HOW can we improve on the Coathanger of the Week slot? What about Hat Brush of the Month?

Colin Bainbridge, of Darlington, sends in the first entry into this category with a splendid Masterman’s of Stone Bridge hat brush, which appears to have wild boar bristles.

It must have been produced in the early decades of the last century when Thomas Masterman had a second hat shop in the shadow of St Cuthbert’s Church.

A second Masterman, Arthur, opened up a milliner’s shop in Skinnergate in the early 1930s. We presume that Arthur was Thomas’ son, but there was almost a decade when the two shops were running in competition with one another. Yes, it appears as if the two hat-makers went head-to-head.

“I acquired the brush a few years ago,” says Colin, “but, sadly I have not needed to brush a hat while I have had it.” Such are the disappointments of modern life.

IF you have any locally-inscribed wardrobe-related items, we’d love to hear from you. Please email

HATTERS generally dealt in men’s hats, whereas milliners sold women’s hats - the best of which were designed in Milan, hence “milliner”.

And yes, as Lewis Carroll knew, hatters really did go mad. Mercury was used to soften the animal pelts that were the raw material for a hat, and a lifetime inhaling the dust could affect a hatter’s brain.