Uncle George was the only boy out of six children and when his father died, he became the man out of the house, supporting and taking care of all of his sisters and their families who all lived within one mile of Uncle George.
To Russell, Uncle George was like a second father. He spent a lot of time with him growing up, going on holidays to Wales together and learning about car maintenance and DIY.
One of Russell’s strongest memories of Uncle George is a top hat. The top hat in question is a family heirloom which has been passed down for generations and came out once a year on New Year’s Eve for first footings.
Starting at his grandmother’s house, Uncle George would wear the top hat and lead a procession from one sister’s house to the next to bring in the new year together as a family.
Sadly, Uncle George passed away in 2004 and it wasn’t until 2018 that the family found the top hat again. However, it was rather old and battered after being hidden away in the back of a wardrobe for many years.
To honour his uncle, Russell decided to have the hat restored knowing it would be a lovely way for him and his family to celebrate their memories of Uncle George. This is when Russell found Sue Wood Millinery.
Sue was able to clean the hat, reinforce the inside and even save some of the original lining which was perishing by securing it to a new silk lining to prevent any further deterioration. She also salvaged the original maker’s crest which has been protected by clear film so that it can still be viewed.
When removing the lining, Sue actually found the corner of envelope with a signature on which she believes belongs to the maker of the hat because it was common practice for makers to leave their mark on garments. The mystery as to who made the hat is yet to be solved but Russell’s family are looking into it!
A second hat was also restored; a classic suede trilby hat which Russell said his uncle wore every day of his life.
Seeing the hats for the first time was an emotional experience. Russell said, “I thought Sue had done an absolutely fantastic job and I couldn’t believe what she’d been able to do in terms of bringing them back to life. It was also quite emotional, bringing back all the memories of New Years Eve’s and my uncle.”
Russell now has his uncle’s hat on display and plan to pass it on to his daughter in the future.
“It’s going to be in our family for quite a few years” he said.