What do the Crimea War, Fox’s Biscuits and pillar boxes all have in common with the Fashion & Textile Children’s Trust? Well, they all came to prominence in 1853, the same year a group of merchant tailors founded our charity. 

1853 was obviously a big year for our organisation, so we got curious, what was the industry like when the charity was founded? What else was happening in Britain at that time and what on earth did they wear? 

 If you’re partial to a bit of history, want to know more about the charity or just want facts to impress your friends, then read on. 

1853: What was happening in Britain

  • The Vaccination Act of 1853 made it compulsory for all children born after 1 August 1853 to be vaccinated against smallpox during their first 3 months of life.
  • The first roadside pillar box in mainland Britain was erected in 1853. 
  • The Crimean War of 1853 was fought mainly on the Crimean Peninsula between Russia and Britain, France, and the Ottoman Empire.
  • Manchester was granted city status. 
  • In October 1853, the lockout of Preston cotton mill workers happened, a walkout where workers sought reinstatement of ten per cent of their pay.
  • Bleak House, Charles Dicken’s 9th novel was issued in one volume in 1853.

The rise of textile production

By 1853 the nature of the fashion and textile industry had changed from a craft production model (individuals at home) to a factory-centric model (large scale in house production). The impact of working in factories was a harsh and dangerous reality for many people at the time. 

By 1853, there were 250,000 industrial looms in the UK and many factories employed entire families, with men, women and children over the age of nine working in the production process. 

Whilst the industrial revolution had positive effects on the British economy, socially it created many more issues and new laws needed to be passed in order to protect workers’ rights. Children as well as adults were enduring tough conditions with long working hours. 

What to wear in 1853

In 1853, women’s fashion favoured dresses made from sumptuous materials such as velvet, brocade, taffeta and silk. Women's skirts were domed and bell-shaped, supported by crinoline petticoats, with long bloomers and pantaloons trimmed with lace. Outfits were accessorised with tiered cape-jackets, paisley patterned shawls and deep bonnets, while hair was swept into buns or side coils from a centre parting.

Men wore matching coats, waistcoats and trousers, with hairstyles characterised by large mutton-chop side-burns and moustaches, popularised by Prince Albert. Shirts had high upstanding collars and were tied at the neck with large bow-ties. High fastening and tight fitting frock coats were also very fashionable. The bowler hat was invented around 1850, but was generally seen as a working class hat, while top-hats were favoured by the upper classes.

The 1800’s alumni

Many high street names and famous institutions were also founded in the 1800’s, here’s just some of our favourites. 

1849: Boots The Chemist
1852: Great Ormond Street Hospital; Kings Cross Station was built
1853: Fox’s Biscuits
1853: The Fashion & Textile Children’ Trust
1853: Tailoring company Denman & Goddard Ltd is founded
1856: Burberry; Big Ben was built
1860: First fish and Chips shop opens
1864: NEXT; John lewis
1869: Sainsbury’s
1884: Marks & Spencer

The philanthropy boom

In 1853, the huge growth in manufacturing and industry in Britain was matched by a boom in philanthropy.

It’s no wonder that as the textile industry boomed, the merchant tailors who founded our charity became philanthropists to help the children of widowed workers within their industry. Soon, their efforts attracted the attention of other famous philanthropists including Charles Dickens who worked tirelessly alongside Angela Burdett-Coutts to address the problems of poverty in the slums of London. 

Other famous philanthropists of the era are still recognisable names today. George Peabody created affordable housing for the working classes and George Cadbury revolutionised employment practices while also promoting pacifism driven by his Quaker faith. Andrew Carnegie, meanwhile, moved to the US and became perhaps the most famous philanthropist of all – founding many libraries and public institutions.

Want to find out more about our history? Read our story and find out how our most famous patron Charles Dickens came to be involved with the Trust.