Elizabeth Margaret Orr (1918-1994) was born in North Manchester of Scottish parents on 4th April 1918. Her father and grandfather were in the cotton trade. In 1848 Margaret opened her dress shop, Margaret Orr Ltd in Godalming.

She, her sister and brother went to school in the Lake District for the good of their health. Soon after the outbreak of World War Two, Margaret and her sister joined the Women’s Land Army, working in various posts around Shrewsbury.

In Dorrington, she worked for an aunt of Vernon P Chandler, whom she met there, and married in April 1945. Vernon was a master at Charterhouse (later School Secretary and Assistant Bursar), and they moved to Godalming. Initially they lived in two School houses on Charterhouse Hill, Copseland and Edgehill. In 1948 they rented The Knoll, Knoll Road, Frith Hill (opposite the old water tower) subsequently buying it and staying 16 years. (The Knoll is still there, having been divided into two flats and a maisonette, with about four houses built in the garden in 1964/5. The woodland is preserved.)

For the first year or two her shop was in Angel Court next to Anita Dawson’s renowned bookshop. Then came the move to Kingshott the electrician’s old premises at 112 High Street by the Pepperpot (now Enzorosaria the hairdressers). The shop had a head dressmaker, Mrs. Broder, and a full-time assistant, Sheila Puttock, plus a number of ‘outworkers’, including Brenda Girdlestone, who, with her husband Len (?), later ran Dressmakers’ Den for many years.

In 1951 a painting Expressed in Black of Mrs. Vernon Chandler was painted by Herbert Markiewicz, and a photograph of the painting was taken by Chaplin Jones of Godalming. The painting was exhibited at Walker’s Gallery, New Bond Street, London April-May 1951 with the price of 130 guineas. Herbert Markiewicz was a German Jew – a Christian couple in Hurtmore took pity on him, giving him lodgings and allowing him to use their garden shed as a studio. He had always wanted to do a study in black and white - Margaret Chandler (nee Orr), was very pale with black hair. The dress was of moiré material from the shop. In November 1987, the painting was found in the house and was framed at Hunt’s Gallery.

In November 1957 an unexpected baby was born, Susie Chandler, and the shop window was dressed in pink to announce that it was a girl! Customers included the actress Googie Withers, and staff from St. Thomas’s Hospital at Hydestile, where part of it remained after evacuation during the War. Stock included Peter Scott knitwear, Henry Heath hats and Wetherall’s fashions. Margaret was a very cheery and gregarious character and loved all the contacts that the shop brought. However, she felt the call to be a full-time wife and mother, and in 1962/3 sold out to Vickers the butchers. From rags to bones, as she put it!


Margaret Orr's shop in Godalming High Street in 1961

Photograph by Peter Quittenton & Lovell Appleyard LRPS
Godalming Museum, ref B000.2.42

After six years in Bramley, in 1970 the Chandlers retired to the Isle of Wight, but returned to Busbridge, in 1977. There Margaret lived, continuing to dress make, and to knit avidly, until her death on 26th September 1994.

Godalming Museum © 2010