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Advertisement drawing of a Spirella corsetier delivering and adjusting in a customer's home.

Spirella was a company which manufactured made-to-measure corsets. It was founded on a patent of dressbone,[1] for bustles (Spirella 1 and Spirella 2), but started corset manufacture in 1904.

Its most popular corset was the Model 305. Spirella products were not sold in shops. Instead, female staff called corsetiers were sent to customer's homes.

After an ill-fated attempt to market garments of "Stub-tex", a form of Gore-Tex being used under licence from W. L. Gore & Associates, the company was sold in 1985 to the rival Spencers of Banbury and finally closed in July 1989.

World War II

During the Second World War, the Spirella factory in Letchworth, built in the Arts and Crafts style, was consigned by the British government to produce machinery for Bletchley Park (at that time, the Varsity Line still existed: Bletchley railway station is on the West Coast Main Line, but there is no longer a cross-country link, thanks to the Beeching Axe: though many proposals have been made to reopen it).

This perhaps is a little ironic, since Letchworth Garden City, with Welwyn Garden City, was set up by Ebenezer Howard, a jesuit and teetotaler, as a model village, without the woes of the world.

The corset machines were converted to making Bombes, not a missile but a back-translation from Polish language, roughly "noisy" or "clatter". Alan Turing, with Polish colleagues, worked out the decipherment of the Enigma machine, but the Bombes actually didn't do that, they did the Naval Engma with four rotors, a much harder job to crack. During 1944, Bletchley would even send out what was called "Gardening": A risky task for the members of the British Royal Air Force, deliberately to drop or see enemy fighters in the places Bletchley knew where they would be, simply to intercept German signals.

Spirella in Letchworth also held the inauguration of the George Orwell Society: for a few years before World War II George Orwell lived in Wallington, Hertfordshire, about 3 miles (5 km) away.


A 180 degree panoramic view of Oxford Circus, looking south down Regent Street. Spirella House is the second building from the left fronting onto the circus.

At its height the company had factories in the USA (New Haven, Connecticut, Meadville, Pennsylvania), the UK (the Spirella Building in Letchworth) and Sweden (Malmö). Their flagship location was Spirella House on Oxford Circus, London.

The Spirella Building was created between 1912 and 1920. Kincaid[disambiguation needed] commissioned architect Cecil Hignett to design a state-of-the art factory of great beauty. The factory was completed in 1920, Kincaid had achieved his goal; The Spirella Building provided the perfect environment for his workers to be happy, contented and highly productive, and was worthy of being called "The Factory of Beauty". In 1979 it was Grade ll* listed.[2]


  1. Julie A. Lauffenberger, "Baleen in Museum Collections", Journal of the American Institute for Conservation (1993), Volume 32, Number 3 (pp. 213 to 230) [1]
  2. Historic England. "Details from image database (161840)". Images of England.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

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