Acquired from Belinda Cadbury
This top hat belonged to the Cadbury family, whose company at Bourneville in Birmingham became one of the largest producers of chocolate in the world.
Top hats originated from the tall-crowned hats worn informally in late 18th Century England. English rural and ‘undress’ styles were highly influential on the fashionable world centred in Paris, where this hat was made. Entering mainstream wear, top hats were seen on the heads of most classes of men (see George Scharf’s drawing of a stagecoach in Piccadilly), but became increasingly formal until by the late 20th Century their use was limited to smart daytime occasions such as weddings and the Royal Ascot summer race meetings.
The hat has a narrow band of black self-patterned cotton braid. The sides are lined with paper and a deep panel of brown cotton twill, the top with fabric woven with simple bands of pattern and printed with a coat of arms that seems likely to represent the location of its manufacturer (See Additional Images). The mural crown signifies the city, and the triple fleur de lys the Île-de-France, the region in which Paris is situated.