Just over one hundred years ago, this small country town of Clun could provide enough work for as many as ten tailors. Despite ever-growing competition from clothing factories, it seemed that their skills were still in demand. Three of the ten were journeyman tailors seeking employment where they could find it; seven were well established in the town. These seven were the Jones brothers, Richard and Edward, the three Tudors: William Senior and his two sons, William Junior and Thomas; together with George Davies and John Thomas. Their stories are very different but do reveal that opportunities for making a living out of the tailoring trade were slowly fading away.
Richard and Edward Jones were the sons of a Clun tailor, Edward Jones, who was living in Church Street with his family when Clun’s first census was taken in 1841. Edward senior had a third son, John, and he trained all three to follow him in the tailoring trade. Ten years later the family circumstances were quite different. Richard, at 25, was married with a young daughter and he was running the business with his brother, John, who was already a tailor at 15 years of age. They lived and worked at 8 Church Street, the property Richard referred to as, 'My House and Tailor's shop in Church Street' when he made his Will in 1898. Still to be seen there today are his shop window and his two front doors, one for the shop and one for the house, with their stone steps leading down to pavement level.
Richard described himself as a Tailor and Draper in 1861 and working with him then were his wife, Ellen, and two apprentices. Another ten years on, found Edward back in Clun living next door to his brother's family at 6 Church Street and training his own eldest son in the trade. Richard was employing two men and a boy and had an apprentice. So, in 1871, this one business was supporting two families and had four employees. By an amazing chance, a black three-piece suit made by Richard Jones has survived and has been treasured through the years. It belonged to William Harding, a farm worker and a great grandfather of the present Ellis family of Clun. Possibly, it was made for his wedding day sometime in the 1860's, and later worn only for special occasions. The material is serge, a durable, twilled worsted cloth, and it has been tailored with great care and detail. The jacket has narrow piping, covered buttons, imitation cuffs, and two capacious, flapped, side pockets. It is lined, partly with serge, partly with quilted cotton. The waistcoat is piped and fastens high with six covered buttons. The trousers narrow to the ankles and their buttons bear the tailor's name, 'R. Jones Clun'. As with modern suits, most of the work was done on a sewing machine. Early models of these were available at this time for tailors' shops and factories, but they were very expensive.
By 1891 Richard Jones, then 65, was running the business on his own, but a few years later he was joined by Joseph Moreland. The two traded together as 'Jones and Moreland, Tailors and Drapers', until Richard died in 1900. Joseph stayed at 8 Church Street until about 1911, when he moved across the road to larger premises at Number 3. He lived and worked there for several years, employing two men and his daughter, Lesley, a tailoress. He was described as, ‘A just-so man who did a thorough-going job’. He was strict and worked to time.' Joseph lived till 1946 and, by then, Lesley had been joined by her sister, Miriam. The sisters continued tailoring ladies' suits and coats until the 1950's. The Jones family business, extended in time by Joseph Moreland, had traded for well over a century in Church Street. Like the Jones family, the Tudors were tailoring in Clun for a very long time but, as the years passed, they turned to other trades to supplement their income. William Tudor, Senior, was born in Pembridge, Herefordshire, and probably came to Clun as a journeyman tailor. His name first appeared in the 1841 Census, when he had lodgings in the High Street. Ten years later he had a wife and young family and his own home, possibly with a shop, in the same street. He described himself as a Tailor and Draper and had an apprentice. Like Edward Jones Senior, he trained three sons to follow him in his trade, William, John and Thomas. John disappears from Clun's records after 1861. William Junior and Thomas spent all their working lives in Clun and can be traced well into the 20th Century. By 1871 William Senior had moved his family to The Sun Inn, where he remained as Innkeeper until he died in 1901, aged 87. Tailoring was carried on from there until first Thomas, and then William Junior married and settled elsewhere in Clun. Thomas continued to describe himself as a Tailor for the Census classification and for Kelly's Directories, but he has been remembered delivering the post in the mornings and tailoring in the afternoons.
He moved house several times but lived finally at 16 Church Street with his daughter Mary, a post woman. A photograph in 'Memories of Clun' shows them both standing, with other Post Office staff, in front of 9 Market Square in 1907. Until at least 1929, Thomas was employed by the Parish Council as Collector of Water Rents, perhaps a job easily done when delivering the post.
When William Junior married he took over a property in the High Street and named it 'The Tiled Tavern'. He became a Beer Retailer, while continuing with his tailoring. Later, he and his wife moved to The Crown Inn in Church Street where he combined tailoring with inn keeping. By 1909, they were living in Newport Street and William, then in his early sixties, returned to full-time tailoring. Their final move was to 19 Ford Street where William died in 1925.
The remaining two of the seven tailors, George Davies, from Clunbury, and John Thomas, from Knighton, first appeared in Clun records in 1861. They were of similar age and both were married with a young family. Both worked in Clun for the rest of their lives, and settled finally in Castle Street, but there the likeness ends. George Davies soon moved to Castle Street, possibly to Number 14, and worked there until at least 1909. He had several children but only one, Elizabeth, took up his trade. She described herself as a Dressmaker in the Censuses of 1881 and 1891. In contrast, John Thomas came to Clun already with a second trade. He was a Tailor and Newsagent in 1861 and ten years later a Tailor, Bookseller and Newsagent. By 1891 he was living at 6 Castle Street and had added Income & Land Tax Collector to his occupations. One of his sons, Horatio, did take up tailoring but, like Thomas Tudor, he may have combined it with postal work. He was a Rural Postman in 1881 when he was 20 years old. Unfortunately, he leaves Clun's records for many years and re-appears only once, when the Kelly's Directory for 1926 listed him, as a Tailor living at 4 Bridge, Street. He was remembered trading under the name of 'My Tailor' and working in the High Street at shop premises, now long gone. Belonging to The Sun Inn, and built right against the east wall of what was then The Malthouse, There used to be a narrow, two storied building with a small shop on each floor. F. C. Lancaster, from Knighton, was the last trader to use it, selling leather goods there until the 1940's.
The building is shown on the 1885 OS map of Clun. Perhaps it was built by William Tudor Senior, Innkeeper, as a tailoring shop for his two sons. There is one more Clun tailor, and perhaps the last, whose name has lingered on in some memories. His name was Jim Jones and he worked a small farm at Woodside with his wife in the 1940's. On Tuesdays he drove a horse and cart around Clun, collecting household rubbish. In his spare time he returned to the trade, which could no longer provide him with a living and mended the Livery Gowns of the Trinity Almsmen.
Sources not mentioned in the text: Memories of the late Bob Davies, Mary Edwards and Jack Luther. With thanks to Mary Ellis for allowing The Suit to be photographed and to Nancy Jordan for modelling it. Thanks also to Mary Ellis and George Edwards for information about Jim Jones.