Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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W. Shillaker and Co

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1929. British Industries Fair catalogue.
May 1931.

of 8/10 Half Moon Passage, Aldersgate Street, London, EC1. (1922)

of 8, 9, 10 Half Moon Passage, Aldergsate Street, London, EC1. Telephone: City 6645-6. Cables: "Shillaka, Cent, London". (1929)

of Alma Works, Alma Road, Chesham, Bucks; and Showroom at 8-10 Half Moon Court, Aldersgate Street, London, EC1. Telephone: Chesham 391. (1947)

  • 1902 Shillakers was founded by brothers William and Edgar. They set up business as belt makers in the City of London.
  • 1908 They formed W. Shillaker and Co making ladies' belts and handbags.
  • By 1916, they had expanded considerably and decided to move out to Chesham. This was because of the railway, and the existence of both a tannery and a leather-goods industry in the form of boot-making. Alma Road was the chosen site, opposite a boot factory and initially there were ten employees.
  • The brothers were joined by Maurice Heistercamp, who had left war-torn Ypres in Belgium with his wife and baby son. Maurice became Manager, the business prospered and the factory was extended in 1919.
  • 1921 Maurice returned to Belgium to set up his own business and his place was taken by his younger brother Camille.
  • 1922 British Industries Fair Advert as Manufacturing Specialists of Ladies' Fancy Hand Bags in various kinds of Leather, Silks, etc. "The house for better value, style and finish". (Stand Nos. J.98 and J.136) [1]
  • 1925 A further extension was built, by which time the company was employing fifty people, mostly women. It was a very desirable place to work and always had a waiting list for employment.
  • 1929 British Industries Fair Advert as Manufacturing Specialists of Ladies' Hand-Bags in various kinds of Leather, Silks, etc. (Leather Goods Section) [2]
  • During the early 1930s the trade name Shillacraft was adopted. Bags were sold to leading stores including Harrods, Selfridges and Dickens and Jones.
  • Mass-production was studied, sales and output increased and by 1939, 125 employees were producing 4,000 to 5,000 handbags per week.
  • 1947 Listed Exhibitor - British Industries Fair. Manufacturers of Medium and Better Class Ladies' Handbags, "Shillacraft" Registered Brand. (Earls Court, 1st Floor, Stand No. 436) [3]
  • The company exhibited regularly at the annual British Industries Fair and customers included Queen Mary and other members of the Royal Family.
  • 1956 Camille bought out the Shillaker family's interest in the company and went into partnership with Jane Shilton of London.
  • By 1961, production had risen again to 2,000 to 3,000 bags per week, a third being exported. Camille sold the company to Shilton and retired; his son David, who had worked in the business since 1946, took over as Works Director.
  • 1962 The Alma Works was badly damaged by fire, but business quickly resumed.
  • 1971 The company attained the Queen's Award to Industry for export achievements.
  • 1981 Shilton ceased production of handbags in Chesham. David Heistercamp bought Cox the Saddler and finally retired to Devon in 1991.

See Also


Sources of Information

  • [1] Chesham Museum