Musgrave and Co - 100 years

Joseph John Musgrave (1833-1917) began to learn his trade as a Draper from when he was just 17 years old. His father Joseph Robinson Musgrave, who was also a Draper, died in 1836, leaving his wife Elizabeth Corke (1806-1876) to bring up their family of Joseph John and his three sisters, Catherine Jane, Elizabeth Robinson and Mary Maria. Elizabeth was also from a family with a history of trade in Drapery and, in 1850, she arranged for Joseph John to spend time living and working with his uncle Henry Corke in Tonbridge Wells, where he operated a business as a Draper and Tailor.

Within just a few years, Joseph John Musgrave had set up in business as a Master Linen Draper in Maidstone. A sign of the early success of this business can be found in the 1861 census which shows that he was providing employment for his sisters Catherine Jane, as a Housekeeper and Mary Maria, as a Milliner. He also employed an Assistant Draper, John Geale and he was repaying the benefits of the training that he had received from his uncle by providing an apprenticeship for his cousin, Richard Edwin Corke. The business continued to expand and at some point after the census was taken, he met his first wife Grace Button, a dressmaker, and they were married in August 1862.

John Joseph and Grace had five children: Elizabeth Jane, Clara Maria, Louisa Margaret, William Robinson and Catherine Grace. The family moved to Folkestone sometime in the late 1860s but sadly, Grace Button died in 1870, aged just 32. Joseph John continued to operate his business and the 1871 census shows that, once again, he was successful. At this time he was living at No 18 High Street which, as well as being the family home, was also the first location for the Musgrave Drapery business in Folkestone. Joseph John lived there with his five children and also resident were: his sister Mary Maria as Housekeeper, Arthur Marden, an apprentice Draper, Rebecca Brown, a Milliner, Sarah Spencer, an apprentice Dressmaker, Hannah Fuller, a childrens’ Nurse and Fanny Rye, a general servant.

In October 1871, Joseph John married his second wife, Sarah Anna Le Butt, who owned and ran a Lodging House at 3 Pleydell Gardens in Folkestone. Sarah Anna moved into Joseph John’s home at High Street and they later moved to 18 Sandgate Road (known as Upper Sandgate) where, over the next twenty years or so, they raised their family comprising Joseph John’s five earlier children and his children with Sarah Anna: Florence Sarah, George Clarke, Laura Francis, Joseph Leslie, Henry Paul and Mary Isabel. As with all their other addresses, No 18 Sandgate Road was both a family home and the premises for their business. In the period up to 1891, residents were Joseph John, Sarah Anna, their children and a number of employees, including both tradesmen and women in the drapery business and domestic staff.

Although the business now employed a number of family members, Joseph John maintained the primary management role through most of the 1890s but he eventually retired in around 1898, at which time the structure of the business changed. By 1901, Joseph John and Sarah Anna Le Butt had moved to Gandor Gardens in Hampstead accompanied by their children: Florence, Laura and Mary (daughters), Joseph Leslie and Henry Paul (sons), together with Joseph Leslie’s wife, Maud, and their son of eight months, Barrington Le Butt. At this time, the family home at No 18 Sandgate Road was occupied by Elizabeth Jane and Louisa Margaret, together with five Drapery Assistants and two domestic staff. Clara Maria was a Drapers assistant but was living in Weston Super Mare as a boarder. George Clarke was in America, where he was a war correspondent, recovering from wounds received in the Spanish-American war in Cuba and duty in South Africa. Catherine Grace (the only daughter who had married), was living in Kingston, Surrey with her husband and two sons, while William Robinson was living with his wife, Nellie Bradley and their son Reginald Bradby at No 46 Bournemouth Road in Folkestone

From the early 1900’s, the business continued with a number of family members living in Folkestone employed in various positions, and managed through a formal partnership between William Robinson Musgrave and his sisters, Elizabeth Jane and Clara Maria Musgrave, who had returned to Folkestone. In 1911, William Robinson Musgrave - now a Master Draper - was living with his family at No 5 Copthall Gardens, where his son Reginald Bradby, aged 16, was undertaking a Draper’s apprenticeship. His three sisters, Elizabeth Jane, Clara Maria, and Louisa Margaret were all living at No 18 Bouverie Place, which was also home to five Drapery saleswomen and two domestic staff.

In 1914 this partnership was dissolved by mutual agreement and William Robinson took over control on his own - see: London Gazette

The business operated successfully and prospered along with the post-war recovery and the growth of the town through the 1920s and 30s. No 28 Sandgate Road was the location of the large high street drapery and millinery shop, No 26 became the Astoria cinema and it is likely that No 30 was used as a sewing centre or workshop, as well as a family home.

Musgraves Drapery and Millinery Business at 28 Sandgate Road, Folkestone - 1935

William Robinson Musgrave remained in control until he died in 1933, at which time his son Reginald Bradby Musgrave took over. He dissolved the existing company and renamed it as Musgrave and Company (Kent) Limited but, otherwise, continued to operate with the same management style as his father and the business continued as a successful and profitable enterprise.

In the 1960s though, the whole of the UK fashion, clothing and textile industry came under intense pressure from rapidly changing tastes, the onset of global trading and the influx of cheaper fabrics from the new production centres rapidly springing up in Asia. The era of the traditional, local draper, milliner and costumier was over and, for the Musgrave business, the end came when Reginald Bradby died in 1964. Operations did continue on a limited scale for some time but the company was eventually wound up by Reginald’s daughter, Sheila Anne Bradby Musgrave in August 1972 - see: London Gazette

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