Montague Burton's

This is the original Burtons building. Burtons was a company founded by Montague Maurice Burton in Chesterfield in 1903 under the name of Cross Tailoring Company.

Montague Burton was born Meshe David Osinsky, in 1885 in Kurkel, Kovno province in Lithuanian Russia. His father died shortly after and his mother remarried and Meshe went to live with his uncle Solomon.

Meshe was one of many Russian Jewish immigrants who fled to Britain in 1900 to escape the Russian pogroms triggered by the assassination of Tsar Alexander II. He was very well educated but spoke only a few words of English; he arrived alone at the age of 15 years with £100 in his pocket.

In 1901 he was staying in Manchester, working as a peddler, selling accessories door-to-door, before setting up as a general outfitter in Chesterfield in 1904. He sold ready made suits sourced from a wholesaler, Zimmerman Bros, in Leeds, with a mark-up of 30%. Long hours spent at Burton on Trent railway station encouraged him to change Osinsky to Burton, adding the flourish of Morris or Maurice as his business expanded.

Maurice married Sophia Marks 1909 and became a British citizen. He moved to Sheffield and the couple eventually had four children. The business name was changed again to Burton and Burton, but Maurice did not change his name legally, however it appears as Montague Maurice Burton on the birth records of his twin sons.

By 1914 Burton had 14 stores throughout the midlands, catering largely to the middle class: they offered a large variety of menswear and soon grew to be the worlds largest made-to-measure tailoring company.

When the First World War broke out, Burton won a lucrative contract to supply uniforms. His profits, workforce and stores increased three-fold. Although he was an ambitious businessman, he was considered to be an outstanding employer. He provided good working conditions, meals and low-cost dentistry for his staff. Recognizing the eyestrain suffered by his tailors by close needlework, he contacted the services of an eye specialist.

After WW1, in 1918 Burton and Burton was changed into a limited company called ‘Montague Burton’ and the strap-line ‘The Tailor of Taste’ was added. By 1919 there were 36 shops on leasehold, but in 1923 Burton began to acquire freehold sites. Prominent, corner sites in town centres were preferred for the building of custom designed stores. Leeds based architect Harry Wilson was hired at this time, and developed the Burton House Style design. In 1931 Burton took over Wilson’s practice to create the in-house architecture department. Nathaniel Martin replaced Wilson as chief architect in 1937.

Researched by Bernadette Millar

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