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Blog 73 - 16 Grosvenor Street

It’s an odd title for the blog today. My scarf has led me to an amazing set of coincidences. I don’t know why that surprises me, as it seems to be the story of my life. My journey this week started with a question from my friend Gillian who enquired whether I had a Jacqmar scarf. I hunted through my boxes and there was this cream and autumnal brown silk square showing a spray of roses and assorted blooms, evidently vintage with hand rolled hems. I have no idea when or where I bought it. My friend told me her late father had a business flat near the Jacqmar Mayfair store which she remembered. Maybe he bought scarves there for her mother. I started investigating.

I have researched the Jacqmar name. It seems a couple Jack and Mary Lyons set up a silk business in 1932 and created the name Jacqmar from the first three letters of their own names, adding the Q to give it a French touch! The company supplied silk to Paris and Kent where scarves were produced for Hermes, Liberty, and Dior. They hit on the idea of making their own scarves with the off cuts. And so the Jacqmar scarf was born. Jack died in 1939 and Allan Allan ran the company. They made patriotic scarves with slogans during WW2 designed by an airman. How I wish I had one of these! I would have to frame that, not wear it round my neck! Can’t imagine going up the High Street wearing “Salvage your rubber into aircraft’ or ‘Shoulder to Shoulder’ or even ‘Into Battle’. I might be accused of inciting violence! I have several fine scarves designed by Richard Allan, the son of Allan Senior, who had taken over the business…. now we are in the Swinging Sixties ….. Jacqmar scarves were worn in the Avengers TV series which pre-dated the Bond movies, again featuring strong gals with style. Richard sold Jacqmar and the business continued successfully through the 70’s and 80’s under its new owners.

So what about coincidences? Getting up to date, I find that Samuel Pick, grandson of Jacqmar’s last owner has just launched their first new scarf for thirty years and the design shows 16 Grosvenor Street, their first London store. It comes in three colours, fuchsia, orange and navy. In the past the AvengerWear scarf cost £2.5s.6d in old money. This latest scarf, showing their store as it was then with a Rolls Royce at the front entrance, costs a bit more than that today, but there’s inflation for you. It’s nice to know that the Jacqmar legacy continues.

No.16 Grosvenor Street. I thought that address rang a bell in my head.

It’s a Grade 2 listed building, a terrace town house built in 1724 and has been home to many famous names. Designed by Thos.Ripley, architect to the Admiralty, it has housed the eldest son of Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole, (not to be confused with brother Horace who built Strawberry Hill House, the fantasy suburban castle in Twickenham near my home). What days of extravagant entertainment in these early Georgian times! It was also the office of the Royal Institute of British Architects and homes to countless Dukes and Marquesses (top hats in the front door, caps and pinnies at the back of house). My first coincidence with the address starts in 1824 when the Oriental Club set up premises on one of the upper floors. My story about this fine old London Club is for another day. Let’s just say for the moment, as a bridge player in search of playing cards showing elephants, I went to their present address in Stafford Place. I meant only to buy cards, but ended up with an invitation to create velvet bridge cloths edged with Indian elephant brocade for this prestigious club and to apply for membership. At that time I was not a full member as ladies were not admitted until 2010!

I hasten to say I have no connection to Mrs. Alice Keppel, another resident of 16 Grosvenor Street in 1909. That belongs to Camilla. Her great-great grandmother was the ‘confidante’ of King Edward Vll, the great-great grandfather of Prince Charles!

Yes, I thought the address was familiar. It was the office of my late husband in the late 70’s and early 80’s! I didn’t know my friend Gillian then. I guess her dad might have been living in a flat next door. Certainly by the following twenty first century, my late husband’s company had long been dissolved, but each year there was a reunion party for former staff. Imagine my surprise, as a widow to be invited to one such party in No.16 Grosvenor Street. The tenants at that particular time kindly allowed us access for one evening. A trip down Memory Lane.

Did I hear a King’s whispered endearment, great architects’ ambitious plans, politicians’ plotting, a scullery maid’s sighs as reddened hands cleaned, Honourable East India Company grandees’ reminiscing, a piano concert, (piano makers had rented part premises at one time), prestigious dressmakers’ lowered tones, the shouts of squatters about to be evicted when the building was empty… or the excited chatter of ladies choosing a fine silk scarf? No, that evening I tucked into an excellent buffet provided by outside caterers and tried to remember the names of all these former Company directors and staff.

I will do a quick flight on my magic carpet, wearing my Jacqmar roses to check on what is happening around No.16 these days….and wonder who has the patience to do all that hand rolling and stitching today.

Busy Bee, Scarf Face!

Series 2, Blog 73.

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