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  • Belfast Between The Wars


Belfast News-Letter, Friday 25th August 1933

The splendid new premises of Messrs. Montague Burton, Ltd., in Ann Street, Belfast, introduce a modern note in one of the city’s oldest streets – a street that has seen big events in the history of Belfast and has been the home of people who in far-off days helped to lay the foundations of the prosperity of the northern capital. Every Belfastman knows of Ann Street; Belfastmen the world over remember it; and the building of Messrs. Burtons’ impressive new premises has been watched with the greatest interest.

Ann Street once had its pleasant gardens, and later this district had the distinction of possessing Belfast’s first Brown Linen Hall. It also had a military barracks, in which Henry Joy McCracken was confined in 1798, and from which he was taken to be hanged in front of the Market House in High Street – the site of which is now occupied by Messrs. Burtons’ central premises.

Of happier memory are Ann Street’s theatrical associations. In the 18th century it was the home of the drama in Belfast, and the Empire Theatre maintains tradition. Messrs. Montague Burtons’ building is at the corner of Telfair Street, a bit of old Belfast, which runs from Ann Street past the stage door of this theatre.

For many years Ann Street has been one of the chief shopping centres of the city. Crowds throng its pavements every day, and on Saturday evenings its shop windows cast their glow on the faces of thousands to whom shopping in Ann Street has become an instinctive habit. It is pleasing to Belfast people to see the old street keep abreast of the times, and Messrs. Burton are to be congratulated on the completion of another big shop, which, like others in Belfast and elsewhere, reflects the progressive policy and the public spirit of the firm.


Messrs. Burton's new premises are a notable contribution to the commercial architecture of Belfast. The shop is a magnificent structure, noble in conception, graceful in design, and occupies a prominent position in the centre of the city. Impressive in appearance, and commanding the admiration of the general public, this example of good architecture and sound construction will form an enduring monument to the vision and enterprise of Montague Burton, whose ever-increasing chain of tailoring establishments throughout Great Britain and Ireland represents one of the most interesting romances of the trade.

The new building of three lofty stories with stately columns rising to the top, crowned with massive pediments, suggests solidarity of construction and beauty of line. There is also a dignity in its form, and it makes a welcome addition to the fine business premises of the city. The building is worthy of inspection, and during the course of its erection it has aroused much interest.

Much of the ornamentation is centred in the window openings, and along the top window-panes runs the “Chain of Merit,” the links of which bear the names of the numerous towns where Montague Burton’s tailoring shops are to be found. As is usual in these establishments, the name of the firm appears above the windows on a beautiful emerald pearl granite facia, which is very effective.


The new premises, which are built of terra cotta, are fireproof throughout, the floors being of reinforced concrete, covered with wood-block flooring, and all the stories are accessible by wide main staircases. Large skylights are provided in the roof, which is also of reinforced concrete, and asphalted on top. The remarkable change in the style of the shop fronts, from the mode of a generation ago, is fully demonstrated in these new premises, in which the modern type has been adopted. Here there is an extensive and uninterrupted expanse of glass for window display, affording the greatest opportunity to exhibit suitings, model suits, and raincoats, and these may be viewed from any angle without obstruction, as would be the case with less modern forms of construction and design.

To the charm and dignity of extensive frontages, attractive by day and suffused with brilliance when lighted at night, is added the charm of an inviting interior, spacious in extent, elegantly appointed, and completely equipped.


In the showroom, the customer may make his choice of more than 500 patterns from cloths in the piece. He can examine the texture, and in the clear light see exactly what they are, and, notwithstanding the comfort of his surroundings and the excellence of the material, he will be astonished at the low prices which are asked.

It is interesting to note that every yard of cloth and trimmings used in the making of Montague Burton’s garments is manufactured in Great Britain.

In the measuring room, amidst comfortable surroundings, the necessary particulars are taken with the utmost care. In this part of the tailoring art, Montague Burton are particularly painstaking, for figures vary to an extent undreamt of by anyone not conversant with the business. The policy of the firm is to give a perfect individual fit to every customer. This strict attention to style, combined with high quality of materials and low economic prices, has gained the first an enviable reputation throughout the British Isles. The fitting room, equally important, also has a high standard of comfort and elegance.

Belfast welcomes business enterprise, and that the shopping public appreciate these new premises is already evident. The attractive window displays make a strong appeal to passers-by.

Efficient service and well-appointed establishments help to retain business, and it is hoped that the Montague Burton example will be emulated by enterprising tradesmen and thus add to the civic pride of the people. It is an accepted maxim that attractive establishments not only help to retain local trade, but also attract trade from the surrounding districts, and in these days, with a perfect network of ‘bus services covering the whole area for miles around, Belfast businessmen are provided with new opportunities.


The story of the development of the firm is an interesting one. Founded in the Sheffield district thirty-three years ago, one small tailor’s shop has grown into the largest chain of retail tailoring establishments ever known. The firm possesses the world’s largest tailoring workshops, and has 10,000 operatives on its pay-roll. It is by far the largest merchant tailoring organisation in the world, employing indirectly 100,000 workers in the making of cloth, trimmings, &c. Every customer who enters any of the Messrs. Montague Burton’s shops had the advantage of this wonderful organisation, and the great saving administration and purchase of the materials that it brings about.

These shops offer one of the most efficient tailoring services in the country, conducted under ideal conditions. It can be easily understood that the gigantic scale of this firm’s operations places them in a strong position for the economic purchase of materials used in the making of men’s clothes. All classes of the community find eminent satisfaction in the Montague-Burton tailoring service. The firm is justly proud of possessing over 10,000 testimonials.


Eminent social reformers and statesmen have quoted the firm as model employers and leaders in welfare work amongst the workers. To quote a few examples:-

The Hon. G. W. Forbes, Prime Minsiter of New Zealand:

“I wish to say how much we have enjoyed our visit to your factory. It has been an ‘eye-opener’ to us to see such a large factory and also to feel the very friendly sprit prevailing. To see the happy and smiling faces makes one realise what a fine spirit of co-operation exists.”

The Right Hon. J. R. Clynes said:

“Employers like Montague Burton are implanting a new spirit in industry. We are indebted to that type which could step out of the common rut, strike a human note, and win the goodwill of the people in their employ.”

Lord Justice Slesser:

“The firm of Montague Burton had for many years recognised the necessity for goodwill and co-operation between capital and labour. There was no firm in the clothing industry which was more respected by the workplace than Messrs. Montague Burton, Ltd. While we talk about a conference in industry, Messrs. Montague Burton have done the job.”

Sir Robert Wilson, D.L., LL.D., J.P., said:

“What about the working man? Montague Burton had not thought to supply clothes for the few – but clothes for the many. The men who matter are the great democratic body of working men. Wise economy is not hoarding, but wise spending – spending in the best market for the best value, such as Montague Burton gives.”

In the words of a distinguished journalist:

“To be classified among the best employers, to provide work for nearly 100,000 people, to pa the highest rate of wages in the trade, to have enabled man to dress well at a modest figure, and to be among the pioneers and leaders in welfare work is a worthy achievement for a firm only just celebrating its thirty-third birthday.”


For the construction of their premises, Messrs. Burton employed firms who are foremost in their trades in the United Kingdom. The general contractors were Messrs. H. & J. Martin, Ltd., of Belfast.

The terra cotta for the beautiful front elevation was supplied by the Hathern Station Brick and Terra Cotta Co., of Loughborough, who deal in material of the highest quality.

Messrs. James Gibbons, Ltd., of Birmingham, supplied the metal windows and cast iron panels, which are features of the design.

All the sanitary fittings were supplied by the Leeds Fireclay Co., of Leeds, whose reputation in this trade stands very high.

Messrs. Macdougall & Son, of Renfrew Street, Glasgow, the flooring specialists, were responsible for the oak floors laid in the building.

The contractors for the illuminating signs were Franco Signs, of 25, Oxford Street, London, who supply the famous Neon electric reflex signs.

The electrical installation contact was secured by Mr. George McCartney, 30, Church Street, Belfast, who has provided a high class, satisfactory job.


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