The Tailor of Bermondsey: The Life and Legacy of John Adrian Newth

Chapter 1: The Tailor’s Cut – A World in the Making

In the bustling streets of Bermondsey, Surrey, England, amidst the tanneries and hat factories, a child was born in 1835 who would grow up to stitch his own legacy. My name is John Adrian Newth, and this is my story.

1835, the year of my birth, was a significant one for England. King William IV had been on the throne for just four years, and the Industrial Revolution was in full swing, reshaping the way people lived and worked. His reign saw several reforms: the Poor Law was updated, child labour was restricted, slavery was abolished in nearly all of the British Empire, and the electoral system was refashioned by the Reform Acts of 1832. Parliament approved the Great Western Railway in the same year, which is evidence of the nation’s rapid development. On August 19, 1833, the Great Western Railway Company adopted its name, and on August 31, 1835, a parliamentary act incorporated the business. Little did my family know how this ever-changing landscape would shape our lives.

The National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; General Register Office: Registers of Births, Marriages and Deaths surrendered to the Non-parochial Registers Commissions of 1837 and 1857; Class Number: RG 4; Piece Number: 4214

When I was just a few months old, I was baptised on April 2nd, 1835, at Surrey Chapel, Blackfriars Road-Lady Huntingdon, in Southwark.

The chapel’s design attracted great interest, being circular in plan with a domed roof. Rev. Rowland Hill was the creator of the chapel; and it was sponsored by Selina Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon. As my parents held me in their arms and the priest said the blessings, they couldn’t have possibly imagined the path I would take, or how our family’s story would intertwine with the tapestry of history.

Surrey Chapel in 1814 – an 1880 illustration

Growing up on King Street, St. Saviour, Southwark, London, I experienced the remarkable transformation of our city. In 1836, the London and Greenwich Railway opened its first section, which would eventually connect London Bridge to Greenwich. This new mode of transportation meant that people could travel more quickly and easily, bringing about a newfound sense of mobility and freedom for families like mine.

The year 1837 marked the beginning of a new era in British history, as Queen Victoria ascended to the throne at just 18 years old. Her reign would span six decades, and the Victorian Era would become synonymous with prosperity, progress, and unprecedented change. This era would later come to define my life as a tailor, as it was during her reign that the art of tailoring truly began to flourish.

By 1840, the world’s first postage stamp, the Penny Black, had been introduced, revolutionising the way people communicated. Families could now stay in touch even when they were far apart, thanks to the ease of sending letters.

The introduction of uniform penny postage resulted in increased trade and prosperity, with more people sending letters, postcards, and Christmas cards than ever before.

For my family, this innovation would soon become a lifeline as our lives began to diverge and branch out in different directions. Letter writing was an important skill for my parents and would become an important part of my life later on.

As I grew up, I developed a fascination with the world of tailoring. My father, Adrian Newth, was a skilled tailor who taught me the importance of precision, attention to detail, and the significance of every cut. As I watched him work, I learned that just as the tailor shapes the fabric, the events of the world around us shape our lives. The theme of ‘the tailor’s cut’ would come to define not just my profession but also the way I saw the world, as I came to understand that every decision we make and every path we take leaves its mark on the fabric of our lives.

This chapter of my life laid the foundation for the journey that awaited me. The world around me was changing, and I was eager to embrace it. Little did I know that the years to come would bring love, children, and a lifetime of memories, stitched together by the thread of history.

As you read the pages of my autobiography, I invite you to step into my world, experience the events that shaped my life, and witness firsthand how the tailor’s cut defined the course of my existence. Together, we will explore the rich tapestry of my life as we delve into the past and unravel the stories that have brought us to the present.

You can also read the story of John Adrian’s father Adrian Newth here.
The Threads that Bind: Newth Legacy.

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