Countryside Alliance Magazine kindly asked me to write about VTR, and the passion guiding what we do, and this article has just appeared in Countryside Alliance's Winter magazine
Mia Woodford has come from an urban background to starting a business based around vintage hunting garb
"Unlike many of my customers, I was not born into a hunting family, but grew up in central London in the 1960s, keeping my New Forest pony, Golly, at Lilo Blum's Stables, tucked behind Hyde Park Corner. My sister and I were always immaculately dressed for riding by my mother. Sadly, the huge cost of riding in London put an end to my idyll when I was 12.
At last, in 1988, I achieved my dream of moving to the country and took up riding again. Happily ensconced in a new home with a few acres, I received a call from the local hunt. I knew nothing about hunting - other than a vague notion that maybe it wasn't terribly nice - and the phone call, from the lady of the manor, did little to enlighten me, with her confusing and repeated mentions of Charlie. Once we had established that she was not, in fact, offering me Class 'A' drugs, I agreed to let the hunt draw the covert at the edge of our fields, and went to watch my first ever hunt. I will never forget seeing huntsmen and their hounds, framed by tall hedgerows, coming down the lane towards me - I was spellbound, hooked!
So, hunting it had to be - and the clothes would have to be as good as those I wore 40 years ago. I started to collect for my own use, and enjoyment, beautiful vintage hunting clothes. Then, 3 years ago, I decided to turn my, by now somewhat obsessive, hobby into a business; bought the stock & customer base of a small going concern called Field & Country Antiques, and started The Vintage Tack Room.
'Vintage' is a word much bandied about; vintage is not just 'old'. Vintage has provenance and can be clearly attributed to a tailor, an era, often even a life story of a hunter of huntress of yore. We also sell 'secondhand', but these are simply items previously used; they don't have provenance, they are 'ordinary' brands. Useful and good value, but minus the magic.
We do also sell some (very carefully chosen) new items. One of the beauties - but also difficulties - of vintage, is that everything was usually made bespoke to an individual, and to fit into their coat, you have to match your measurements. Sometimes, it just doesn't work, and you need something right away. We create our own new items too, which we hope will become vintage in the future.
We've gathered skilled artisans - tailors, leather workers, whip makers and silk restorers - who can tweak hunt coats and breeches to fit you properly; restore your top hat to its former glory - or rewhip your beloved hunt whip (never 'crop' - they grow in fields). So you can look immaculate in your clothes that carry many silent stories of hunting fields before you.
Finding out the provenance of each item is the best part of my job, as there are so many wonderful tales.
Capt Jonny Lea has an amazing collection of vintage clothes, part of which he kindly allowed me to sell on the strict proviso that they were not sold to be stuck in a glass case. Last year we put up for sale a red hunt coat made in 1914 by Sandon of Savile Row, for Capt FA Bates MC of the Denbigh Yeomanry & Royal Flying Corps. Following our post on Facebook, Captain Bates's great granddaughter contacted us. She was thrilled to hear of the survival of the coat, which the Captain would have worn when hunting with his home hounds, the Flint & Denbigh, as well as other packs around the UK. The coat was bought from us by an MFH of a hunt local to Vintage Tack Room, here in Sussex, and 101 years later, is now again enjoying active service.
Every vintage coat, whip, hat, pair of boots or breeches, carries so many stories. Every hunting day is a unique performance, never to be repeated. At Vintage Tack Room, we are very proud to provide the irreplacable costumes for this wonderful drama.