Charley’s eldest son, Charles Herbert Lock Whitbourn, who had been born in 1876, joined the company in 1900 and took his share of the bullying from his father. Perhaps he suffered more than his share as he was also bullied at home.
For the Coronation Procession of King George V and Queen Mary in 1911 the Whitbourn family occupied the first floor windows at No. 6 while the Stephenson’s the second floor as the partners continued to inhabit separate worlds.
From the time that Charles Davis and his family moved their established business across the road into 6 St James Street in June 1764, the business had been a tenant of the property. The freehold was still held by descendants of the original aristocratic developers of the land.
In 1913 George James Stephenson heard on the grapevine that the freehold for No. 6 was up for auction and after conferring with Charles Whitbourn they sent an agent to bid on their behalf so that no-one in the auction room would be aware of their interest.
A bidding war broke out between their agent and a Mr. Solomons, who wanted to open a fruit shop at No. 6. However, when the bidding reached £12,000 Mr. Solomons was unable or unwilling to go on and the partners now owned No. 6, along with the two small cottages at the rear, backing on to Crown Passage.
At the outbreak of the First World War, George Whitbourn, the cousin of Charles Whitbourn died, and so he inherited the family fortune which was more than £100,000 in Gilt Edged securities and ironmongery. He was now a man of leisure at 75 years of age who no longer needed to get his hands dirty in Trade. However, he found that he did not want to go and with the excuse of the war effort he continued to commute to the counting house at No. 6 until 1918 when Peace was assured and he was nearly 80.
One evening he put the counting house in order and walked through the shop nodding good night to his partner who did not realise that Charles Whitbourn was leaving for good. Whether he said goodnight to his son is not recorded.
Charles Herbert Lock Whitbourn, known as Bertie, was to become the new partner of George James Stephenson and a shock to his system it was too. Bertie had been deeply scarred by his father’s attitude to him and one day he confessed to Harry Marsh, an accounts clerk, “You know, Marsh,” he said, “when I first came to this place my father gave me such a hell of a time that I swore when he went I wouldn’t do a hand’s turn more than I had to.”
George James Stephenson bore all of this with patience and honour but he was no longer a young man and he knew that the matter of his own succession would soon have to be considered. Bertie had two daughters but no son, while G.J.S had two sons called Gordon and Cyril. The boys had been introduced into the business where Gordon assisted in the shop while Cyril worked under Bertie in the office. In the business there were now three Stephenson’s, descendants of James Benning, and a single Whitbourn who was fifth generation a descendant of James Lock I.
But following the purchase of the freehold, G.J.S and Bertie came to recognise that with only two partners in the business, if one should die the other would be obliged to buy the other’s share and would have to find a formidable sum. An accountant was consulted and he advised that they should form a private limited company. His advice was acted upon and in 1928 James Lock & Co. was formed with G.J. Stephenson, C.H.L. Whitbourn, C.H. Stephenson, G.J.G. Stephenson and Mrs. C.H.L. Whitbourn as directors.
Bertie realised that there was an imbalance on the board as his wife was not actively involved in the business and so he sought to increase the Whitbourn representation. He had no son but he had a nephew Charles Richard Wray Whitbourn who was the great-great-grandson of James Lock II. Bertie drove down to Hurstpierpoint in Sussex where young “Mr Wray” was being educated and within 48 hours he found himself amongst the boxes and hats at No. 6.
The outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 confronted Mr. Lock with problems of supply, the substitution of civilian with military attire and the difficulties of the black out. Trade continued, but it was at a subdued level.
Charles ‘Bertie’ Whitbourn died in 1943 and G.J. Stephenson soldiered on despite developing glaucoma with Gordon and Cyril taking turns to escort him to work. He died in 1950.
Once the war was over trade slowly recovered and efforts were made to expand the wholesale business overseas. Exclusive arrangements were agreed with Brooks Brothers, a longstanding customer in the United States and agents were appointed in other major territories. These efforts were successful but following the War, the universal assumption that no man was properly dressed without a hat or cap was increasingly challenged. The steady recovery and growth in levels of business began to falter as a result.
The next generation to join the firm was Richard Bruce Geden Stephenson in 1957 and Andrew James Whitbourn Macdonald, grandson of Bertie, in 1963. Richard Stephenson’s brother John, who was making his own career in Battersby’s, a major British hat manufacturer, which later became Christys as the hat-making industry shrank and consolidated, became a non executive director in 1961. The change in patterns of hat wearing affected the whole sector, and Locks was fortunate indeed in owning its own freehold and so being sheltered from the growing pressures of high rents and declining trade that eliminated so many competitors.
When Gordon Stephenson retired in 1966 Richard Stephenson became a director of the company and when Cyril Stephenson retired in 1969 Andrew Macdonald took over his responsibilities. In 1976 his brother Nigel Lock Macdonald, a Chartered Accountant joined the Board as a non-executive director.
The pattern of business away from formal headwear continued, with the previous substantial demand for Coke hats (Bowlers) and Homburgs and formal felt hats continuing to decline, but that trend began to be offset by a slow but steady growth in the demand for leisure headwear. Mr Lock extended his range accordingly in caps, tweed hats of many different styles and other headwear intended for leisure use. At the same time very high quality leisurewear, such as jackets, coats and sporting kit was also offered. Ties and cufflinks and other dress accoutrements were also offered.
In 1979 Andrew Macdonald decided to begin a different career, but continued as a director in a non executive capacity. The business continued under the leadership of Richard Stephenson, with Nigel Lock Macdonald becoming chairman, until Richard stepped down from his full time role in 1995, at which time his brother John Stephenson returned to the business after the closure of Christys. Sadly Richard died in 2010.
Whilst the experiment with leisurewear had been ended in the 1980’s the wish to offer customers the fullest possible range of choices continued and Millinery was added to the portfolio in the early 1990’s and began to grow substantially as a segment of the business. The arrival of the internet at the end of the century created an opportunity that seemed almost ‘tailor made’ for the company, as it enabled prospective customers for menswear, and for Millinery, anywhere in the world to see and buy direct.