Royal Army Clothing Department – Pimlico

The Royal Army Clothing Department (Grosvenor Road, Pimlico, London), c.1890s.

Facility Type & Function:

Royal Army Clothing Department –  The Royal Army Clothing Depot was a factory and warehouse providing uniforms and other items of clothing for the British Army and other uniformed branches of the British Civil Service. It was located in Grosvenor Road, Pimlico, London, England. Originally established in 1863 it remained in operation until 1932. For much of its history it was under the control of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps.

Brief History:

In 1855 the War Office took over responsibility for the provision of Army clothing which until then had been the responsibility of each individual regiment. This action was initiated after the public reporting of severe troop clothing shortages and quality issues related to British troops fighting in the Crimea War. A uniform storage depot was initially established within the Ordnance Depot at Weedon in Northamptonshire before being relocated to Pimlico in 1859. In 1856 a factory was built at Woolwich to manufacture uniforms for the Artillery and Engineer corps. and in 1863 a further factory was established in Pimlico (a 70-year lease having been purchased on a site in Grosvenor Road). By the end of the decade, the Woolwich factory had closed and its operations transferred to Pimlico. From 1870 the establishment at Pimlico combined with the Clothing Branch of the War Office and from 1887 became known as the Royal Army Clothing Department (R.A.C.D.). The premises themselves being commonly known as the Royal Army Clothing Factory or Depot. The factory produced a bewildering range of full uniforms for all branches of the British Empire’s armed forces as well as for certain police forces and other uniformed branches of the British civil service (e.g. post office workers etc.).

In 1884 one commentator noted that the factory was a model employer and a highly efficient establishment, being the largest and best of its type in the world.  At that time it employed a total workforce of approximately 2000 people of which 1700 were women and the balance being men and boys. A number of the male employees were servicemen in training to become regimental tailors. The workforce typically produces 11,000 garments per week and in some years (up to 1884) produced over 600,000 garments.

The factory consisted of two ranges of buildings connected by a bridge. Each range comprised three floors of 600 feet in length. These extended from Grosvenor Road, on the Thames Embankment, northwards to Chichester Street. Each range had a central entrance portico flanked by gates and porters’ lodges. One set of gates served the factory’s Raw Material and Product Stores Department while the other served its Inspection and Manufacturing Departments.  The front section of each building range housed management and clerks’ offices. The principal feature of the factory was it “Grand Work Hall”. This was 270 feet long, 40 feet wide and 70 feet tall and contained many of the establishments 188 steam-driven sewing and cloth cutting machines. The factory was powered by a 25 HP steam engine.

With its lease coming to an end, the factory at Pimlico closed in 1932, when a new system of clothing procurement for the Army were put into effect. Uniform storage provisions were moved from Pimlico to the Ordnance Depots at Didcot and Woolwich, and the following year, the Royal Army Clothing Department was abolished. Dolphin Square now stands on the site of the R.A.C.D. in Grosvenor Road.

The Gand Work Hall of the Royal Army Clothing Department (Grosvenor Road, Pimlico) during the Royal visit of King George V and Queen Mary on 21st June 1918.

Location Details:

Grosvenor Road Pimlico, London, Middlesex.

Associated Token, Check & Pass Issues:

Type I

(Image courtesy of Malcolm Johnson Collection)

Function:  Unknown (Note 1)

Material: Cupronickel

Design: Uniface

Shape & Size: Circular,   34.0 mm

Obverse: Raised legend around upper edge reads  ROYAL ARMY CLOTHING DEPOT with a cross ornament at the bottom. In centre field is a Queen’s Crown within a circular line border all within an outer raised edge border.

Reverse:  Blank

Date: 1870s to 1901 (Note 2)

Maker: Unknown

Published References:   None


Type  IIA 

Function:  Unknown (Note 1)

Material: Cupronickel

Design: Uniface with a milled edge

Shape & Size: Circular,   34.0 mm

Obverse: Raised legend around upper edge reads  ROYAL ARMY CLOTHING DEPARTMENT with a cross ornament at the bottom. In centre field is a Queen’s Crown within a circular line border all within an outer raised edge border.

Reverse:  Blank with the stamped incuse identification number 782 in centre field.

Date: 1870s to 1901 (Note 2)

Maker: Unknown

Published References: Yarwood, J. – Military Tokens of the British Commonwealth. Similar to token illustrated on Page 36 – MMT050A. Similar to  MMT50 but with slight differences in the design of the crown. Private Publication. 2019.


Type  IIB (Die Variation of Type IIA)

Function:  Unknown (Note 1)

Material: Cupronickel

Design: Uniface with a milled edge

Shape & Size: Circular,   34.2 mm

Obverse: Raised legend around upper edge reads  ROYAL ARMY CLOTHING DEPARTMENT with a cross ornament at the bottom. In centre field is a King’s Crown within a circular line border all within an outer raised edge border.

Reverse:  Blank with the stamped incuse identification number 327 in centre field.

Date: 1901 to 1932 (Note 2)

Maker: Unknown

Published References: Yarwood, J. – Military Tokens of the British Commonwealth. Similar to token illustrated on Page 151 – MMT050. Private Publication. 2011.


Type III 

Function:  Canteen/Refreshment Token (Note 3)

Material: Brass

Design: Bi-facial with a plain edge

Shape & Size: Circular,   35.8 mm

Obverse: Raised legend around upper and lower edge reads . TEA FUND .  plus ARMY CLOTHING FACTORY respectively. In centre field, within a circular line border,  1D, all within an outer beaded and raised edge border.

Reverse: A decorative wreath design comprising of a laurel (left) and an oak (right) spray all within an outer beaded and raised edge border.

Date: 1870s to 1932

Maker: Unknown

Published References:  Yarwood, J. – Military Tokens of the British Commonwealth. Page 150 – MMT049. Private Publication. 2011.


Type IV 

Function:  Canteen/Refreshment Token (Note 3)

Material: Brass

Design: Bi-facial with a plain edge

Shape & Size: Circular,   25.3 mm

Obverse: Raised legend around upper and lower edge reads  . TEA FUND .  plus ROYAL ARMY CLOTHING FACTORY respectively. In centre field, within a circular line border,  1/2 D, all within an outer beaded and raised edge border.

Reverse: Raised legend around upper and lower edge reads  . TEA FUND .  plus ROYAL ARMY CLOTHING FACTORY respectively. In centre field, within a circular line border,  1/2 D, all within an outer beaded and raised edge border.

Date: 1870s to 1932

Maker: Unknown

Published References:  Yarwood, J. – Military Tokens of the British Commonwealth. Page 150 – MMT048. Private Publication. 2011.

Type V 

Function:  Unknown (Note 1)

Material: BrassZinc based white metal alloy

Design: Uniface with a plain edge

Shape & Size: Circular,   34.2 mm

Obverse: Raised legend around outer edge reads ARMY CLOTHING FACTORY PIMLICO . In centre field, within a circular raised line border,  a representation of the British Royal Coat of Arms with a motto on a scroll below.

Reverse:  Incuse stamped legend across the centre of field reads No 52.

Date: 1870s to 1890s

Maker: Unknown

Published References:  Unpublished


Notes:

  1. This is possibly a factory time recording and/or pay collection identification check. An account of a visitor to the R.A.C.D. in 1884 records the factory’s used a system of personal employee identification checks or “tickets” for the distribution wages.

2. The use of either the Queen’s or King’s Crown on these checks may well be very deliberate. Given that Queen Victoria died on 22nd January 1901 and was thereafter succeeded by King Edward VII and then George V the selected use of the monarch’s crown type potentially allows this series of checks or tickets to be set into a pre and post 1901 chronological order. The top of the King’s (or Imperial) Crown comprises a single rounded dome shape whereas the top of the Queen’s (or Royal) Crown is uniquely curved without the latter dome structure.

3.  Thanks to an account made by a visitor to the R.A.C.D in 1884 several details are known about the early years of the factory’s “Tea Fund”. These are reproduced below. It is likely that over time the use of the “numbered tickets” (as described in the account below) were replaced by the use of un-numbered tokens bearing the total monetary value of the refreshments pre-ordered by each worker. As in the original scheme (described below), it is likely that each worker’s daily refreshment order was submitted and paid for in advance and once an order had been submitted the worker in question would be given tokens to the value of their order. These could then be exchanged in the factory’s canteen. This system would limit the handling of money by the factory’s canteen staff and was obviously seen to be a safe and reliable method of operation. The collected canteen tokens would then be returned for re-use.


 

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