purpose of the visit was to view tailoring ledgers dating from the Napoleonic Wars which had been recently uncovered during archival work in the building. We were hopeful that Meyer’s military connections might turn up some famous names in the wartime ledgers, lending important evidence for officers’ fashions throughout the period.
The Second World War caused the loss of countless extant documents, uniforms and accoutrements of the Napoleonic period much to the vexation of researchers and historians. We were especially fortunate to handle these ledgers as they had only narrowly avoided destruction during the firebombing of London in WWII, the smoke staining and heat damage still evident on the cover and pages.
Steven and Ben worked through two large ledgers with dated records spanning from 1809-1827 while I documented the pages of the ledger’s accompanying ‘roughbook’: a small notepad for tailors to quickly record clients’ places of residence with a brief description of what clothing they’ve ordered and where the tailor was working when the order was lodged. The roughbook kept at Meyer & Mortimer was an exceptional artifact of the Napoleonic wars as it tracks their tailor’s journey from England to occupied France in 1814; his entanglement in the campaign of 1815; the eve of Waterloo; and the aftermath of Napoleon’s second abdication through 1816 and 1817.