W.Williams & Son: The Period During The First World War

W.Williams & Son: The period of the first world war...

The period leading up to 1914 was one of almost constant success despite various changes in fashion. When war broke out there was considerable nervousness throughout the textile trade and at first a great reduction in business. After some months trade adjusted itself accordingly. In 1914 most of the men in key positions at W Williams were exempt from military service and therefore the business ran on with its main methods unchanged. In May 1918 during the height of the war the staff at W Williams & Son, Bread Street numbered 436.

There were a few minor air-raids between 1917 – 1918 and as a consequence W Williams & Son had the roofs of each warehouse covered with steel netting attached to steel supports to protect the buildings and roll the bombs off the roof and onto the street. Thankfully this system was never tested.

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Early Years of Advertising

The early years of advertising and the commencement of the sale, commonly known today as Black Friday…..

In February 1902 W. Williams & Son was converted into a private limited company, with an authorised capital of £250,000. As the business continued to grow W.Williams & Son subsequently made additions to the premises, which at the time was seen as exceptional to have builders or carpenters carrying out improvements, enlargements and alterations. This is a testament indeed to the strength and confidence within the haberdashery industry.

Even in the early 1900’s advertising was as important then as it is today and it is on record that in 1902 W Williams & Son took the first twenty pages of the Drapers Record to advertise various specialities. Drapers Record charged £8 per page plus the artists and the photographers charges, which were more costly than the page. 

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The Growth of Haberdashery and Textile Houses: An Introduction into the early years.

The city of London was the main focus area for the Textile Distributing Houses responsible for the surge in haberdashery and textile products as we know them today. From the middle of the 19th century to the middle of the 20th century these houses occupied a substantial part of the city of London spanning from Basinghall Street and King Street in the east to St.Paul’s Churchyard and Aldergate Street in the west and from Chiswell Street in the north to Cannon Street in the south.

One such company responsible in the early 1800’s for the introduction of countless haberdashery items and a trend setter of textiles and trimmings and founded in 1819 by William Williams was W. Williams, originally a ladies dress trimming manufacturer based in Bethnal Green. In 1825 the business continued to grow and under the guidance of Mr Leslie Williams, the son of the founder of the company, the company moved premises to Hackney.

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