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2. Our History

  • As we celebrate our centenary...

    An Uncompromising Commitment To Quality Since 1919

    Carr & Westley collections are famous for quality and comfort. Since 1919, we have helped the women of Britain look their best with outfits for every occasion and an enduring commitment to timeless style and value.

    British Design & Manufacture

    Our Carr & Westley products are designed and made at Bourne Mill in Hadlow, Kent. This allows us to keep close control over our quality standards, which continue to be at the forefront of our brand. C&W standards exist because we are passionate and committed to delivering the styles our customers value. All of our staff live in the local area and share the same passion for quality.

    Sustainable Fashion

    We are relentless in our aim to improve things for the better. By manufacturing in the UK we can develop high quality and innovative products that are only available at C&W, without having a detrimental impact on the environment. We believe in value and this is reflected in our focus on ‘price per wear’. Our garments are designed to last while maintaining their shape and colour for years to come.

    Here’s To The Future

    As we celebrate our centenary, we look brightly into the future with our loyal customers. The comprehensive refurbishment of our factory is almost complete, providing us with the perfect space to continue offering superior ladies wear.

    CW-100 years
  • C&W - Celebrating 100 Years

    In 2019, our family business celebrates its 100th Birthday. We feel extremely humbled to still be here after all this time - surviving and thriving through what history has thrown at us.

    Carr & Westley - 100 Years Carr & Westley - 100 Years

    We credit our longevity to...

    British Design & Manufacture

    Our branded products are designed and made at Bourne Mill in Hadlow, Kent. This allows us to keep close control over our brand and quality standards. We stay flexible and each season work towards delivering the styles our customers love.

    Pre-WW2 Carr & Westley Catalogue Pre-WW2 Carr & Westley Catalogue

    Our Local Staff

    All of our workshop and office staff live in the surrounding area of Hadlow, Kent. The majority have grown up in the community, with Carr & Westley on their doorstep. C&W standards exist because they care. Our longest serving employee has been with us for 35 years. We’re immensely proud of them all.

    Hadlow Folly Hadlow Folly

    Our Customers

    Most of all, we credit our success to our customers who have supported us through the years. Without you, we wouldn’t exist at all. So thank you all, and here’s
    to an exciting future...

    People love us - 5 stars People love us - 5 stars
  • Old Catalogues In The Post

    Last week we were delighted to receive a letter from a lovely customer who mailed us an old, pre-WW2, Carr & Westley catalogue she had found at home.

    Pre-WW2 Carr & Westley Catalogue

    While we can't be sure of the exact year the catalogue is from, the address is for East London, which is where the company lived before the second world war. We moved out into the countryside in the early 1940s to escape the blitz.

    We do like receiving these things as it always keeps us in touch with our heritage.

    So thank you, Mrs E Treadgold, from Salisbury.

  • History Of Carr & Westley's Catalogue

    Carrandwestley-jacketBy now, you will be accustomed to the natural lifestyle photographs featured in our catalogues. Photography like this is a great way to show off new products and emphasise how they can fit into modern living. However, using photograph like this has not always been possible. In the past we had to find more cost effective ways to showcase a new collection.

    Pre-Catalogue Days

    You may have seen some old posts on our blog about post-war Carr & Westley adverts. During the 1940’s and 50’s these one-off advertisements where how we sold our products to the general public. Each advert would include an illustration of the product and a wealth of detail about the style and fabric of a particular garment.

    1970’s

    By the 1970’s, we were promoting our products in simple catalogues consisting of only a few pages. It is also important to mention that around this time we began catering nearly exclusively for women. Alongside classic everyday women’s wear we included some specific clothing like nuns habits.

    Into The 1980s and 90s

    The rise of the modern woman in the 80’s was reflected in a new style of catalogue. To accurately portray the attention detail in our garments we employed highly skilled textile illustrators to produce drawings.

    Back In The HabitMuch like they are still today, the clothes were diligently designed in the Carr & Westley factory, then prototypes were made up. These were then sent off to individual illustrators based around the country, where they were hung on mannequins and carefully drawn to show off the style, fit and details.

    We know of one particular illustrator who was responsible for many of the beautiful black and white drawings which we have stowed in our loft here at Bourne Mill. She was so dedicated to bringing our garments to life that she worked for us well into her 80’s.

    Black and white was slowly replaced by colour, then in turn, when photography became possible, by simple white background photographs. These were the days of film photography, making the whole process more complex than we take for granted now!

    A new century

    catalogue-autumn14As we moved into the 21st century our catalogues began to reflect contemporary living. Around 2010 we took the step to photograph our products out and about in real-life scenarios. Suddenly, the classic functionality of our clothes was brought to life.

    Over the last few years we have given the location of the photo shoots increased thought and attention. We have thoroughly enjoyed soaking up the sights and atmosphere of picturesque locations such as Bath, the quaint seaside town of Rye, Royal Tonbridge Wells, pretty Bourton-on-the-Water and the Regency town of Cheltenham Spa. This has added another angle to our collections and promotes the association between Carr & Westley clothing and an active lifestyle.
    We would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions for potential future photo locations – so drop us a line if you have any ideas.

  • Back in the Habit

    In 1971 Carr & Westley used to manufacture nuns habits at our current site in Kent, England.

    Things have changed a lot since then, but we are still using some of the same skills on our Carr and Westley branded products. We are proud of our history of craftsmanship. Attached is a page from one of our old catalogues displaying three items. This was also the year the UK went decimal, with prices listed in both sterling and decimal.

    Nuns Habits

    Transcript:

    All dresses are well made in good quality black crimpelene. There is a long back zip and a pocket in the right hand side seam.  Belts are supplied with all dresses if required, and dresses and skirts will be made to any length ordered.

    The skirt has three panels back and front and is fitted with a waist band and side zip.

    Any garment can be supplied separately, lined or unlined as needed.

    In order that we may choose the most suitable size, please give bust, waist and hip measurements, full back length for dresses, full length including waist band for skirts, and underarm sleeve length.

    We are prepared to modify any style to your requirements if a quantity of dresses is required.  Please do not hesitate to ask us if you have any problems you think we can solve.

    Prices :                  Hips 36/42           £7.10.00s             £7.50

                                 Hips 44/50           £8.0.00s                £8.00

                                 Fully lined £1.10s extra (£1.50)

    Carr & Westley Ltd BOURNE MILL, HADLOW, TONBRIDGE, KENT.TEL.: HADLOW 280

  • Post-War Advert

    Carr & Westley was moved from Central London due to the Blitz. We knew that the company had moved down to the West Country, but were not sure of the precise location. Recently however, while refurbishing our factory, this order form came to light. As you can see on the bottom, St. Ives, Cornwall is shown as the address.

    Post-War AdvertLovely and Useful

    This all-wool dress we can recommend the more heartily as we think it corresponds with all the requirements of the times; bearing in mind that need for economy of material combined with seeming ampleness in appearance, our designers have produced just the right dress for those who admit the need for austerity as well as utility.

    The soft all-wool material, bought direct from the manufacturer before big rises in prices, has a richness of colour and readiness to drape gracefully the no other fabric can possess.

    The price is so low because we are the manufactures dealing direct with you.

    It’s easy to tell test the truth of our remarks by sending for a dress today while you have the opportunity. You risk nothing, for we assure you that we will refund money and coupons if you are not satisfied?

    Colours Navy, Wine, Green, Brown & Black

    11 Coupons Required.

    Carr and Westley - St. Ives, Cornwall

    Post-War CouponsTHE USE OF THIS FORM WILL FACILITATE THE DESPATCH OF YOUR ORDER

    To CARR & WESTLEY, Ltd.,

    St. Ives, CORNWALL.

    Please send me Dress No. 750 as illustrated overleaf, for which I enclose £…………. and 11 coupons.

    It is understood that I may return the garment within seven days and you will refund my money and Coupons in full.

                     Name………………..

                    Address……………….

                    Bust………. Length………. Colour………

    This loose leaf forms part of our Autumn/Winter Catalogue and its cost is covered by the charge made for it.

  • Are We Better Mannered Than We Think?

    British Isles

    Good manners are very important to Carr & Westley and we are proud of our customer service standards. With this in mind, we are pleased to inform you a new report has found that British people are polite. Now this may not seem like a striking revelation to those acquainted with the cultural stereotype of the Courteous Brit.

    However the report also found that, rather worringly, British people believe themselves to be increasingly unpleasant.

    The periscope post collected some thoughts on the news:

     Hurrah! An Observer editorial shared our views: “We are, in the main, tolerant, considerate, caring. We are not so rude Britannia.” The editorial also praised the Young Foundation for bringing the question of manners into the spotlight: “Good manners are not old-fashioned. The Young Foundation has done well to remind us just how much they matter.”

    Diverse politeness. The report’s researchers travelled to both wealthy and deprived areas in order to observe the prevalence of good manners. According to the report, “Assumptions linking incivility to disadvantage or diversity are simplistic; we found very high levels of civility in some disadvantaged, diverse places, as well as instances of serious incivility, in the form of intolerance and rudeness, in more prosperous and homogenous contexts.”

    Dangerous pessimism. Writing for the BBC, Mark Easton argued that the entrenched that British people are getting ruder can become a self-fulfilling prophecy: “If people assume that the world is a rude, individualistic and selfish place, they are more likely to act that way themselves.”

    Rude? Meanwhile, Dominique Jackson at The Daily Mail seemed unconcerned with politeness while considering the report: “The prose is poor and its final startling insights, blindingly self-evident. Who commissioned this research and how much did it cost?”

    Listen: ‘Britain is not a rude nation’ on the BBC radio 4 today show.

    I personally think the best way to influence the manners of the nation is one conversation at a time!

  • The History Of Mail Order

    History of mail orderDespite our use of modern day delivery and order channels (like this website), Carr & Westley is, and always has been, a mail order business.

    Origins In The New World

    The first recorded mail order catalogue was invented by Benjamin Franklin in 1744. Franklin realised it as a method of spreading word about scientific ideas in his journals and papers. The commercial benefits of such distribution were obvious and in 1848, Alfred Hammacher established the first significant mail order business selling mechanic’s tools and builder’s hardware.

    Inspired, Aaron Montgomery Ward followed Hammacher’s lead to become the first real pioneer of mail order. Based in Chicago, his single sheet of products in 1872 increased to over 20,000 items within 20 years with his business model built on cutting out the middle man (general stores) – and keeping a bigger share of the profits.

    By then other companies had seen the value in mail order. Perhaps the most famous of those was US department store – Sears. Still a major player today, in its heyday Sears dominated the mail order market. Formed in 1893 by Richard Sears and Alvah C Roebuck, the first Sears catalogue sold everything from sporting goods to sewing machines, dolls and refrigerators. It wasn’t long before the catalogue had grown 322 pages thick.

    By 1897, sales exceeded $750,000 and Sears little publication was now being referred to as the ‘Consumer Bible’. In 1908 they even started selling kit houses through their catalogue. It is estimated that between 1908 and 1940 they sold 75,0000 of them, many of which are still around today.

    British Adaptations

    One of the very first mail order businesses setup in the United Kingdom was Littlewoods. Still a household name, Littlewoods was established by Sir John Moores in 1932, with the first catalogue consisting of 168 pages. Between 1932 and 1952 Littlewoods opened 25 retail stores thanks largely to its hugely successful catalogue. Moores was inspired to start a mail order business after a research trip to America. Studying the operations of Sears, he brought their ideas back to the UK with him and by 1936 his decision was vindicated with sales topping £4 million.

    Other UK mail order catalogues quickly followed including Kays, Grattan, Avon and C&A. The popularity of mail order grew as consumers enjoyed leafing through glossy pages at their leisure and the appreciated the convenience of being able to pay weekly. It enabled many to plan well ahead for Christmas and children had great fun choosing toys.

    Modern Day

    Today, thanks to the Internet, the traditional mail order business landscape has changed somewhat. Online shopping may be referred to as ecommerce, but the basic principles are still similar to that of traditional catalogue ordering. Shoppers look at a variety of products, compare prices and arrange a delivery method to suit them – only via a computer rather than a catalogue order form. Many companies have moved away from the glossy brochures and now focus solely on their company website to showcase and distribute products.

    As far as Carr & Westley are concerned, for the short to medium term at least, there is still a strong need to produce seasonal catalogues. Even though internet sales are increasing, the bulk of our business still comes through catalogue sales and we find it a very useful medium for communicating brand values and creating a tangible connection with our customers. It will be a sad day when the last C&W catalogue hits doorsteps, but we’ve been making them for almost 100 years and don’t see any sign of stopping soon.

  • Hopping Down In Kent

    “If you go down hopping, Hopping down in Kent,
    You’ll see old mother Riley A- putting up her tent.
    With an ee-aye-o, ee-aye-o, ee-aye-ee-aye-o”

    Hops, the ingredient that adds bitterness to beer, have been grown in Kent since the 16th century. Carr and Westley are based in a old water mill in Hadlow, a village in the middle of the Kentish countryside. We are right in the middle of hop growing country where during the Victorian times many people would come down from London, Sussex and East Anglia to earn money harvesting the summer crop.

    Back then, hop picking was one of the biggest industries in the county. After a summer of growth, by September the plants were ready for picking and casual workers from the surrounding areas would work away in the hop gardens for six weeks. Once the hops were picked, they were dried out in oast houses and sold to the breweries.

    Farmers would write to workers (usually women and children who didn’t have permanent jobs) in Kent, London, Sussex and East Anglia and invite them down to Kent, stay in huts on the farm and work in the hop gardens. For many Victorian Londoners, living in a dirty, polluted city, this was not seen as work but as a holiday in the country. The same families would come ‘hopping down in Kent’ year after year.

    Harvey's of Lewes to this day still brew Hadlow Bitter ABV 3.5%. This hoppy pale ale is a recent evolution from the successful bitters of the last century and makes a very nice lunchtime pint. Our village is located in the fertile Medway valley which is one of England's last hop growing districts - with historic brewing tradition.

    Not long ago, Harveys acquired a pub in Hadlow and to celebrate they brewed an ale using only local hops. It has experienced fantastic demand ever since.

  • Fashion Illustrations : The Days Before Photography

    Fashion IllustrationCarr & Westley has been making traditional womens and menswear since 1919.  During that time we have produced many catalogues and seen this process change substantially.  For instance, some of you may remember the way our catalogues looked before the days of product photography.  Back then we would hire fashion illustrators to do drawings of our products and these would be used to convey to the customer what the garment would look like worn.

    It seems like a long time ago now but the last fully illustrated catalogue we produced was in 1994.  That’s only 18 years ago! I recently came across a box of our old fashion illustrations and was bowled over by the level of skill that was needed to produce them.  The illustrator would capture the exact styling and detail of the products.

    We would send the illustrator a selection of product samples and they would draw up their work. Here is a selection of product drawings I found:

    Fashion Illustration Pic 1Fashion Illustration Pic 2Fashion Illustration Pic 3Fashion Illustration Pic 4

    In the mid-nineties, fashion photography and colour printing became affordable for smaller businesses like C&W. Sadly that meant an end to the use of illustrations like this but I still feel impressed and nostalgic when I see them.

    See Carr & Westley's Autumn/Winter Collection with new modern day photography...

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