Exploring Southwark and discovering its history
The Mad Hatter’s Hotel in Stamford Street is so-called not merely as a touch of whimsy after the Lewis Carroll character in Alice in Wonderland but to celebrate the historic industry of hat manufacture that took place for centuries in Southwark dating back at least to the 15th century. At this time, most of the hat-makers in Southwark were located in St Olave’s parish, just east of London Bridge, but by the end of the 19th century the industry had migrated west to the area at the north of Blackfriars Road. By 1882 there were seven hat manufacturers in Stamford Street and one of these was Tress & Co, who had premises on the site where the hotel is located today and an extensive factory behind Blackfriars Road.
Tress & Co started making hats in the middle of the 19th century. Their entry in the 1882 Post Office directory proclaimed they manufactured “silk and felt hats, new India and home regulation helmets, tropical hats and sole makers of Beako’s patent pith and felt solar hats, patent cork air tube ventilated hats and helmets; ladies’ silk and felt hats etc. London, Paris and Philadelphia medals and gold medal Paris 1878 and Sydney 1879.”
The company remained a family run business until 1953 when hat manufacture declined as fashions changed and people stopped wearing hats as items of everyday clothing. Tress & Co was sold to Christy’s who had a factory in nearby Bermondsey. This also closed in 1954 and operations moved to their factory in Stockport.