Christys

History

Christys were established at 5 White Hart Court, London in 1773 and moved to 35 Gracechurch Street where the head quarters remained until 1954.  One hat gives their address as no. 1 Old Bond Street. They were known as Christy and Co. in 1804 and became a limited company in 1887.  They also had a factory at Bermondsey, London, from 1804 where silk hats were made from the 1820s and there was a works in Stockport, near Manchester where hats and silk plush were made from 1844 to 1863. After 1863 Stockport reverted to felt hat production. During the 1870s the Stockport works were making over 100,000 hats of many types each year. The firm continued to produce silk and other hats in Britain into the 20th century.

There are several adverts in ‘Welsh Newspapers on line’ which mention Christys’ hats, but none specify Welsh hats.

About 25 Welsh hats with Christys’ labels are known to have survived and many others, without labels, were probably made by them. None of the labels are marked ‘Stockport’, but the archives show that Welsh hats were being made there.

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All the lables for hats manufactured for named hatters are for vendors in south-west Wales.

Distinctive Features

Headband

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Christys’ hats often have brown or dark blue plain cotton or diamond-shaped quilted head-bands. They often have a draw-string. Carver and Co have brown cotton headbands with wavy quilting.

 

 

 

 

 

Hatband (ribbon around the base of the crown)

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The ribbon is nearly always black, but of various materials such as petersham ribbon, velvet or plain cotton and with a ribbon, or ocasionally a buckle, suggesting that they were either added by the purchaser or fitted to order.

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One surviving hat has a broad crepe ribbon at the base of the crown, like those found more commonly on hats made by Carver and Co.

Welsh hats made by Christys with separate pieces of silk plush on the upper and lower surfaces of the brim

can8159Most surviving Welsh hats have a single piece of silk plush one the upper and lower surfaces of the brim, and generally, hats with separate pieces on each surface are made by Welsh hatters, but there is one Welsh hat  known to have been made by Christys, made in this way.

The straight alignment of the silk plush fabric can be seen on the brim: normally it is curved. The hat band on this example is very unusual and it is shorter than most. It is possible that this is an early example of a Welsh hat.

 

 

Welsh hats made by Christys with wool on the underside of the brim.

Most Welsh hats have silk on the upper and underside of the brim, but silk top hats often have woollen fabric on the underside. Six surviving Welsh hats have wool on the underside.

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Most of the hats with wool on the underside of the brim have plain, black headbands.

 

 

 

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One was given to Beatrice Bottrill, the renowned harpist on her 21st birthday in 1891. Another was probably owned by Lady Howard Stephney (otherwise known as Catherine Meriel Cowell-Stepney, 1876-1952) of Llanelli House and Cilmaenlwyd, Pwll, Llanelli, Carmarthenshire and is of adult size, suggesting that it was made in the 1890s or later. Another has a label dated 1910. It is probable that these hats were made especially by Christys, possibly after they had finished making the standard Welsh hat. They vary in size, but are shorter than the majority of Welsh hats. None of the Carver and Co. Welsh hats have woollen fabric on the underside.

References to Welsh hats in the Christys archive.
Christys’ Archives are in Stockport Local Heritage Library, but they contain very little about Welsh hat production.
The archive consists of a large number of documents which have been catalogued (Stockport Local Heritage Library, Archives Calendar, vols 11 and 12 – over 400 pages). The survival of records appears to be patchy – there are not many records for the London works, which was damaged by fire. Many of the lists record the wide variety of hats that the firm produced, using codes (letters and numbers), presumably indicating shape, size or quality.
A small number of documents were  selected from the schedule because it was thought that they might contain reference to Welsh hats, e.g. lists of hats made and sold, catalogues, price lists, travellers orders dated between 1840 and 1880 but there were very few references to Welsh hats in these. Where Welsh hats were mentioned, they were referred to as Ladies Welch hats or Lds Welch.

1860
Letter from William Barber [manager of the Highgate Mill] to Mr H Christy, Feb 2nd, 1860 re Travellers: Whittaker [Grandson of one of the founders] has returned from Warwick. There are about 20 gossamer body makers. 8 of them 7 years apprentices. Most of the men are working on Ladies Welch hats have enough to last them 2 months.
B/P/4/23

1873
Price List 1873 (small note book) J C and W Christy, Gracechurch Street, Issued to J Blackstaw [possibly a traveller] Ladies Welch hats, silk, G, 10/s upwards (B/PP/2/47, p. 2)

1930
Photograph on a postcard, ‘Christys’ hats at the British Industries Fair, Olympia, London, 1930’, which shows a number of hats including the cylindrical shaped (north Wales type) ‘Welsh Ladies Hat of silk’. It is possible that these were made especially for the fair to illustrate the history of the firm. (Some of the hats in Stockport Hat Museum are 20th century examples of early hats.) The Stockport Museum which inherited some of the Christy’s collection has one tall conical Welsh hat (South Wales type), not the one in the postcard.
B/PP/2/47

No date.
Price list. Two identical copies for Mr E Christy, and Mr W Christy
La[dies] Welch Hats, Plated Stuff
D1 13/6           Best 14/6         Ex 16/-                        L3 11/-
No 1: 6/-          no 2:  6/9         no 3: 7/6          no 4: 8/6
No 5: 9/6         no 6:  10/6       no 7: 12/-         no 8: 13/6
Extra 16/-
[Plated stuff was wool covered in fur; Extra was probably Extra Fine; the numbers may refer to quality rather than size]
B/PP/4/29

No date
List L[a]d[ie]s Welch
Crown Rimd    Trimd   Shapd   London
No. 1                22/3     42/3     47/8     50/8     52/5
The list continues with increasing prices, presumably in shillings and pence for nos. 2-7, then
No. 1 X            16/3       36/3      41/8    45/-      46/9
L[a]d[ie]s felts for Wales
List of hats made, proffed, blocked, trimmed and shaped includes
Felt stock, 1 [doz] 11 [odd] Ladies XX Welch
Felt stock,               8 [odd] Welch Ladies
B/P/3/14

Brief Bibliography
Barber, William, The Chronicles of Canal Street [Stockport] from BC (Before Christys) to 1868 (1965).
Ginsberg, M., Hatting in Stockport: 18th -20th centuries (n.d.) Stockport Heritage Services
McKnight, P., Christys’ Hat works, Stockport: the site, building and industrial processes from 1742-1996, MSocSc thesis, Ironbridge Institute, University of Birmingham, (1996) pp. 60-61
Sala, George, The Hats of Humanity, historically, humorously and aesthetically considered, a homily. (Manchester, [1868]. This includes a picture of a Welsh hat but does not mention them in the text.

The Hat Works Museum is in Stockport

It appears that John Richard Jones visited Christy’s in about 1925 as part of his study of Welsh costume. He wrote the following in his notebook.
‘Christie’s [sic], 175 Bermondsey St, [1773], 1856 date on Christy’s blocks for Welsh hats. Interviewed Mr Clark, age 72, who had worked 58 years for Christy’s (?)’ (but he didn’t record what Mr Clark told him.)
JR Jones collection, NLW, notebook 2, p. 27