Shear Delight

In my previous post ‘Shear Luck’, I expressed an interest in Peter Day’s cutting shears. In this post, you will read that it is not only Peter’s Heinisch shears that have an interesting history. Here is a bit of information surrounding their manufacture, leading on to a remarkable story closer to home…

Born in Bohemia, Austria in 1801, Rochus Heinisch was one of the most important manufacturers of tailors shears in the world. After he learned his trade manufacturing surgical instruments, he became recognised as a ‘Cutler’ – making other cutlery and blades such as scissors, knives and razors. It was then that he conceived the idea of producing ‘shears of malleable iron faced with steel’. Prior to his revolutionary developments, shears used were of English manufacture and had handles so badly shaped that tailors referred to them as ‘instruments of torture’.

1869 heinisch advert

Above: 1869 advertisement listing the various cutlery manufactured by Rochus Heinisch. I find it interesting that the tailor’s shears are shown in somebody’s hand, perhaps demonstrating the famous new comfortable handles.

The pride in Heinisch’s work is evident in his willingness to note himself as the ‘Inventor’ alongside his name on every pair. He also stamped the date into the metal on the inside of the blades, with some surviving examples dating back to 1859.

shears date (3)

Above: R. Heinisch’s name stamped into the bolt of the shears, clearly noting himself as the ‘Inventor’ alongside a ‘latest patent’ date of 1859.

For a short while he employed Jacob Wiss, a surgical instrument maker and in his own right. Wiss left Heinisch and set up his own business, continuing to make popular cutlery and shears. After his death in 1880, his sons Frederick and Louis continued to grow the business, and in 1914 J. Wiss & Sons Co. bought out R. Heinisch’s Sons Co. Both families continued to be employed by the now esteemed company until in 1973, after 125 years in business, J. Wiss & Sons Co. was sold. No member of either family has any involvement in the business today.

This leads me on to a gentleman by the name of Mr David Anderson, who resides in St Louis Missouri, USA. Mr Anderson has been a very good client and personal friend of David Cook, CEO of Denman and Goddard, for over 30 years. Due to the great friendship between the two Davids, Mr Anderson keeps a keen interest in the happenings of Denman and Goddard.

Unbeknown to me at the time, he read my previous post (Shear Luck), and decided to give himself a new project; setting about a plan to mark the end of my apprenticeship. He searched the internet and acquired quite a collection of Heinisch shears, which varied in shape, size and condition. This was quite a feat considering, as previously explained, production of these blades ceased some time ago.

Mr Anderson then took considerable time and effort (and expense, no doubt) to find two pairs that were restorable. Over the following months he learned the craft of blade restoration, resulting in two pairs of perfectly cutting shears. Careful painting of the famous 19th Century handles followed, and after delicate assembly they were restored as good as new.

shears resto 2

Above: Mr Anderson’s garage found itself converted into a dedicated Heinisch restoration facility for a number of months. Note the amount of pairs Mr Anderson managed to source for this remarkable project.

shears bare metal

Above: Final preparation of the metal before painting.

shears painting 1


Above: The famous handles after their base-coat of gloss black.

As David Cook was fully aware of what Mr Anderson had been organising, a lunch was arranged at Wild Honey to mark the end of my apprenticeship, which coincided with Mr Anderson’s visit to London. Shortly after our main course I learned the story of what Mr Anderson had been up to, and was overcome when he presented me with my own two pairs of restored Heinisch shears!

Joe and Mr Anderson

Above: Mr Anderson and I at the celebratory lunch at Wild Honey. I have no idea at this point what the elaborately decorated box I am holding contains.

I would like to take this opportunity to once again thank Mr Anderson for such a special acknowledgement of my achievement, and his kind words of encouragement as I embark on my cutting career. These fine blades will without doubt be proudly looked after and see me through my lifetime. Who knows where their remarkable journey will end..?

Boxlock and Smoking Barrels

Established in 1812 by William Westley Richards, Westley Richards (W.R. & Co.) is one of the oldest surviving gun and rifle makers in England. Following an exciting new collaboration between our two companies, we at Denman and Goddard were recently invited to their home town of 200 years, Birmingham, for a tour of their purpose-built gun factory.

wr and co building

Before its recent conversion, the building that the company calls home used to be an enamel factory.

william westley richards

W.R. & Co. Founder, William Westley Richards.

After successfully making it through the cast iron gates upon arrival, our tour began in the main showroom. Artefacts from the company’s rich history fill the space, surrounded by exposed brickwork that gives a pleasant nod to Birmingham’s industrial past. As we ventured through into the workshops we were truly aware of the founders’ philosophy of being able ‘to build as good a gun as can be made’.

wr and co shop

wr and co shop 2

At the very beginning of their apprenticeships the craftsmen start their careers by making all of their own tools, to learn and develop an unrivalled knowledge of the materials that they will master. As every component of the guns and rifles are hand made, it is essential that the highest level of precision is learned and maintained, both for safety and aesthetics.

We first visited the Stocking (woodworking) department, where the stocks of the guns are created to each individual’s measurements. Wood is chosen from the root of the Turkish Walnut tree to ensure high density and strength when being fired. This also means that once oil finished, the most beautiful depth of colour and natural pattern within the wood can be seen. At this stage the stock goes through a process called ‘chequering’. Small diamond shapes are intricately hand engraved to provide an area of grip for the user, at the same time adding a stunning example of craftsmanship. Every Westley Richards stock is varnished a minimum of twice a day for a month and a half, allowing the natural oils used to soak well into the wood and prevent it from becoming brittle. This also creates a natural waterproofing – essential when in the field on a shoot.

gunsmiths workshop

Master craftsmen at work in the Stocking Department.

We then went on to the Actioning and Barrelling departments. The barrels are ‘smoke black fitted’ to the action to create a gas tight seal before being submitted to the Birmingham Proof House for safety testing. The company has ‘made a great contribution to the modern shotgun and is famed for its self-cocking, hammerless ‘Boxlock’ actions [firing mechanisms], patented by employees Messrs. Anson and Deeley in the early 1870s. For over 200 years W.R. & Co. have maintained a worldwide reputation for mechanical innovation and excellence in both shotguns and rifles’, and it is never more evident than when in the company of their master craftsmen and their apprentices.

a and b dept

Master craftsmen at work in the Actioning and Barrelling Departments.

aston and deeley fixed lock 1875

Original concept sketches for the Aston and Deeley patented Fixed Lock, 1875.

The outer casings of the guns also display a remarkable level of detail in the form of hand engraving. Perfect recreations of hunting scenes and/or wildlife are an amazing display of true craftsmanship and as we walked through the workshop, I soon found myself simply staring at the work- in awe of the artistry and skills of those who created it.

India Rifle

‘By combining proven age-old design with modern craftsmanship and embellishment, we believe that the modern era is producing some of the finest guns and rifles that have ever carried the ‘Westley Richards’ name. We are privileged today to work with and commission some of the finest engravers in the world, many of them exclusively.’

swarovski gun

‘The variation in execution is such that we can offer everything from the great traditions of the house scroll, all the way through to game scene carving, relief scroll, gold inlays and the setting of precious stones. Few other gunmakers in the world can deliver such diversity to such a consistently high standard. As with the whole gunmaking process, we actively encourage our clients to participate in the creation of their individual masterpiece. Every gun, to our eye, should be a truly unique piece.’

stag head gun

engraved guns

The company also has its own team of highly skilled leather craftsmen. In this department, ‘gun slips, cases and bags are made to exacting standards, just along the corridor from their iconic firearms’. Customers can choose from a wide range of skins and colours, before conceptual sketches are turned into bespoke creations. What better way to look after your very own piece of gun-making history?

wr and co gun case

A finished gun in its bespoke case, all hand-crafted from the finest materials.

WR & Co Tweed Suit

The W.R. and Co. shooting suit.

As well as other country clothing and accessories, Westley Richards stock traditional shooting suits- the product of the new and exciting collaboration between our two companies. We at Denman and Goddard have been able to help produce a collection of hand-made shooting jackets, plus 2′s and breeks in the company’s exclusive house tweed and moleskin. They are available in a range of sizes and can be purchased online, or at the W.R. & Co. store – where they can be tried on and complete the full shooting experience.

Dalla Fibra di Qualità al Tessuto Bello

I have just returned from Biella, Italy. This beautiful town lies in the foothills of the Biellese Alps and is home to Vitale Barberis Canonico (VBC), a fine Italian Woollen Mill established in 1663. I was lucky enough to be invited by Mark Dunsford (Lear Browne & Dunsford), alongside Patrick Osborne (Harrisons of Edinburgh), Tristan Thorne (Dege and Skinner), Tom Bradbury (Dege and Skinner) and Thomas Carr (Richard Anderson).

Creative Director of VBC, Francesco Barberis and his team met us at our hotel not long after we arrived that evening and we were soon taken to the Santuario di Oropa for dinner. According to legend, a black wooden statue of the Virgin Mary carved by Saint Luke was found in Jerusalem by Saint Eusebius of Vercelli and carried to Oropa in the 4th century AD, where it was placed into a crevice in a rock. A small church was built to house it, which was replaced in the early 17th century by what is now known as the Ancient Basilica. We drank great wines and ate numerous courses of fantastic foods including traditional polenta- a dish that the region is famed for.

sanctuary di oropa
From left: Patrick Osborne, Tom Bradbury, Thomas Carr, Francesco Barberis, Tristan Thorne, Joe Holsgrove and Mark Dunsford at the entrance to the Sanctuary of Oropa.
After a brief encounter with a lint-roller the next morning we were off to the mill, to learn and understand how VBC take the highest quality raw wool and turn it into the most beautiful fine fabrics. Led by Simone Ubertino Rosso (Communication Manager at VBC) we embarked on a knowledgable tour of the premises, seeing everything from VBC’s very own state-of-the-art water purification centre to the unique noise-reducing covers of the looms. Below you can see a few images from the tour, including various stages of the weaving process.
VBC raw wool
Raw wool arrives at the factory and is stored in bails awaiting dying.
VBC dye printing
Wool destined for textured finishes (flannels etc.) is first printed with a unique dye pattern to aid depth of colour.
VBC plain dyed wool
Plain dyed wool awaiting carding and spinning.
VBC yarn dyed wool
Yarn dyed wool awaiting further spinning.
VBC spinning
Further spinning the yarns to reduce their thickness.
VBC yarn storage
Dyed yarns in storage, awaiting weaving.
VBC weaving
Super 120′s shadow stripe being woven.
VBC inspecting
Inspection room. Despite state-of-the-art machinery at every stage, the cloth is still inspected a yard at a time by women sitting at special light boards to ensure a perfect and undamaged finish.
VBC washing
Washing the cloth.
VBC folding
The cloth is then folded from full width, ready to be marked out and cut by tailors the world over.
VBC storage
The finished cloth is then shrink wrapped to prevent any moth damage and stored in a purpose-built storage facility.
VBC water
Water from the mills is purified and recycled in this purpose built on-site facility, the most advanced of any woollen mill in the world. Notice the colour of the water as it still contains some of the dye.
Having seen the remarkable processes involved in creating the cloth, it was time for lunch. Francesco took us to a local favourite restaurant of his, where we had more outstanding wines and local dishes. A particular favourite of all of ours was the Toma, a local cheese served with honey. We were then lucky to be invited to visit Giovanni Barberis Organista, personal tailor to Francesco. Together we enjoyed discussing tailoring techniques in ways only tailors can and understood the minor differences between Savile Row and Italian bespoke.
VBC group
From left: Tristan Thorne, Thomas Carr, Tom Bradbury, Joe Holsgrove, Francesco Barberis, Mark Dunsford and Patrick Osborne prepare for official photographs to be taken.
giovanni talking tailoring
Discussing tailoring alongside Giovanni Barberis, Francesco Barberis and Tristan Thorne.
GBO workshop
Inside Giovanni Barberis Organista’s workshop.
giovanni group
From left: Tom Bradbury, Tristan Thorne, Thomas Carr, Francesco Barberis, Giovanni Barberis, Joe Holsgrove, Patrick Osborne and Mark Dunsford.
It was then time to head back to VBC HQ and look through the archives. VBC pride themselves on continuously looking back to their rich heritage for inspiration towards future collections. The purpose built archive room houses rows and rows of leather bound ledgers containing a record and sample of every cloth woven in house since the 1800s. Remarkable.
VBC archives 2
VBC Archives.
simone and joe
Simone Ubertino Rosso and Joe Holsgrove in the VBC offices. Notice that they are both wearing the same VBC-woven cloth, with Simone proudly sporting his new Denman and Goddard House Tie.
I’d like to thank Francesco, Simone and everybody else at Vitale Barberis Canonico for a truly amazing visit to their fine mill and for their kindness and generosity throughout our time in Italy. I’d also like to thank Mark Dunsford for his kind invitation on this once in a lifetime trip. Sono stati fatti buoni amici per la vita.

Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense

I have recently been granted membership to The Anglo-Omani Society and attended my first function in their Mayfair headquarters. It is great to learn more about the country’s fascinating culture and heritage, as well as the strong bond between Oman and Britain.

After the evening’s proceedings had finished, I happened to notice a Chelsea Pensioner amongst us, easily identifiable by his famous Scarlet Coat and medals proudly adorning his chest. Naturally I went and spoke to him, having the utmost respect for all that he was prepared to sacrifice for our country. I soon learned that he was 88 year old John Carbis, In-Pensioner (resident) at The Royal Hospital for some 20 years. As our brief but captivating conversation drew to a close, John invited me to a tour and lunch at the hospital- something one could only dream of ever happening.

For over three hundred years, The Royal Hospital has provided a ‘welcoming home and way of life’ for veterans of the British Army. Founded by HRH King Charles II in 1692, the elegant Sir Christopher Wren designed buildings in London’s prestigious Chelsea neighbourhood became home to those that have been ‘broken by age or war’. The hospital crest shares the same Old French maxim as the British chivalric Order of the Garter. ‘Honi soit qui mal y pense’ translates as ‘may he be shamed who thinks badly of it’- likely to be a reference to those that question the importance of an establishment and military force. King Charles II himself was inspired to set up the hospital by Les Invalides in Paris, an older French equivalent of The Royal Hospital that we are familiar with today. The buttons on all Royal Hospital uniforms are engraved with the Royal Crown and the letters RCI. This stands for Royal Corps of Invalids.

We met at The London Gate at 11am sharp and I was soon treated to a tour of the museum, filled with artefacts telling the fascinating history of this fine institution. We then embarked on a tour of the hospital itself, including visiting The Long Wards (actual residences of the pensioners), something very few get to see. Lunch was situated in the stunning surroundings of The Great Hall, where the walls bear the names of every battle entered by the British Army since the hospital’s founding, including recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Given that it was a Friday, in keeping with British tradition the menu consisted of fish and chips with mushy peas followed by a fabulous but seldom seen dessert of jelly and custard. There I was, dining amongst living history.

It was a real privilege to visit the hospital and learn more about the world famous institution. As Sir Jacob Astley once said in his soldiers’ prayer in 1642 – “O Lord you know how occupied I shall be this day. If I forget thee do not forget me”. That is one thing we must never do; no matter how dependant these remarkable people become, we cannot neglect them. Here’s to another three hundred years of The Royal Hospital.

Joe and John

Joe Holsgrove with In-Pensioner of 20 years, John C Carbis IEng FICW MInstRE.

Great Hall

The Great Hall. Notice the battle listings decorating the walls as a constant reminder of the commitment and sacrifice of the British Army.


The Wren Chapel. Notice the painting of the Resurrection in the half dome of the apse by Sebastiano Ricci, 1714.

Figure Court

Figure Court. At the heart of hospital buildings, this courtyard takes its name from the gilded statue of King Charles II. Created and presented to the King by Grinling Gibbons in 1682, it stands proudly amongst the stunning architecture.

Figure Court Flag

Figure Court’s flag pole, with views of The State Apartments in the background.

BTBA Annual Festival Dinner

At the beginning of February we attended The Bespoke Tailors’ Benevolent Association Festival Dinner, once again held in the stunning surroundings of The Merchant Taylors’ Hall in The City of London. As always, it provided the perfect platform for everybody to catch up with old friends and raise money to support those from the trade who have fallen on hard times. Evenings and weekends throughout January were entirely devoted to making myself a dinner suit, as the dress code was Black Tie! Given my admiration for the likes of Fred Astaire, Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra I opted for the most traditional spec. My jacket was single breasted (one button) with peak lapels and pure silk facings, no side vents and jetted pockets. The trousers have double pleats and braiding down the outside leg to match the jacket. The cloth is pure worsted barathea (11oz) from Smith Woollens, with a stunning black paisley lining from Lear, Browne and Dunsford (LBD). I would like to thank my good friends John Bell and Patrick Osborne of LBD for kindly giving me the lining. 


David Cook, Joe Holsgrove and Peter Day.

Joe VBC Group Picture BTBA

Joe Holsgrove, John Bell of LBD, Francesco Barberis Canonico of Vitale Barberis Canonico, Simone Ubertino Rosso of Vitale Barberis Canonico and Patrick Osborne of LBD.

Whilst the dinner is the perfect opportunity to catch up with old friends, it is always wonderful to be introduced to new ones. I was fortunate enough to be introduced to Francesco Barberis Canonico; Creative Director of Vitale Barberis Canonico, a family owned Italian woollen mill. Currently in its 15th generation of ownership, the company have been producing the finest cloths since 1663. I also met Simone Ubertino Rosso, Communication Manager for the company.


Joe and Emily BTBA 2017

Emily Rhodes of Whitcomb and Shaftesbury and Joe Holsgrove.

Table, BTBA 2017

We shared a table with Whitcomb and Shaftesbury, another tailoring house located at 11 Saint George Street.

Hall, BTBA 2017

The Great Hall in all its glory.

Nín Hǎo from Beijing

In December 2016 Peter, David and I were invited to ‘Beautiful World’, the Spring/Summer 2017 Collection launch by acclaimed Chinese fashion designer Grace Chen. In our relatively short visit to Beijing, we attended the fine fashion show in the heart of China’s capital. On display were a range of spectacular garments, all beautifully hand crafted from delicate fabrics. Inspired by the beauty of feathers, the collection featured dresses and gowns that skillfully combined Western cutting and Chinese embroidery.

DJC, JH, PRD China

David Cook, Joe Holsgrove and Peter Day on the red carpet.

Chinese Outfit

Chinese Embroidery

Traditional hand embroidery. The quality of work was exceptional.

Grace Chen Dancer

The show opened with a stunning ballet performance.

Grace Chen Swan Dress

A particular favourite of mine, this dress appeared to be inspired by the natural elegance of swans.

Grace Chen Dresses 1

A selection of bespoke dresses from Grace Chen’s archives.

Grace Chen Dresses 2

Another selection of bespoke dresses from Grace Chen’s archives.

Grace Chen Grey Dress

Another fine creation from Grace Chen’s archives, again incorporating feathers.

Tiananmen Square

We also managed to visit Tiananmen Square.

BTBA Summer Ball

July saw myself and Peter attend the annual charity fundraiser, The Bespoke Tailors’ Benevolent Association Summer Ball. Held every year at The Merchant Taylors’ Hall in The City of London, it is a great excuse for everybody to dress up and catch up old friends. The event is held to raise money to support those from the trade who have fallen on less fortunate times. Alexander Rozier, who has recently spent some time doing work experience with us here at D&G, also came along with us. A wonderful evening was had by all.

summer ball summer ball 2 summer ball 3


Full Circle

Some may already be aware that my grandfather, George Holsgrove, worked at Kilgour, French and Stanbury in the 1950′s and 60′s. His memories of the trade were some of the key influences that ignited my interest for Savile Row bespoke tailoring. Having spent a good four years in the trade, as I far as I was concerned it was only right that I should make him a garment to thank him. On his birthday earlier this year I presented him with a bale of cloth and after a slightly puzzled look, I informed him that I was going to make him a sports jacket. It was not only great practice for me to actually make the garment, but perhaps more importantly I feel that the trade has now gone full circle across generations of the Holsgrove family. Below are some images from various stages of the process.

george jacket

Outbreast pocket put in.

 george jacket 2

With the side pockets put in and front edges baisted into place, the foreparts were ready to be assembled with the rest of the pieces and create a basic garment to be fitted.

george jacket 3  george jacket 4

One proud grandfather having his jacket fitted. There was only very minor alteration required.


george jacket 7 george jacket 6 

After closing the side seams, the wing pads are put in and the shape of the armhole is marked before the shoulders are closed.

george jacket 8

With the top collar on, the jacket was only awaiting the sleeves before it could have the linings felled, edge stitching done and button holes put in.

george jacket 11


Cuff detail.

george jacket 12


Collection day. George was thrilled with his new jacket.

150 Years ‘On the Cod’

The term ‘on the cod’ is another of those fine pieces of tailors’ slang that have survived generations in the trade. To explain it briefly, it effectively means ‘gone drinking’, with the cod part referring to ‘drinking like a fish’.

Savile Row’s favoured pub, The Mason’s Arms, recently welcomed a milestone anniversary, having served tailors and shirtmakers from the trade for 150 years. We at Denman and Goddard were invited to celebrate this occasion by joining other tailoring houses and exhibiting a small display of our work, in the form of my Golden Shears winning entry. Thanks to the generosity of The Master Beadle of The Merchant Taylors’ Hall, we were also able to have the actual golden shears on display. People visiting the pub were welcomed to look round the exhibited works, and speak to us about our fine craft. Below you can see a couple of photos from the evening’s celebrations.

masons 150 joe and pat

Patrick Bunting, President of the Bespoke Tailors’ Benevolent Association and Head of UK sales at Dormeuil (left) and myself.

masons arms 150 group picture

Tailors assemble outside the pub for a group picture.

Shear Luck

Whilst cutting my new suit, I had nothing but admiration for Peter’s shears. From the less intricate cut of a trouser underside, to the precision of an armhole, they handled so well. It was only after Peter told me their story that my respect for these fine blades entered a whole new level.

Manufactured by R. Heinisch of Newark, New Jersey, USA, they bear the name ‘Inventor’ and are 16″ end to end. The cutting blades themselves are 9″ long, and as you can imagine weigh a substantial amount. After opening the blades when cutting, their very weight closes them again- even on heavy tweeds and overcoatings!

Peter himself inherited them from his old mentor Sid Whittingham. Sid was a Cutter at Flights Ltd. (Military Tailors), before moving to Rogers, John Jones Ltd. in Conduit Street. The location on which this old firm’s shop once stood is now the foundations of The Westbury, one of Mayfair’s fine hotels. At this time Peter was working for J. Dege & Sons in Clifford Street (now Dege & Skinner of Savile Row). After the two companies merged, Peter became Under Cutter to Sid, who himself was Head Military Cutter.

During ‘The Blitz’ of World War Two, Rogers, John Jones Ltd.’s premises on Conduit Street was completely reduced to rubble. In the crater of devastation only one item remained, having managed to survived the intense blasts completely unscathed- Sid’s shears. I find it remarkable that in true British spirit, these shears have survived the most desperate of times and still continue to cut on a daily basis. Their legacy lives on at Denman and Goddard to the current day, and I have no doubt that it will continue for many years to come. Who knows, I may even inherit them myself!


shear luck

shear luck 3

 shear luck 2 shear luck 4