The collection showcases the pivotal role played by Ashbourne firms in the development of corsetry over 150 years.

Corsets collection sells for £4,600 at Lichfield auction

A COLLECTION of corsets celebrating Ashbourne’s role as a world leader in lingerie has sold at auction in Lichfield for £4,600.

Dating back to the 19th century, the collection covers 150 years of ladies’ foundation wear from Victorian times to 21st century boudoir lingerie.

It also includes military underwear made for the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) in the Second World War and civilian underwear with the WW2 Utility label.

An important record of changing fashions, body shapes and the evolution of foundation wear, the archive is also a celebration of Richard Cooper & Co of Ashbourne and Uttoxeter, founded in 1855, and Chil-Tex Ltd, the latter founded in Ashbourne in 1971 by former Coopers executive Jim French.

Chil-Tex grew to eventually incorporate Coopers, the company which drew the late Mr French from London to Ashbourne in the first place, and the firm manufactured not only its own range but also made underwear for Agent Provocateur, Vivienne Westwood, Ann Summers, Victoria’s Secret, Oasis and New Look.

The archive covers more than a century of corsets including these examples from the early 1900s. Right: A Court Royal bridal corset by Chil-Tex.
The archive covers more than a century of corsets including these examples from the early 1900s. Right: A Court Royal bridal corset by Chil-Tex.

Much of the archive was rescued from an uncertain fate by Mr French when the company closed in 2004 and was held in storage for 18 years.

Mr French passed away in December 2020, 10 days shy of his 83rd birthday.

His legacy as well as Derbyshire’s proud history in textiles and clothing production was celebrated with the exhibition ‘The Stay Works: The Story Of Coopers and Chil-Tex Limited, 1855-2004’ at Ashbourne Town Hall between September and December last year.

Following the exhibition, Jim’s wife Sue decided it was time to pass on the collection to the next custodian.

The archive went under the hammer at The Lichfield  Auction Centre, Wood End Lane, Fradley Park, on Monday, June 26.

‘We were one big team and I still feel that we are.’ Jim and Sue French.
Jim and Sue French.

After the sale, Sue said: “Wow, wow, wow – what a wonderful result! I’m absolutely speechless.

“Jim would be over the moon. I’m so proud of him and all he achieved. He didn’t have an easy life but he was fortunate enough to be from a family with a very positive mindset and he taught me to be positive-minded.

“The auction has been a fantastic tribute to Jim’s hard work and everything he did in the area. As I always say, never give up.”

Watch a video of the sale here

Director Richard Winterton said: “Presenting this special collection for auction as one complete lot attracted a huge amount of pre-sale interest.

“On the day we had bidders online and over the telephone, with the collection finally selling to an online bidder for £4,600.

“It is a superb result and I am delighted for our vendor.”

Rare examples of military underwear made for the ATS in WW2 bearing the broad arrow mark and Utility civilian underwear, with a 1942 price list.
Rare examples of military underwear made for the ATS in WW2 bearing the broad arrow mark and Utility civilian underwear, with a 1942 price list.

Richard Winterton Auctioneers offers free valuations of all types of antiques and collectables at the Fradley Park saleroom.

There are also other pop-up valuation sessions across the area including at Burntwood Library from 2-4.30pm on the last Tuesday in the month and at Burton Market Hall on Wednesdays from 10am-1pm (jewellery on Mondays 10am-1pm; next on July 3).

To book valuations or to discuss house clearances and large collections, telephone 01543 251081 or email office@richardwinterton.co.uk.

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