The firm's founder, the first of five successive Tom Browns, is believed to have been practicing his tailor's trade in nearby Keats Lane even before taking over the shop at No 1 the High Street. The premises had previously been used for business purposes for about two years, becoming vacant when the tenant at the time failed in business, ending up in debtors' jail in Aylesbury. The firm made clothing exclusively in those days for the boys of nearby Eton College, and is proud of the fact that this service still continues.
Tom Brown, still a private company, also has a London branch. Proprietor of the business today is David Coultard, the first owner not to be a member of the Brown family. The last was David Russell whose mother, Muriel, was a Brown. The London shop originally opened in 1890 in Conduit Street. This shop was destroyed during the Blitz, the business then moved to Princess Street before is latest move to Saville Row.
Tom Brown is today a flourishing bespoke tailoring concern, one which takes pride in the quality of its workmanship. Making up and cloth cutting takes place in the shop for all to see. Still in use is an old weighing machine, still in perfect working order, and a height scale. Some of the College boys' items of clothing were traditionally changed as they reached a stipulated minimum height - like the now defunct 'bumfreezer' jacket, for instance - so the height scale was constantly in use. And the weighing device could at times make a critical customer realise that he was, perhaps, filling out a little here and there.
Customers, in the 'old days' - in fact up to around the First World War - would first be met by the proprietor in his formal frock coat. Skilled cutters would also be in 'front of house', but other staff were not expected to mix with patrons. in the back workrooms they stitched, sewed and pressed - on benches, on the floor, wherever they could find working space, with the treadle sewing machines seldom idle, and only available warmth coming from the gas heaters of the pressing irons. The treadle is still in use today, as is one of the old-fashioned but still functional iron heaters. The latter vintage appliance gave engineers a few unusual problems when being adapted to North Sea Gas.
One of the workroom staff used to receive and extra 1d an hour for answering the speaking tube from the shop. Blowing into the tube produced a whistle at the other end, and the privileged recipient had the extra 'perk' of being able to take the pick of the work orders that came through.
The shop, in its early days, was much smaller than today, with the adjoining premises a bakery - Holderness the Bakers. It took on its present shape with rebuilding in 1865, and one fitting room has been kept exactly as it was then, still with the original wallpaper, wall prints mirror and fittings - a fascinating step back into the past. One of the prints which is signed, portrays Princess Victoria Mary of Teck, later to become Queen Mary. Her father, the Duke of Teck, was a 'royal warrant' patron of the time.