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Hull History: Madame Clapham’s 2nd April 1911 visit to 18 Langley Avenue, Surrey

May 11, 2020

The name ‘Madame Clapham’ is loaded with history. Hull’s famous couturier who made clothes for Norwegian Queen Maude married in Scarborough to the wonderfully named Haigh Clapham, he from Wakefield Yorkshire she from the other side of Britain, Cheltenham, Glos.

Initially living in Sculcoates part of Hull where her couture business boomed the 1911 census shows on the 2nd April they were for a brief period in Surrey before returning to the port that made her name.

Far away from Hull’s homeland join us as we uncover details about her visit. Although hundreds of miles away from The Avenues we think it’s very similar to Mira Mountain’s home.

Tickling our imagination and provoking lots of thoughts at the bottom of the page there are some questions.  A bit of fun for you to join in with, share your ideas on our Facebook page.

18 Langley Avenue in 1911

Now part of Greater London 18 Langley Avenue Surbiton was an extended rural roadway in a community of farms.

Unlike Hull an established city, expansion was in its infancy because of Surbiton Station and its connection to London and the South West. Between neighbouring streets labourers tilled and worked peppered with landowners’ houses, plots carved out in the vague lines of historic records, roads widely spaced.

Langley Avenue grew off Brighton Road branching out from the top of a short hill from where the Surrey Hills could be seen. Like Newland Park in Hull or in the outskirts of Ferriby houses were built big and the same was true of number 18.

Along the road trees gently waved in the breeze, houses far apart from each other wide enough for carriages and traps to pass. Theirs was on the corner of Langley and Woodlands Road, nearby a distinctive coach house. Set back from Langley Avenue gentle peals of St Matthew’s rang each Sunday, village streets below them so far away to be forgotten secluded and surrounded by trees.


A photo for the website houseofmirelle.uk
The corner of Langley Avenue and Woodlands Road, the roof of number 18 behind the trees.

2nd April 1911 – Census Night 

Sunday night when the teller came calling they filled out a form detailing who was there. Records show the first person was “Gentleman” Haigh Clapham, meaning a professional man with his own fortune, likely to be upper middle class.

They didn’t need to check or count knowing the building off by heart. The house had 15 rooms not including a scullery or any landings or cupboards, rooms uppermost in the roof looking out over the treetops a place where servants could live.

Alice Clapham, Haigh’s sister was also amongst the guests.  No profession listed at 60 years old it might have been her home, Haigh Clapham the man in a household of women first on the census list.


A photo for the website houseofmirelle.uk
The view from the front windows of 18 Langley Avenue the rest of the road disappearing into the distance, coach house nearby.

Madame Clapham in the 1911 census 

Emily Clapham did not include ‘couturier,’ ‘businesswoman’ or ‘dressmaker’ in the Census but it shows she was 3 years younger than her husband, 53 to his 56.

Tended by housemaids Evelyn Peters and Emily Arnold, cook Julia White aged 57 prepared meals. Single and in their 20s Emily’s home was local, Evelyn from Cambridgeshire. Cook White and how she came to be there a mystery, birthplace ‘not known.’

Madame Clapham’s working life 

There was room to live comfortably, commodious and expansive maybe containing a studio from where Emily Clapham worked. Twenty years earlier she was already considered to be Hull’s finest dressmaker, a reputation that lasted until outbreak of the First World War. That year she designed and made the robe and mantle of the 8th Viscount Chetwynd for the cornation of King George V.

Emily Clapham went to the capital regularly, the 2nd April could be a snapshot of a buying trip. Presented with opulent fabrics in the great marketplaces of central London it was useful for clients’ bookings because she travelled to meet them by train. Steam puffed from stoked chimneys all along the road servants making themselves invisible to home owners as they attended to their every need.


A photo for the website houseofmirelle.uk
The gentle curve of Newland Park similar to Langley Avenue. Mira Mountain’s house is similar in setting and size.

18 Langley Avenue – a grand design 

The present-day house has a grandeur typical of the street. Although a bungalow was added to it on Woodlands corner in the years following it is still in keeping with Madame Clapham’s years.

As large as the home owned by Mira Mountain in her days running Mirelle it was house of effortless status and class. We may never be certain of the reason for her visit but blink and you’d think it was the same as Mira’s large many-roomed house in Hull’s Newland Park.

a photo for the website houseofmirelle.uk
The 1911 census record teliing us where Madame Clapham and her husband stayed on Sunday April 2nd. Courtesy the National Archives, London.


Join in the discussion on our Facebook page


Why do you think Emily Clapham visited 18 Langley Avenue in April 1911…

Is it likely that Alice Clapham or her brother Haigh owned the house….

Did the Census teller forget to include Madame Clapham’s profession…. 

Does 18 Langley Avenue remind you of any part of Hull…..

Go ahead and post your ideas!

Want to know more about Madame Clapham’s designs


Watch a short video about here:

Read more about Madame Clapham in the book Madame Clapham Hull’s Celebrated Dressmaker by Jayne M. Tyler and Clare Parsons ( available at Hull Museums, bookstores and online marketplaces).

Inspired? search for more information about Emily Clapham on the internet, there are lots of interesting resources and sources there.

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