Victoria House and Fashion in 1900

  • 12 Feb 2019
  • Trade and Industry
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The most famous of Worcester's drapery and millinery establishments in the 19th century was Victoria House. Its premises was part of the old Hop P[ole Hotel, one of the most famous posting establishments in the Midlands.The Hop Pole stood at the top of what is now Shaw Street, with but one house between it and the Star and Garter Inn. The Hop Pole closed in 1842, the premises being taken over by Mr .J.W.Scott, who on a most ambitious scale, converted the building and launched into the business of drapery, dressmaking and millinery. Scott named his establishment Victoria House, from the fact that Princess Victoria and her mother, the Duchess of Kent, had stayed at the Hop Pole.  

The business prospered greatly, county folks flocking in to shop at the new establishment, even Royalty gracing the firm with iys patronage. In 1865, Mr Scott finding the management becoming more and more difficult, took Mr. H. Oram into business, a partnership which lasted 20 years, until Scott retired at an advanced age. In 1867, alterations and new premises were built, with a lantern roof, and modern spring doors fitted. The occasion was celebrated with a champagne supper for the 40 shop staff to the accompanyment of Mr. Austin's band.

In 1889, Richard Westwood, (not of Worcester), brought the business and in 1899, put Mr. w.k Hogben in charge, who had been in charge of premises at Malvern, but previously had held a post in New Bond Street, serving many famous people, including Gladstone and Bright. Under Hogben the business continued to flourish. Many royal personages shopped at Victoria House, including Queen Adelaide, when she was resident at Witley Court, Queen Alexandra when Princess of Wales, Princess Helena when she was Princess Christian, and even Queen Victoria, though it appears she shopped by proxy. Some idea of the extent of the business can be seen by the fact that at one time there were 50 dressmakers at Victoria House, as we;; as milliners, mantle workers, and makers of children's wear.

When the business closed in 1926, after nearly 100 years of business, Mr Hogben, on his retirement, commented on the changes in the drapery trade. 'Things were very different in the old days when drapers sold silk which stood on end'. The choice of materials and colour was more limited. When l took over, the fringed hair style, after the manner Queen Alexandra. was just going out' to make way for the Pompadour style in which the hair was waved back over a frame and made to look as mountainous as possible. Hats were magnificent affairs of feathers, and in size. The picture variety was the favourite type. Skirts reached the feet and billowed out from the narrow tight-corseted waist. The shoulder of mutton sleeve was going out, and the bishop's sleeve coming in. The greatest difference however was in the rapidity of fashion changes. There was a change of attitude too, in the old days people dressed according to their station in life. Today (1926), housemaids dressed as their mistresses . Then , housewives used pride themselves on how much they gave for an article and of the quality of it, and not how cheap they got it'.