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Hat’s off to straw boaters made in Luton

Thomas Burley's factory in Bute Street 1911

Thomas Burley's factory in Bute Street 1911

It’s not known exactly when or why the hat industry developed in Bedfordshire, but its closeness to London and the availability of plenty of good quality wheat-straw must have been key factors.

What is certain is that straw-plaiting and the making of straw hats and bonnets was well established in the county by the end of the 17th century.

A petition presented to Parliament in 1689 against a bill which would require people to wear woollen headwear claimed that more than 14,000 people living in and around Luton and Dunstable earned their living from the making of straw hats.

And straw boaters are still produced today at K. R. Snoxell & Sons in Clarendon Road, Luton.

 

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