Thomas Burberry, then just a 21-year-old draper’s apprentice, founded his company in 1856. Burberry’s thrived, growing to 80 employees in its first fifteen years. But his first great success was his invention in 1879 of a new waterproof material called gabardine. At the time the only waterproof option for clothing was rubber, which was heavy and uncomfortable to wear. Gabardine was revolutionary because the yarn was waterproofed before weaving, creating a fabric which was water-resistant but breathable.
Burberry’s most iconic raincoat design was designed by Thomas for the British Army on the eve of the First World War. He based it on his successful unbuttoned Tielocken coat, but with the addition of shoulder straps to display an officer’s rank and secure a satchel and binoculars, and D-rings to enable equipment to be attached to the belt. The large flaps on the chest gave extra protection to the wearer’s heart. It became known as the Trench Coat after its sustained use by soldiers in the trenches of the Western Front.
The company moved into its first London store at 30 Haymarket in 1891, developing a splendid headquarters building at number 18-21 just before WW1. They finally left Haymarket in 2007.
Thomas died in 1926 but Burberry’s remained a family company until 1955. In 1999, the company dropped the ‘s’ from its brand and is now known as Burberry.
This box, in Worcester City’s collection, dates to between the wars and would have been used to send an order out to a Worcestershire customer.
Whatever deliveries this Christmas brings you, all of us at Museums Worcestershire wish you an enjoyable festive season. Thank you for your support in 2017.