In previous posts (Life & Work, Sale of the Century) I mentioned that I had found a pamphlet dated May 1893 containing sermons and advertisements in rubble that fallen from the gallery area of Barony St. John’s church.

One of the adverts was for The John Noble Knock About Frocks


This marked an era of mass produced dresses where women could buy garments “off the peg” at affordable prices instead of being made to measure.

A trawl of the internet found some other John Noble garments and adverts like this one in an 1895 edition of The Daily News –

And this one from 1897 –


Further research into when John Noble Ltd of Brook Street Mills, Manchester was set up showed that they were established in 1893.

The garments were made of various fabrics including cheviot (a soft, luxurious but hard-wearing wool flannel weave) and a more hard wearing serge (a type of twill fabric that has diagonal lines or ridges on both sides, made with a two-up, two-down weave) which would no doubt be used for work wear / everyday dress wear rather than formal wear.

Unusually though, these affordable dresses were very fashionable incorporating all the latest styles (note the state of the art puffed ‘leg of mutton’ sleeves in the adverts above from 1895 and 1897 as opposed to the straighter sleeve in my advert from 1893) and could be purchased in a variety of colours including bronze, ruby, cinnamon and even electric blue.


But the part of the advert that really caught my eye and made me laugh is –
Observe closely the style, cut make and finish of these costumes. Of imitations there are many, but there is nothing in the world to equal The John Noble Half Guinea Costumes for stylish appearance, durability and actual money value  and intending purchasers are asked to remember that these garments are guaranteed made absolutely without any sweating of the workers
It seems sweatshops and cheap, forced labour were a worry even back then.