Lost & Found: The Case of the Missing Meyer & Mortimer Ledger

Oliver Cross is many things: he is a bespoke cutter at Meyer & Mortimer -  and more often than not the person that will greet you warmly at the showroom at 6 Sackville Street; he’s a father, a lover of The Beatles and – it now turns out – a bit of an online detective. 

Oliver Cross P.I.

A detective of what you may ask? Well, Oliver Cross is someone who enjoys spending time looking around that global marketplace eBay. When his children are in bed, he can be found investigating deals online for coffee making machines, turntables, and vintage clothing. 

However, Oliver can also turn his skills to another area - much in the same way a Chandler like P.I might while the way the night in the state library, their face illuminated by the passing paper clippings on a microfilm machine - Oliver will spend the night scouring the web looking for anything related to Meyer & Mortimer. 

Chandler's Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep played by Bogart opposite Lauren Bacall

In the past, the latter investigations have proved successful in finding a number old suits for sale, as well as military helmet and a collection of old invoices. 

So what of Oliver’s latest find? Before we go further let us provide a backstory, if you will, on the fate of our historical archives. Meyer & Mortimer has been in business since the late 18th Century. Jonathan Meyer, a tailor from Austria, came to London to set up his tailoring and military outfitting business at 36 Conduit Street at the north end of Savile Row. Meyer was joined by the Mortimer’s from Edinburgh, also in the same business, and the two conjoined their businesses and surnames to become Meyer & Mortimer. 

Thirty-six Conduit St today: The Polo Club at The Westbury Hotel. Ewan Munro

As with any company who has been in business as long as us, one tends to accrue rather a lot of paperwork. Orders, customers, their measurements were kept in company ledgers with other relevant information. By World War II, Meyer & Mortimer had been in business for nearly 200 years and over that time built up a sizeable library of ledgers. All but one (or so we thought) were lost during the London Blitz when 36 Conduit St was bombed and destroyed. This surviving ledger is precious to us as it offers one of the last remaining windows to look back on our history. It is also a beautiful thing: it is bound in leather and encased in a metal locking system that would not look out of place on a Harry Potter set. It beautifully lists customers and their tailoring orders in writing for a sonnet from 1809-1824. The M&M history page on our website has this to say about it:

Included in its beautiful hand-written copy plate script are entries for The Prince Regent, later King George IV, and leading aristocrats and military commanders of the day. Another precious and unique handwritten notebook lists the tailoring orders taken by Meyer’s firm as he followed the British forces in the Waterloo campaign.

Our ledger detailing business between 1800-1824

So, when Oliver was idly looking through eBay one lunchtime at the shop and came across another one of our ledgers on eBay (detailing orders and customers during the 1930s), the company credit card was immediately produced and used to buy it. The seller, Voyager Press Rare Books & Manuscripts, is based in Vancouver, British Columbia high on the west coast of North America. How on earth the ledger managed to find itself there, nearly 5000 miles from London, deserved closer scrutiny so, not wanting our line of investigation to go cold, we contacted Voyager Press.

President and CEO, Bernie Lauser, kindly came back to us to shine a light on the book’s mysterious voyage. Bernie said he bought the book while on buying trip to the UK last year. As to its provenance he suggests: ‘I assume it was thrown away at one time (perhaps after The Blitz) and someone dug it out. Or perhaps someone took it home, and it was forgotten, and the heirs didn't know what to do with it. Hence, it lingered on a shelf for many years.’ Bernie concludes his email by saying ‘We are glad it will return 'home' so to speak.’

Voyager Press images of the 1930's M&M ledger

The book is currently in transit, so we only have the text and images of the ledger from the eBay page. It is said to contain tailoring and fitting details of customers of the time which included individuals from the military, the foreign diplomatic service and civilians based in the UK and abroad. It also highlights a Mr. Frank Lovett who spent over 58 years at Meyer & Mortimer making bespoke uniforms for the likes of the Brigade of Guards which is known today as the Guards Division. 

We are, to say the least, eager for its arrival. When it does, and after our resident historian Brian Lewis has picked through its contents, one suspects they’ll be a Part II, to this Part I so we can share its contents in more detail with our dedicated readers. In the meantime, though, we leave you with some images courtesy of Mr. Bernie Lauser of Voyager Press and ask you to stay tuned for more Meyer & Mortimer mystery instalments.

To be continued...