A Spotter’s Guide to Montague Burton – the Tailor of Taste, Part 1

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Abergavenny (1937)

‘The Tailor of Taste’

When Montague Burton became a limited company in 1917, it was registered as ‘Montague Burton the Tailor of Taste Ltd’. The slogan, as part of Burton’s name, formed part of firm’s logo, appearing on fascias, parapets, floors, and even on ventilation grilles.

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Abergavenny (1937)

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Penrith (1937)

Date Stones

Burton shopfronts had surrounds of polished emerald pearl granite, with simple plinths that were treated as foundation stores. They were engraved with the name of the member of the Burton family who ‘laid’ them, and the date. Most of them were laid by Montague Burton’s children: Barbara (born 1909), Stanley (born 1914), Raymond and Arnold (twins, born 1917). These stones continued to be laid until the end of Montagu Burton’s life, in 1952.

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Douglas, Isle of Man (1929)

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Carmarthen (1935)

Ventilation Grilles

These can be spotted beneath Burton’s display windows. Instead of simple vents, these inlets were protected by specially commissioned bronze grills bearing the Burton logo and slogan. Two designs can be found: one rectangular and the other oval.

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Abergavenny (1937)

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Sheerness (1931)

The ‘Chain of Merit’

In the 1930s Burton devised two different designs for the transom lights that ran along the top of the display windows. Both included the ‘chain of merit’, including the names of towns and cities with important Burton stores.

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Abergavenny (1937)

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Sheerness (1931)

The most common of these designs involved a chain of elongated hexagons. This feature was often covered up in later years, but it remains visible at Sheerness (1931), York (High Ousegate, 1933), Abergavenny (1937), Nottingham (Goosegate) and elsewhere. Sometimes only the glazing bars remain.

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Sheerness (1931)

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Sheerness (1931)

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York, High Ousegate (1933)

The alternative design of transom lights involved nested chevrons, with the names of towns etched or imprinted on the glass between bands of lozenges.

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Newark Market Place (1935)

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Birmingham, Dale Road (1937). Photographed in 1999; now Tesco Express.

The chevron design was very similar to one of Woolworth’s designs in the late 1930s. In fact, some drawings in the Woolworths Collection in the Historic England Archive show that Woolworth once toyed with the notion of a ‘chain of merit’, with polygonal frames, for the Liverpool branch. The two firms were always watching one another for inspiration.

‘Coffin’ Doors

Burton’s entrance doors usually had elongated hexagonal glazed panels to match the ‘chain of merit’, and were nick-named ‘coffin’ doors. These can be spotted at York (High Ousegate; 1933), Huntingdon (1951) and elsewhere. More commonly, solid oak ‘coffin’ doors survive in side entrances, usually leading to a billiard hall. Several shops with chevron-patterned transom lights, such as Newark (Market Place, 1935), had a different door type, with matching chevron decoration.

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Hitchin (1938)

Tiles and Mosaics

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Hull (1936)

The entrance lobbies of many Burton shops had mosaic floors in the early-to-mid 20th century, and Burton was no exception. These sometimes included the popular Burton slogan: ‘Let Burton Dress You’. This also appears in a black and red glazed terracotta panel on the side elevation of the branch in Abergavenny (1937). Burton’s terracotta was usually supplied by the Middleton Fireclay Co. of Leeds.

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Abergavenny (1937)

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Penrith (1937)

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