The Hat Industry of Luton

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The Hat Industry of Luton

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The Hat Industry of Luton

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Katie Carmichael, David McOmish and David Grech
Published by
English Heritage
Publication Date
October 2013
Publisher's Ref
120 pages, 113 illustrations
210 x 210 mm
Informed Conservation

Although perhaps best known today as the home of Vauxhall Motors, Luton’s industrial roots run much deeper. Long before it became associated with motor cars Luton was the centre of ladies’ hat production in this country – a success founded upon the earlier regional industry of straw-plaiting. Many of the surrounding towns and villages fed into the industry and helped to make the region globally renowned. At its peak in the 1930s, the region was producing as many as 70 million hats in a single year; however, it entered a rapid decline following the Second World War from which it never recovered. This has left Luton, Dunstable and a number of other local towns with a challenging inheritance of neglected and decaying fragments of a once vital industry.

This book is intended to be an introduction and guide to the area’s historical significance and to its distinctive and varied character, seeking to explain the development of the region as the centre of the hatting industry in the south and exploring the lives of the people working there during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The historic links between the surviving building stock and the hatting industry are assessed and the book highlights the significance of the surviving fabric and the potential of the historic environment within future conservation and regeneration plans 
  1. Introduction
  2. Historic and regional development The towns of the hat industry
  3. Straw plaiting Origins of the industry, Plaiting, Child labour, Economic and regional impact, Decline
  4. Hat manufacture and trade Manufacturing processes, Economy and organisation, Subsidiary industries, Working conditions
  5. Buildings of the hat industry Small-scale industry, Large-scale industry, London and its connections with the Luton hat industry
  6. Conservation and the management of change

Online Shop | Historic England / English Heritage | Informed Conservation |  The Hat Industry of Luton

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