Sir Nicholas White and his son Mr Christopher White, direct descendents of the wearer, sold this suit. Mr Christopher White told me We are not able to identify the suit’s exact owner. However, I would strongly suspect that the owner was indeed our great grandfather, Sir Thomas Woolaston White,1st Baronet of Tuxford and Wallingwells, Nottinghamshire (1767-1817). The only other possible owner would have been his father Taylor White (1743-1795). Given the rest of the collection of uniforms and clothing they own, dating from Sir Thomas’s time and of his descendants, and not earlier, it is most likely that the suit was worn by him (the 1st Baronet).
Mr Christopher White continued: As for Sir Thomas’s size, we do not know for sure his exact proportions, but the majority of the uniforms in the collection were of a very small size when compared to men of the twentieth first century. I think he will have been about 5 feet 9 or 10 inches tall – possibly a little more, and of average (modern) build. One of the only coats / jackets which would fit me with any comfort was the scarlet jacket with black and silver facings (also sold at the same auction), which is depicted in the half-length portrait of Sir Thomas. My chest size for jackets is 38 inches. I think that uniform jacket was probably around 37 inches around the chest. I never tried on the coat of your suit though. If the approximate sizing seems appropriate, it would probably indicate that the suit was indeed Sir Thomas’s. The coat fits a 38 in chested man of around 5ft 10in.
The 1st Baron, Sir Thomas had an early military career but returned to look after the family estates. When there were fears of an invasion from Napoleon he created his own militia based on his estate. George III thanked him with a baroncy.The militia became fully fledged corps of which he was colonel hence the portrait.
Mr Christopher White continued: The portrait you mentioned will have been painted sometime after 1802, when the baronetcy was granted to Sir Thomas. The exact date is not known. However, in the two years after the grant of the baronetage, Sir Thomas was active in having his achievement of arms (coat of arms) and pedigree updated to recognise his title. It is therefore very possible that the portrait dates from the early to mid-1800s. The rank on the uniform would give a good indication of this – something I would have to try and look into. We know that he was promoted Captain in the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry Cavalry in November 1803.
The uniforms and other clothing were definitely kept at Wallingwells, the family seat, until its sale. They have always remained in the possession of the reigning baronet, so a definitive line of descent known.
The suit had been kept in a trunk for last 150 year. When suits were stored it was quite usual for the buttons to be covered in tissue. to avoid tarnishing. Broadcloth can be seen by its raw cut edges, Stroud and Worcester were known for broadcloth production.
Black wool broadcloth three piece suit
The coat with a standing collar 3 in; 8 cm, the front cut edges curving from neck to hem with eight cut steel shiny buttons, hand sewn buttonholes, the last false, narrow skirts, large deep pocket flaps above three further buttons, the shaped sleeves narrowing to a cuff with a further three buttons, the back two pleats with buttons flanking a central slit, lined with cream twill weave silk, apart from the unlined back, the pockets of cotton, the flaps of silk.
38 in; 97 chest. This fits a current day man with a 38 in chest.
The waistcoat fronts and back of black woollen broadcloth, standing neck with cut fronts gently curving, thirteen smaller cut steel buttons, buttonholes all open, large flap pockets with three buttons below the pocket openings, the back with shot slit below two sets of twill weave black ties, the neck and front facings lined in cream twill weave silk, the rest in cotton.
The breeches' legs and 2 waistbands are made of black woollen broadcloth, the backs cut higher than the fronts and eased into the waistbands. They have a fall front, a pocket in the right waistband and a pocket on each front with a button flap. The pockets and waistbands are lined with bleached cotton, the fall front with ivory silk twill. The back waistband has a gusset made from a worsted twill wool, with two crudely worked embroidered buttonholes either side, two twill weave tape ties and two self covered buttons, gentle gathering to back flanks, roomy bottom area. There are 3 cut steel buttons, of a different pattern than the coat and waistcoat, on each outside leg seam, with buckle bands at the hem. There are 5 buttons (replacements) on the right front of the breeches with corresponding buttonholes on the left side. The pocket flap and fall front buttons are replacements.
Waist 40 in; 1.02 m. Inside leg 22 in; 56 cm. Side waist to hem 35 in; 90 cm.
Coat - One small hole top left shoulder as you look at coat. Very small hole to top back left hand sleeve. Centre back is a hole 1/4 in; .5 c. All could be successfully disguised with small patches. Wonderful shiny buttons.
Waistcoat - Wonderful shiny buttons. One large tear to back left but the fabric is there so needs conserving.1 x1/2 in; 2.5 x 1 cm. A minute hole to right of right hand pocket, as you look at the waistcoat. There is some staining to the inside facingslining. and the cotton Ask for photos.
Breeches - The fronts are very good. The back has a 1 in; 3 cm slit to the top left hand area. the seat has a group of small moth holes and a very small slit.
Four of the smaller leg buttons are slightly tarnished. Feel sure a conservator could remove this.
Portrait is of Sir Thomas in later life.
V & A have a similar black suit T.120-2015
The Met have one in red. 1986.30.4a–d
All images and text © meg-andrews.com 2020