Shared Histories with The Army Museum

Recently Meyer & Mortimer hosted a fundraising event in conjunction with The Army Museum focusing on our shared history and interest in military uniforms. Meyer and Mortimer have a long history of military outfitting with founder, Jonathan Meyer, setting up the business to cater for this, along with bespoke tailoring, in the 1790s.

The Army Museum is the leading authority on the British Army and as part of their collection, they have detailed and recorded, along with other aspects of their history, army uniforms from over the centuries. Assistant Director of Development, Rosemary Gilbert joined us from the museum along with Ben Heller (Head of Individual Giving) and John Palser (Head of Corporate Partnerships).

The Army Museum is currently closed for a major refurbishment and they are planning to reopen in September of 2016. The Building for the Future project will see a radical transformation of their venue in Chelsea allowing the museum to keep the army’s history alive for generations to come. The new development will also give visitors new opportunities to see more of their collection which includes over 80,000 uniforms. Although the museum is closed, the team remain active delivering an extensive events programme across the UK along with fundraising for the refurbishment. On the latter, the next major event, on the 12th July, involves a luxurious Sunday lunch followed by an afternoon of polo in conjunction with the Guards Polo Club in Windsor.

Brian takes to the floor

The night was hosted by our very own Brian Lewis, who is one of the Directors at Meyer and Mortimer and a self-confessed history obsessive. Brian’s mind not only holds over 50 years’ experience of working on Savile Row – and his client’s ever changing sizes – but also a considerable amount dedicated to the history of Meyer & Mortimer; wars and battles (and the dates that go with them), and the Royal Family – who Meyer & Mortimer have proudly served over the years. Meyer and Mortimer are honoured to currently hold a Royal Warrant from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

The guests started to arrive around 6.30pm some of which were invited by ourselves and The Army Museum. Any ice that needed breaking was done so very quickly over champagne, whisky and wine while Director Paul Munday and Cutter Oliver Cross did an excellent job ensuring everyone was warmly welcomed and supplied with a drink.

The shop, with its oak panels and past soldiers looking down from the old prints and paintings– all under the golden glow of our lighting and protected from winter’s best efforts outside, proved to be an excellent venue to look back down the centuries.

Brian captivates

The shared history ensured that there was a lot to talk about before Brian took centre stage to deliver his speech on Meyer and Mortimer’s history of making military uniforms. Due to the business being bombed in World War II at a previous address on Conduit St, one ledger survived which dates business and orders from 1809 to 1824. It’s an incredible weighty tome, almost medieval in appearance; its pages browned and crumbling with the most perfunctory of entries delivered with calligraphic elegance usually accommodating a sonnet.

From it, Brian shared the entries of Prince of Wales past, Meyer and Mortimer customers Lord FitzRoy Somerset – who later became commander of the British troops sent to Crimea in 1852 – and one Major Henry Percy. Historically not an overly famous figure himself, he was entrusted however by Wellington, in 1815, with the first dispatches bearing news of the victory at Waterloo. Reaching London on the 21st June, Percy gained an audience with the Prince Regent and presented the dispatch along with four captured French eagles. Whether he was wearing a Meyer and Mortimer garment at the time is not, sadly, known but it does illustrate the stories that exist throughout the ledger, some lost and silent but some thankfully alive.

It brought to a close a wonderful and illuminating speech and for guests to refill drinks and carry the discussion further. It was American historian, Will Durant, who said that “Most of us spend too much time on the last twenty-four hours and too little on the last six thousand years”. However, nights like last Thursday ask us to step out of ‘the race’ and reflect on what has long since passed and find that in the detail, just under the surface, behind those most perfunctory of entries lie stories full of colour, life and courage.

M&M