Louise Claire Millinery opened its doors on the 30th of October 2004, having purchased a local hat hire business, the then owner was retiring. It was moved to 36 St Marys Street where it remains to this day. We offer both a bespoke and hire service, an average stock of 1000 hire hats and fascinators are carried at any one time.
Louise having finished school went to study fashion at the University of the Arts in Oxford Street, in London, previously known as the London College of Fashion. She originally started in business by designing and making one off, made to measure garments for various clients, from wedding dresses, evening wear to business and leisure wear.
Louise had always made her own outfits for Ascot and Henley and therefore always required unique hats, often difficult to find, and it was at this point that she became interested in millinery. Further training and exams to acquire the new skills required were completed. To date she has added 10 separate millinery qualifications to her portfolio, she has attended many courses in order to keep pace with latest techniques. Also enjoying one to one sessions with renowned milliner Dillon Wallwork
During the time that she was making garments for clients there was a small established hire shop run from a private house in Wallingford. Louise found she was sending an increasing numbers of clients to that business to find a suitable match for the outfits that she had made. At that time Occasions as it was then known, had a limited supply of some 250 hats.
Therefore when the business came up for sale, due to the owner wishing to retire it made sense to purchase it. The owner at that time was thrilled to think that the business would continue. The business was purchased and moved into its current location in St Mary’s Street, and Louise Claire Millinery was opened on the 30th of October 2004 and has been there ever since. It was after opening Louise Claire Millinery that Louise took the decision to discontinue the making of garments and pursue her new found passion for the world of millinery.
Louise Claire Millinery both hire and sell hats, the busiest time being Royal Ascot followed by Henley Royal Regatta. The rest of the year we supply hats to many other events, Investitures at Buckingham Palace, other race meetings and of course weddings, which are no longer seasonal being all year round. Louise Claire Millinery now have customers from all over the world flying into the UK for various events, these are from Dubai, Hong Kong, Chicago, New York, Germany and Australia to name a few. More recently the various embassy’s in London for both bespoke and Hire.
"Fish Street Foundry"
36 St Mary's Street and Mill Lane
Circa 1831 saw the opening of the first of Wilder's foundries in Wallingford. The building used to belong to the Corporation of Wallingford, and William Hilliard leased it from them, and then let it to Leonard Wilder. His son Richard Wilder later bought the property and then the area behind. The Maharajah's Well elephant and the roof trusses of the Corn Exchange were cast here. The foundry shop is now Louise Claire Millinery, while the forge is now a private house. The shop has a Weather Vane on the roof, and a street sign still bearing the Fish Street address.
Louise Claire Millinery
Louise Claire Millinery now occupies the original Wilder Shop and office premises, The original safe remains in the workroom, Nee Wilder(Dec), who used to get her hats from us, remarked one day that she would sit on her Grandfathers knee in his office counting the men’s wages, and she still had a key to the safe! Amazing.
We also have days when hats pop off stands and any strange occurrences are referred to as Harvey our friendly resident mischief maker.
Wallingford - our special town
Wallingford is a Market Town steeped in immense history dating back to Saxon Times and beyond, a very important river crossing for many years. Agatha Christie and her husband lived in Wallingford from 1934 until her death in 1936, many episodes of Midsummer Murders have been filmed in and around Wallingford.
Wallingford has a small but informative museum and we have chosen to give some information about our once grand Castle.
Wallingford Castle was built between 1067 and 1071 by Robert D'Oilly on orders from William the Conqueror. It was strengthened by Brien FitzCount before the wars between King Stephen and Empress Matilda. FitzCount established a prison within the castle, called Cloere Brien. Ealdred of Abingdon, Edward I, Maurice de Berkeley, 2nd Baron Berkeley, Waleran de Beaumont, 1st Earl of Worcester, Owen Tudor, Margaret of Anjou and Judge David Jenkins were all imprisoned here. It was described as "most securely fortified by impregnable walls". King John added further to the castle, and Richard of Cornwall spent substantial sums on it: during the 13th century it gained two further walls and ditches. It fell into decline in the 16th century, but in the 17th century, it was strengthened again for supporters of Charles I during the war with Oliver Cromwell. It was the last English stronghold to surrender during the civil war, and Cromwell later ordered it to be destroyed (in 1652). The site was a meeting-place for non-conformists such as Edward Stennett later in that century. A gothic house, built on the site in Victorian times was demolished in 1972. The grounds are now open to the public and worth a visit.