Evidence of cap making in Coventry can traced back to medieval times, but it was Atherstone that became the centre of the hatting industry.
The origins of hat-making in Atherstone are unclear, but it seems to have developed from the 17th. century, replacing tanning as the major industrial activity, encouraged by the plentiful supply of soft water. It is argued that the demand for cheap felt hats rose because of the growth of the slave trade, and the fact that all plantation slaves were provided with a felt hat. Hat-making was a small-scale cottage industry utilising the ‘Atherstone yards’, space behind the frontages to Long Street.
An end to the slave trade and shifts in fashion required responses from the hat-makers of Atherstone, and the industry proved to very adaptable to changing circumstance. With the growth of the industry, hat factories began to be established, sometimes taking over existing industrial premises. By 1900, there were seven hat factories in the town but a century later they had all closed. Two of the last to close were Vero & Everitt and Wilson & Stafford, with the latter’s derelict premises under threat of demolition in 2019. A rare survivor is (part of) Hatton’s hat factory, Long Street.
Atherstone was not alone in the hat-making industry. Nearby Bedworth also carried on the trade, with Luckman and Pickering’s factory being the largest manufacturer, and Hall & Phillips occupying a similar position in Nuneaton. There are also isolated examples of hat manufacturing in other Warwickshire towns e.g. Lamb’s hat factory, Saltisford, Warwick.
Hatting Industry: further information
|Vero, Judy in ‘Atherstone: a pleasantly placed town’ edited by Alcock & Hughes||Chapter 8 ‘Hatting in Atherstone: The rise and fall of an industry’.||Phillimore|
|Vero, Judy||A Concern in Trade: Hatting and the Bracegirdles of Atherstone 1612-1872||Warwickshire Books|
|Beesley, Ian & |
An evocative collection of photographs., plus commentary on the final days of the Vero and Everitt works
|Jenking, Christine||Atherstone Hatting: 100 Years Reminiscence||Privately published|
|Our Warwickshire||Photographic record and some commentary||Available at this link|
|Nuneaton local industries||A survey of the various industries of Nuneaton and Bedworth, including hatting firms||Available at this link|
|DVD ‘All Atherstone Felt Was Good’||A 10 minute film recording the final working days of Wilson & Stafford||Rural Media|
|Youtube||Atherstone Vero & Everitt Ltd Warwickshire Hatters Last Days Of Business Dec 87||BBC Midlands Today|
|Richard K Morriss & Assciates: Britannia Works, Coleshill Road, Atherstone||Heritage Impact assessment of a proposed development of the Wilson & Stafford site in 2015||Available at this link|
|Sites||All remaining sites are listed on the WIAS database under Textiles:hats||WIAS Database|
|Visit||In Atherstone, the surviving premises of Hattons and Wilson & Stafford can be viewed from the outside, although the latter is due for demolition in 2019/20||Visit|
|Visit||Very small exhibition of hat-making in the town||Visitor Centre, Long St., Atherstone|
|Photos||Photos by M Green of the remains of Vero & Everitt and Wilson & Stafford Athersone, 2020||Vero & Everitt Hatters
Wilson & Stafford Hatters