1945 - 2020
Stuart Anthony Thorne, who passed away in September aged 75, was a master tailor and a Radlett man through and through. He was also a serious gardener, bee keeper, birdwatcher, music lover, photographer and collector of vintage Madeira wine, as well as an active member of the Chamber of Commerce in the 70’s and 80’s and the Radlett Rotary Club. He was also a devoted partner to Maureen and they would have celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary next year.
Stuart was very proud to be asked to have his portrait painted by John Walton (Royal Academy of Portrait Artists), another legendary Radlett man. John had been asked to submit a painting to be hung in the People’s Portrait Collection at Girton College Cambridge which depicts people from a wide range of professions, trades and skills. The portrait, which you can see below, will be there in perpetuity.
Stuart was born in Edgware and left school at 15 with the sole intention of becoming a tailor. He disliked school and even burnt his tie on the last day. The Careers Advice officer could offer no help on his chosen profession but Stuart said that was no problem as he had already secured himself an apprenticeship.
Tailoring very much ran in the family on his mother’s side going back 300 years to Malmo in Sweden. His uncle was in military tailoring and his mother a waistcoat maker.
In 1960 he began his apprenticeship with Cooling, Lawrence and Wells and after qualifiying, spent a further three years with coatmakers Hawes and Curtis. He then decided to set up shop on his own in Radlett and his parents helped him buy the property in Aldenham Road. His father was a carpenter and designed and built the superb bow front to the shop which survives to this day. Traditional and distinctive - very Stuart.
He advertised in the Herts Advertiser and got ten initial customers, some of whom remained with him for life. He retained his connection with Saville Row and travelled there for fittings, often on a weekly basis. He continued working well into 2019 and could still sit up on his workbench, creating a masterpiece almost without looking, whilst conducting a conversation about something completely different.
His clientele was diverse but one or two were very special such as the man who flew him to his yacht in Marbella to deliver his suits and another customer from Paris who avoided Saville Row and came straight to Radlett on recommendation. His clients also included many surgeons and the newsreader Richard Baker.
He and Maureen met on a blind date and soon discovered they had much in common, not least of which were collections of bonsai trees which were merged when they were married in Christ Church, Radlett in 1971.
This was also the year when they took their first allotment, a hobby that they both loved, and they also joined the Radlett Horticultural Society. Stuart was a perfectionist in everything he did and the allotment was no excepton. He would always say that he was just the labourer but aside from keeping their three plots immaculate he also helped Maureen stage numerous National dahlia shows as well as growing some superb sweet peas and producing exceptional honey from their apiary.
Stuart also became very involved with Radlett life and became vice chairman of the Chamber of Commerce as well as a member of Probus. He was also a founder member of the Rotary Club and used his skills to help make the rotary wheel which is still in use today.
Fundraising was also a bit of a theme. He agreed to do a 10km run with Stuart Nagler and although he suceeded he said ‘never again’. Much more to his liking was a sponsored knit where he was so good that he cost some of his sponsors a fortune.
Stuart could be outspoken and stood up fiercely for what he believed in. He was equally fair, good company, humorous and generous, particularly towards Maureen.
He and Maureen very much enjoyed the finer things of life and loved dining at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons. They holidayed regularly in Madeira and Yorkshire as well as enjoying trips to Canada, Trinidad and Tobago and flying on Concorde to Antigua and St Lucia.
Stuart will be much missed in Radlett and it would be no exaggeration to say that he was an institution in himself. He was also the longest serving sole trader in the village. They really don’t make them like him anymore - rest in peace.