The Achille Serre Story. Can you help?

30 November 2020

LCN has received requests from two different readers for information on a book published in 2006 called The Achille Serre Story. Achille Serre was a Parisian ribbon dyer who came to England with his wife Eugenie in 1870 and started a business here. In 1876 it moved into garment dyeing and the new technology of cleaning with solvents and introduced the term ‘drycleaning’ to England. At its peak Achille Serre had a presence in 400 high streets across England before its decline in the 1960s.

One reader wrote to LCN: “There was a book review on your web page in 2006 on ‘The Achille Serre Story’, by Roy Brazier I have tried various book finder sites but it is too specialised for them.  I know this is a long time ago but do you know any way I can locate a copy for sale? Two of my aunts and my mother all worked in various West End branches of Achille Serre in the 1930s - as did the author Roy Brazier in the 1940s to 1966.”

FIRE HAZARD: The illustration shows a female member of the Achille Serre fire brigade in London in 1925

Another interested reader, also with a family history with the company, wrote in saying: “Achille Serre seemed to have developed the soap and water component in drycleaning, as well as naming the process. The whole industry seems to have arisen with little documentation, so it would be fascinating to see a book written by one involved with the originators. I think spirit cleaning (there must have been many fires) arose before Achille, but they made it work.”

We put Howard’s Way author Howard Bradley on the scent, but he had no luck either, reporting: “I have just done what you have most likely done and that is an internet search.  Amazon, Ebay, rare book dealers, even Oxfam and Age Concern which have proper on-line book sales from their specialist book shops. All I found, apart from some model vans done up as Achille Serre delivery vehicles and two very rare Achille Serre enamel signs which were already sold at auction at a high old price. I can only suggest that your enquirer saves his internet searches so that if a copy of the book ever goes up for sale, he will get early notification.”

LCN editor Kathy Bowry commented: “I turned the store cupboard out after the first request, but we don’t hold any copies. I also tried the Worshipful Company of Launderers and the Guild of Cleaners and Launderers but to no avail. If anybody has a copy of the book, or knows where to put their hands on one, please get in touch with [email protected] and I will pass details on to the interested parties.”

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