Jimmy Carver is the fourth generation in his family running “the family firm”, although the family connection with the umbrella trade can actually be traced back six generations to Jimmy’s great-great grandfather, George Venn, a fishing rod maker from Southwark in London, who adapted his rod making skills and began making umbrellas in the 1870’s as an “outside worker”, for other umbrella companies. However it wasn’t until the end of the first world war when the Carvers started working for themselves. We started the hard way, and are justly proud of our humble beginnings, when old Rosie Carver, together with her mother Alvinia, began “mush faking” (slang for umbrella repairing), with nothing more than an old pram and the ability to call door to door, working “on the knocker”, buying, selling and repairing old umbrellas.
Within time, the business developed, and the Carvers began selling their umbrellas on various street markets around South London. However, it wasn’t really until the early 1950’s that the business really began to go from strength to strength after the third generation of the family took to the helm, in the form of two of the great characters, not only of the British umbrella trade, but also of street fairs and markets across the country.
After setting up their factory at Reynolds Cross, in St. Mary Cray, Kent, the Carver brothers - Joe and Jimmy, with their incredible ability for self publicity, established the Carver name as being synonymous with the umbrella trade at in excess of thirty weekly street markets across London and the South East counties - not forgetting the countless annual street fairs and agricultural shows that they worked, the length and breadth of the UK. If anyone spoke about “the umbrella man”, it was generally assumed that they were referring to one of the Carver brothers.
As business grew, the Carvers took the opportunity to buy up a number of small, respectable umbrella companies who were less well placed to compete in the hectic business climate of “the swinging sixties”.
Before too long, the brothers had made umbrellas for His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia, as well as renovating antique umbrellas for the British Olympic Gold medal winner, Sir Harry Llewellyn.
Following the introduction of mass produced umbrellas from the far east in the mid 1970’s, the British umbrella trade changed significantly and the Carver brothers finally went their separate ways in 1976, when Joe left the umbrella business altogether, and Jimmy took control of the company.
After a serious factory fire in early 1982, the business moved away from manufacturing altogether, and instead relied on selling imported goods across literally a handful of markets and street fairs. After Jimmy’s death in 1992, the business remained a family concern when his daughter sold it to Joe’s youngest son (also Jimmy), who decided to move away from his career in the legal profession, in an attempt to reverse the fortunes of the family business.
It wasn’t too long before the business started to move forward again, and the company returned to its roots, by re-establishing itself at some of the more prominent annual events, nationwide.
Within two years, Jimmy Carver had purchased a small factory, literally a stones throw from the old site, in St. Mary Cray, Kent, and started to manufacture a small number of bespoke umbrellas for clients, alongside his normal trade.
In 1999, following Jimmy’s marriage, the company relocated to the Gloucestershire borders, where it has continued to flourish. Over the past few years, Jimmy recognised that a number of customers are becoming increasingly frustrated with today’s throw away products, and decided to develop the skills passed down to him. Accordingly, he has now returned to producing a small range of the highest quality umbrellas, in support of his “off the peg” retail products.
Furthermore, he has designed and developed undoubtedly the highest quality bookmaker’s umbrellas, that are available anywhere across the globe. Jimmy uses traditional local materials to hand-make his umbrellas that are far superior to anything else on offer, and his growing reputation, combined with an increasing client base and order book, prove testament to his long held belief that quality customers are always willing to pay a fair price for a handmade, superior quality product.
The specialist products that we offer are unique to our customers. We make umbrellas to our own rigid specification and design, from raw materials of the highest quality, that have been engineered and produced completely within the UK, using the experience and knowledge that has been passed down through the generations.
We offer a guarantee on our workmanship and take pride in our personal service. Our repeat clients are testimony to our work ethic. Of course, we can also accommodate those who want an umbrella to throw in the back of the car and forget about!
We won’t pretend to be the cheapest. Indeed, we don’t even want to compete on price against a poor quality imported umbrella. That’s not what we’re about. We want our clients to be confident in the knowledge that the umbrella that we have made for them, will stand up, head and shoulders above the rest.