Leslie Garnham Wilkinson moved from Boston to London before the first world war, attracted by the reputation of the Savile Row Golden Mile. During the first world war, he worked for a bespoke tailor in Antwerp before returning to London at the beginning of 1919. During 1919, he was encouraged by some customers to set up his own business and opened his first shop in Cork Street, which at that time housed several tailoring firms.
In 1924, L.G. Wilkinson saw the opportunity to acquire a long lease on 11 St. George Street. He considered the building to be a unique location to expand the family business in an interesting site directly opposite the famous St. George’s Church.
The business thrived during the 1920’s and 1930’s and had in excess of twenty employees prior to the second world war. L.G. Wilkinson grew the business organically but also acquired the major tailoring firm of Kerslake & Dixon Ltd. This firm had shops both in London and Den Haag.
During the second world war, trading continued largely as normal albeit with the front windows boarded up. The firm had a large stock of cloth to use for new orders and was able to expand turnover each year until 1944. Whilst the firm survived the war, it had its most significant setback on 14th November 1945. On the night of the 14th, almost all of the firm’s remaining stock cloth was stolen. All cloth produced in England was exported and therefore any stock cloth was very valuable. Whilst the firm was insured for the replacement cloth, it was unable to make new garments until the first “demob” cloths were delivered. The demob cloth was available to ex-servicemen to have for their first suit back in civilian life.
Between the end of 1945 and 1947, Dennis Robert Wilkinson, the son of L.G. Wilkinson undertook his military service in Austria, operating in 428 FSS, a counter espionage unit. This gave D.R. Wilkinson a contact base with Austria and Germany which would become significant for the post war growth of L.G. Wilkinson.