Blacket(t) cloth

Submitted by alkirtley on Fri, 11/22/2019 - 11:26

In his book “My Name is Blacket”, published in 1983, the late Nick Vine Hall describes a drapery and linen business being established at 31 West Smithfield in London by John Blackett (1747-1795). The business was eventually taken over by his son James Blackett, who by 1842 owned a factory in Smithfield manufacturing “butchers’ requisites”. Around that time James was said to have invented the well-known blue and white striped material used in the manufacture of smocks and aprons, which was known as “Blacket Cloth”.

A button believed to be a late 19th century brace or trouser fly button from Blackett cloth. (Image courtesy of Emma Lane)
A button believed to be a 19th century brace or trouser fly button from Blackett cloth (image courtesy of Emma Lane)  

 James Blackett (shown in the censuses with one “t”) is described as a draper in the 1841 census and as a clothier in 1851 and the business is described as butchers’ clothiers in the London Post Office Directories of 1848, 1851 and 1856. Given his premises close to the meat market at Smithfield, it is not surprising that he specialised in suppling the butchery trade, and the business continued in the family through three further generations. Harold Frank Blackett, great-grandson of James, was described as a butchers’ clothing manufacturer in the 1911 census.

Whilst no proof has been discovered of James Blacket having invented “Blacket Cloth”, he was undoubtedly an extremely successful manufacturer of clothing for the butchery trade, and on his death in 1858 he left an estate valued at £16,000, the equivalent in 2010 of £1.5 million. He was the father of Edmund Thomas Blacket (see Architecture).