Provenance: The Bespoke Tailoring History of Bristol


Opening shop in a cigar humidor was coo enough for Bristol’s local tailor, but you can imagine this renaissance man’s glee when he learned not long before Brown in Town opened it’s doors that our new tailoring business is but a stones throw from the site of Bristol’s first tailors, at Tailors Court off Broad St.

The Guild of Merchant Tailors was one of the ancient guilds of Bristol, set up by charter of Richard II in 1399. It’s patron saint was St. John and the guild’s motto was “Concordia Parvae res Floruit”, or “Concord makes small things flourish” – and whilst one’s latin is not what it used to be, I’m happy to be girded by such an edict.

Rules of the Guild were very strict:

  • A master was allowed 3 apprentices at one time and no more

  • None to be admitted to the Guild unless they had served 7 years as apprentice and had a testimonial.

  • No-one not a freeman of the company was to make garments, make or sell stockings

  • None to backbite or undervalue another’s workmanship.

  • No-one to open shop or work on the Sabbath or festivals.

  • In 1489 it was ordained that no merchant tailor was to sell hose (men or women’s) on a stall in a market except at fair time but only in shops or houses.

  • Some were allowed only to be hosiers – one person, David ap Howell was allowed to make no new garments but only to mend old.

In fact, whilst we may now be able to walk from Sugar House to Tailors Court, as opposed row a boat across the drink, little else has changed in the surrounding area; St. John’s and it’s wonderful archway still stand, flanked left and right by graffiti from the annual UpFest celebrations of street art. The passage which runs past Albion Chambers still connects Broad St. with Small St. or rather, new speciality coffee shop Full Court Press on Broad St. is connected to it’s peers at Small St. Espresso by the passageway – both of which thrive each day with men of the bar wearing their suits and gowns – quite a sight to see as some of these gentleman are the best dressed in the city, sporting handmade British shoes like ChurchCheaneyLoake and Barker, and wearing double breasted suits and 3pc suits, and almost all wear a tie, if not a pocket square. It brings a smile to my face each day, and not least as a large portion of my business is concerned with making suits for such gentlemen, but because they still take pride in what they wear and know how to dress appropriately.

It is in these surroundings that I ply my trade and go about my tailoring business, and what more befitting a part of this wonderful city of Brigstowe, as Bristol was once known, could a tailor wish to inhabit. And whilst I do my level best to adhere to all of the tailors guild rules, at the very least I endeavour each week to smoke at least one cigar in the proximity of the old cigar humidor at Hotel du Vin, albeit outside and within view of Tailors Court.

Brown in Town