BEATRIX POTTER AND THE TALE OF THE REAL TAILOR OF GLOUCESTER
Like all children from my generation, and possibly from generations before and after The Tailor of Gloucester was one of my bedtime stories, and when I was old enough I read it myself, enjoying the wonderful illustrations. But it had never occurred to me that there was a real story behind the story so to speak
Beatrix Potter had been visiting a cousin, probably around 1894 when she heard about an incident which actually happened involving a Gloucester tailor, who had been commissioned to make a suit for the new mayor. A waistcoat had been cut out but left unfinished at close of work on Saturday, but when he returned to his shop on Monday morning he found it complete apart from one buttonhole. A note attached read, ‘No more twist’
One local tale was that his apprentices having had a good night out on the town on the Saturday had returned to the shop to sleep it off. Waking on the Sunday they dare not go out as they were not in their ‘Sunday best’ as would have been deemed proper in those days, and everyone would known they had not returned home the night before. So they stayed in the workshops and finished the work but ran out of thread.
But Mrs. Prichard told the story thus: each year there was Root, Fruit and Grain Show at the Shire Hall and the Mayor and Corporation walked in procession for the opening. Mr Prichard had been commissioned to make a special waistcoat for the occasion and he was worried that time was running out. The waistcoat was cut out but no more by the close of business on Saturday lunchtime. His two apprentices knowing his concern returned secretly and finished the work all bar one buttonhole as they ran out of thread and left a small note to that effect.
When Mr Prichard opened up on the Monday morning he couldn't believe his eyes and was completely mystified. The apprentices didn’t let on, and the tailor put the waistcoat on display in the window with a notice - Come to Prichard where the waistcoats are made at night by the fairies!
And the incident became a local legend.
Visiting Gloucester Miss Potter sketched the very pretty shop and arch on the cathedral approach and used it in her book as the tailor’s shop.
The actual tailor lived from 1877 to 1934 but Beatrix set her tale in the 18th Century, and a while ago the building was purchased for use as a museum. Admission is free and there is an exhibition upstairs, which includes the actual scissors and glasses owned and used by the Tailor of Gloucester on whom the story was based.
The picture of the cat in the snow outside the tailor’s shop really takes me back to my childhood