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Bill-head of Rowe Brown, Breeches Maker, near Golden Square
P.12995-R

A full transcription of the bill is available on the museum's online collections explorer.

This bill from a breeches maker to 'Blathwayt Esq' lists several items of servants' clothing, revealing that William and Mary Blathwayt had, at the very least, a household comprising a coachman, a butler, a footman and a member of staff referred to as a 'Helper'. The coachman is listed three times, but as these services are on different dates, it's possible that this is the same man. Sophia Blathwayt, William's younger, unmarried sister, lived in a house on the other side of Golden Square from 1787 until her death in 1806. Her will mentions a waiting maid, a house maid, a cook, a laundry maid, a butler, a coachman, a footman and a gardener. William and Mary's house would have been exactly the same size as Sophia's, if not the same layout. Unfortunately William died intestate, and so there is comparable document. Edward Berry's ironmongery bill of 1767 indicates that there were at least nine rooms with fireplaces, including the kitchen (assuming one fireplace per room). There is another bill in the collection from a lace maker, charging for 'crests embroider'd' and listing purchases of 'livery lace' and 'epaulets'.

As was typical, both William and Mary spent a large amount of money on their own clothing. They lavished between 2 to 15 shillings a yard on the latest silks (where 16 yards might be needed to make up a dress, which would cost a further sum). This bill shows that the breeches maker charged for making up, cleaning, mending and altering livery breeches. In addition to bed and board, servants received an annual or bi-annual wage, rather than a weekly one, meaning they had limited ready money to spend on their own clothing. Documents in Gloucester Archives show that at this time the Blathwayts employed a coachman for £18 and a footman and cook for £12 12s 0d. Maids received roughly half this amount. It is interesting that the livery attire on the bills is for men; female servants were perhaps not required to wear formal livery, relying instead on what they could afford and cast-offs from their employers' wardrobes.

Rowe Brown mentions on the plate that he is breeches maker to the Duke of Gloucester. Royal patronage was, naturally, a useful fact to include on advertising, even on such a small plate as a bill-head. This factor and his nearby location to their Golden Square residence, must have singled him out for the Blathwayt family. The bill is dated 10 May 1774, but the itemised services date back to February, showing how long accounts were left to accumulate, apparently interest-free. One of the other bills in the collection offers a small discount for 'ready cash', suggesting that shop owners who operated on credit had to charge higher prices as compensation. For more information about money in this period of the eighteenth century, please see the page Money.

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