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Social networking with a pre-digital-age banner

George Tutill bannerHere’s proof that social and business networking was thriving, way before the advent of computers and the Internet. Complex banners were a way of bringing companies together to advertise their wares, and we’ve just found some rare examples dating back to Victorian times.

With a history of 175 years behind Flagmakers, it never ceases to amaze us how many artefacts from our past are still out there waiting to be uncovered. Because we are still here, more and more people are finding us online and contacting us. Although our modern trading name is Flagmakers, we were originally known as George Tutill Ltd. You can find lots of information about our history and George himself online at

Many of our oldest records were destroyed when our premises at 83 City Road in London were destroyed by the Luftwaffe during the Blitz in the Second World War. We moved to our current premises in Chesham over 80 years ago and re-established the business. So we often simply don’t know the full history of items when they are sent to us.

Two recent discoveries are ceremonial sashes for The Oddfellows and a ceremonial banner for the Ancient Order of Foresters. These two separate artefacts have lain un-discovered for many years.

Banner The sashes are made from silk which would most likely have been woven on our own looms and then the badge, which is hand made with incredibly intricate wire work, would have been added. The large banner is of late 19th Century origin. This kind of banner was very popular with friendly societies, which were the social and welfare services of their day. Many working people joined the societies as a way of providing social outlets. They also offered assistance to individuals in cases of hard times, well before the state started to provide such support.

The banners were works of art but George Tutill, the founder of our business, was one of the first to develop mass production techniques for the products. He produced standard decorative patterns around the edge of each design and then completed the centre panel separately as the orders came in. They were exported all around the world, mainly to the British Empire and they continue to be unearthed in the most far-flung places.

These enormous banners were paraded on public holidays and marches and would have needed at least six men carrying them and holding the stay cords to stop them blowing off down the street on a windy day. Indeed, there are records of banners being destroyed by bad weather during such marches.

This banner was discovered together with a large hand painted advertising banner. We think that it probably dates from the 1930’s. It was found in a social club in Southampton and displays adverts for many local businesses and two notable brands that we still recognise today, the RSPCA and Watneys, a leading brewing business in London that was at its peak in the 1930s.

We told John Grounds, RSPCA Director of Campaigns, about our discovery, and he said, “This is a timely reminder of the simple message that underlies all the work of the RSPCA – that we are there to help the animals, and birds that cannot help themselves. And interesting that our advert is right under one for an alcoholic beverage, as the links between drunkenness and cruelty towards our fellow creatures are so well established.”

He added, “Congratulations on finding this banner which reminds all of us that before the advent of computers and mobile phones there were few opportunities, except on banners at parades, to get our message across.”

Today, banner manufacturing remains at the core of our business and our current artist, Carole Niven, has made a detailed study of the techniques used in the original George Tutill banners, enabling us to re-create and restore these 19th Century masterpieces.

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Flagmakers are one of the UK's longest established flag makers, specialising in hand-sewn and digitally printed flags, all manufactured here in the UK.

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