Princess and The Frock - handmade children’s clothing from Rossendale that are fit for a royal baby

PUBLISHED: 09:45 06 September 2013 | UPDATED: 09:45 06 September 2013

Belle Warburton (wearing Roses and Lollipops dress) and Emily Nolan (wearing Fly Little Birds dress)

Belle Warburton (wearing Roses and Lollipops dress) and Emily Nolan (wearing Fly Little Birds dress)

Archant

A new prince means a new heir to the Duchy of Lancaster and already gifts are being prepared for this special arrival

Sometime later this year a parcel will be dispatched from a Lancashire town to the new home of small boy born recently amid no little fuss. Inside, will be a waistcoat lovingly created by Claire Warburton, a young woman who is making a name for herself in the children’s clothing business.

Her company is called the Princess and The Frock so you could say it was a small gift from a Princess to a Prince. ‘Prince George will be the Duke of Lancaster one day so it seems right that he should have a present from the county,’ says Claire.

As well as making a living producing unique handmade clothing for kids, Claire is also helping to raise money for a charity that will be close to the hearts of many new mothers.

The Helmshore mum set up the Princess and the Frock after giving birth to her daughter, Belle. Claire had been working with vulnerable primary school children but she wanted a career change which would be less stressful and allow her to work from home without needing childcare.

She honed her dressmaking skills at college in Preston but she is largely self-taught. Her talent didn’t seem to have any other foundation unless she started to investigate the family tree.

‘ I discovered it was in the genes after all,’ she said. ‘It transpired my great-grandmother made stage outfits for the showgirls at Drury Lane Theatre and my great-aunt was a tailor. My passion for making clothes started to make sense.’

She also started making stage costumes for her husband and his colleagues. Mark, from Bury, is the drummer with the successful Ribble Valley group, The Swing Commanders.

‘That’s one reason why I needed a career that gave me flexibility because his hours can be unpredictable. It works really well. The three of us can spend the days together and when he is out performing at night I can work on clothes.

‘I’m mainly making dresses but I’m also launching special occasion blouses because little girls don’t always want to wear dresses. I also make a lot of bespoke clothing – people come to me with an idea and I will make it up.

‘My aim is to make them affordable and good quality. I only use top quality cotton, chiffon and silk. They are unique prints that you won’t find elsewhere.’ An extra selling point is that the clothes are versatile – dresses are made so as the child grows taller they can be worn as a tunic top.

Claire is aiming at small boutiques as well as building up her business online. ‘It has been quite a successful start and there have been times when I’ve still been sewing at 4am,’ she said.

Her activities on line have put her in touch with mothers helping to promote charities for premature children and to help investigate Infant Death Syndrome.

A collection of Claire’s dresses called Matilda May will be sold with the profits going to charity.

‘The next step is producing a Little Prince’s collection which will be waistcoats and ties for boys,’ said Claire. ‘I’m looking for some very special fabric for one of the waistcoats for a very special boy!’

Our special relationship

Lancastrians can lay special claim to Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge. One day, all things being equal, he will become the Duke of Lancaster.

Lord Shuttleworth, the Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire and the ‘eyes and ears’ of the Queen in the red rose county, said: ‘I think people in Lancashire always feel the Queen is special because our monarchs always become Dukes of Lancaster.

‘To have a grandson is a tremendous thing to have a great-grandson must be particularly splendid for her, especially bearing her own father’s name.

‘But we need to bear in mind that the remarkable longevity of the royal family means it could be 60 or 70 years before the new prince become King and Duke of Lancaster. The Prince of Wales was born 65 years ago and the world has changed so much since the end of the Second World War.

‘It’s interesting to speculate what sort of county and what sort of country this prince might reign over.

‘The young children of today will see remarkable change but we are fortunate that the Royal family remains a constant thread through the centuries.’

The roots of the Duchy title go back to 1265. In that year, a gift of land was made by King Henry III to his son, Edmund. Nearly a century later, in 1351, Edmund’s grandson, Henry of Grosmont, received the title Duke of Lancaster, and his estates became known as the Duchy of Lancaster.

Lancashire’s royal connections were made permanent in 1399 with the accession of Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Lancaster. Ever since, the title and its riches have been inherited by the reigning sovereigns. Those riches help provides the sovereign of the day with a source of income independent of Government and the public purse. The Duchy of Lancaster is custodian of 18,700 hectares across England and Wales - a quarter in Lancashire.

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