In my post about our kitchen renovation, I mentioned that we’d found something interesting under the floorboards. It was this booklet, a “Boys’ Outfitters” catalogue for James Middlemass & Co.
It’s not entirely clear, but we reckon this catalogue might date from the 1880s. Since our tenement building was built in the 1880s, it was probably either left there accidentally during construction, or dropped through a crack in the floorboards by an early resident.
It looks like some of the outfits in this catalogue may have been coloured in by a young child before being lost.
There are not many references online to James Middlemass & Co. While this booklet indicates the company was established in 1847, most references to them seem to be from around the 1880s, suggesting this was a particularly successful period for the business.
The rear cover of the catalogue shows an illustration of their shop, which appears to have occupied three separate buildings, with the main entrance at 18 South Bridge. That particular door is now the entrance to a homelessness charity.
But the buildings once occupied by James Middlemass & Co Clothing & Outfitting Establishment is now also home to a noodle restaurant, a Greggs, and the Church of Scientology! (See it on Google Street View.) The building on the left looks like it has at some point been demolished to be replaced by the current building, which today is occupied on the ground floor by a takeaway.
In the catalogue, the firm’s telephone number is listed as 860. This must have been one of the first phone numbers in Edinburgh.
Most of the online references I have found indicate that James Middlemass & Co was a specialist in outfits like academic robes and pulpit costumes (see below). However, this catalogue show they also made a wider variety of slightly more regular clothing for boys and young men, including “unshrinkable underwear”.
From “Summer Blouses” for 2½- to 6-year-olds…
…to the increasingly fashionable Dinner Jacket Suits…
…which were more up-to-date than the “Eton” Suit…
…to “Rugby” Suits in various sizes and qualities…
…to “Full Dress Highland Costume”…
…to “Saluber” Underwear (all pure wool) — guaranteed absolutely unshrinkable at very moderate prices.
What we found out about James Middlemass & Co online
James Middlemass & Co appear to have published a few editions of a Guide Book to Edinburgh and Its Environs, mostly in the 1880s.
They also made some academic gowns, again mostly around the 1880s:
- Professor Sir Alexander Ogston’s MD gown, “about 1866” — Wellcome Collection
- Gown from Sir HF Waterhouse’s MD or MB robes, made 1887–1889 — Science Museum Group Collection
- Vice Chancellor’s gown, “after 1890” — University of St Andrews Museum Collections
When the India Buildings on Victoria Street were excavated by archaeologists two years ago, they found some dressmaking paraphernalia including some tokens advertising “Middlemass” on South Bridge. The archaeologists speculate that the buildings may have housed workshops for the firm.
The only other reference some moderate-intensity Googling has brought up is this advert placed in the Post-Office Edinburgh & Leith Directory 1873–74.