Whitehall Blog

The Sir Thomas Brocklebank, Baronet, Uniform Case

One of the most fascinating and handsome of the objects required for military life is the steel case to protect an officer’s uniform, mounted with brass insignia plates of the maker and the owner. The manner of fitting of top over bottom is incredibly tight, impervious to most weather, sloshing water, etc.  Our most recent buying trip to England unearthed a splendid example which we had polished and  had a custom stand created by a highly talented North Carolina metalsmith.  This is the Sir Thomas Brocklebank, Baronet, uniform case:

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The mounts, locks and slides are all brass and the medallions on the newly created stand are as well.

This is the point at which the computer assists research beyond the wildest dreams of the intrepid antiques dealer of today compared to my early years–minutes instead of untold library hours reveal vast amounts of information!

While one is tempted to jump immediately to the owner, a study of the uniform maker is an equally interesting point to begin, as the dates of the company and its locations may help us understand which of the baronets Brocklebank may have owned this case.

The uniform maker–not the case maker–is identifiable by the plaque: H. (Henry) Poole and Company of Saville Row.

According to Wickipedia and the Poole website, Henry Poole & Co is a gentleman’s bespoke tailor now located at №15 Savile Row in London. The acknowledged ‘Founders of Savile Row’ and creators of the Dinner Jacket, the company has remained a family-run business since their establishment in 1806. They opened first in Brunswick Square, in 1806, originally specializing in military tailoring, with particular merit at the time of the Battle of Waterloo.

Henry Poole ran the business from 1846,  when he moved it to 36-39 Savile Row upon the death of his father James,  until his own death in 1876, and was succeeded by cousin Samuel Cundey, whose legacy continued, for five generations, to the present-day owners Angus Cundey and son Simon. In the two centuries, the tailors have enjoyed great success and endured extreme difficulties, but survive to this day as the typification of excellence in bespoke men’s tailoring. The company still holds many Royal Warrants, and services the Lord Chamberlain’s office with court dress, with their livery department  creating uniforms for the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar. The company is also credited with the creation of the Dinner Suit (known in America as a Tuxedo for a Mr. Potter of Tuxedo Park, NY,  who had one made by Poole for his visit to the Prince of Wales at Sandringham House in 1886, for whom the dinner jacket was first designed).

The period at Savile Row under Henry Poole and his successors in the 19th century saw the company showered with royal warrants from England and abroad:

HIM Emperor Napoleon III 1858
HRH The Prince of Wales 1863
HRH The Duke of Edinburgh 1868
HRH The Crown Prince of Prussia 1868
HM Queen Victoria 1869
HM The King of the Beligians 1869
HRH The Crown Prince of Denmark 1869
HRH The Prince of Teck 1870
HRH Prince Christian of Schleswig–Holstein 1870
The Khedive of Egypt 1870
HRH Prince Oscar of Sweden & Norway 1871
HM King Amadeus I of Spain 1871
HRH Prince Louis of Hesse 1871
HRH Crown Prince of Russia 1874
HIM The Emperor Pedro II of Brazil 1874
HIM Tsar Alexander II of Russia 1875
HM The King of Hellenes 1877
HI&RH The Crown Prince of Austria 1878
HM King Umberto I of Italy 1879
HIM Emperor Wilhelm I of Germany
HIM Tsar Alexander III of Russia 1881
HG The Duke of Genoa 1891
HG Friedrich, Grossherzog of Baden 1891
HG The Duke of Aosta 1892
HRH Prince Emanuel of Savoie 1892
HIM The Shah of Persia
HM The King of Denmark 1893
HM King Edward VII 1902
HRH Prince Albrecht of Prussia 1903
HH The Maharajah Gaekwar of Baroda 1905
HIM The Shah of Persia 1906
The Khedive of Egypt 1910
HM Queen Alexandra 1911
HRH The Prince of Wales 1922
The Imperial Household of Japan 1923
HM King George V 1928
HM The King of the Bulgarians 1936
HM King George VI 1940
HIM Emperor Haile Selassie 1959
HM Queen Elizabeth II 1976

Sir Thomas Brocklebank was right on target with his choice of uniform maker!  So who was he?

The Brocklebank Baronetcy, of Greenlands in the County of Cumberland and Springwood in the County of Lancaster, is a title in the Baronetage of the United Kingdom. It was created on 22 July 1885 for Thomas Brocklebank. He was a Deputy Lieutenant, High Sheriff and Justice of the Peace for Cumberland. Born Thomas Fisher, he had assumed by Royal license the surname of Brocklebank (which was that of his maternal grandfather) in lieu of Fisher in 1845. His grandson, the third Baronet, was a Director of the Cunard Steamship Company, of the Suez Canal Company and of the Great Western Railway. His eldest son, the fourth Baronet, died unmarried and was succeeded by his younger brother, the fifth Baronet. He was Chairman of Cunard Ltd and Cunard White Star Ltd between 1959 and 1965. As of 2007 the title is held by his son, Sir Aubrey Brocklebank, the sixth Baronet, who succeeded in 1974. He is the Honorary Treasurer of the Standing Council of the Baronetage. [1]

Brocklebank baronets, of Greenlands and Springwood (1885)
Sir Thomas Brocklebank, 1st Baronet (1814–1906)
Sir Thomas Brocklebank, 2nd Baronet (1848–1911)
Sir Aubrey Brocklebank, 3rd Baronet (1873–1929)
Sir Thomas Aubrey Lawies Brocklebank, 4th Baronet (1899–1953)
Sir John Montague Brocklebank, 5th Baronet (1915–1974)
Sir Aubrey Thomas Brocklebank, 6th Baronet (born 1952)

So we have only three possible owners of this uniform case:  the first, second and fourth baronets, all Sir Thomas.  The fourth Sir Thomas would be unlikely as these cases generally predate his lifetime.  So that leaves either the 1st Baronet or the 2nd Baronet.  The first Sir Thomas had many offices that might have required a uniform created for ceremonial and court occasions by Poole.

Both men were, as were all of the family, intimately involved in the management of T. and J. Brocklebank, Ltd–one of the oldest shipbuilding and sea merchant family businesses in English history.  The company eventually became a subsidiary of Cunard according to the National Archives of England, thus bringing the Brocklebank name in English shipping history to 1965 when Sir John retired as Chairman of Cunard.

Alas,  the mystery will probably remained unsolved forever as both the first and second Sir Thomas Brocklebanks may have owned this fine uniform case.  What is not a mystery is the handsome side or console table created from this fascinating bit of English history!






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