King of the London wigmakers

From 1878 through to his death in 1934, Willy Clarkson was king of the wigmakers of London. He provided disguises to Scotland Yard (and was rumoured to have supplied Jack the Ripper also), theatre actors, and Virginia Woolf.

Wardour Street
Jack1956 at English Wikipedia [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
I don’t buy the claim that he supplied Jack the Ripper, but he was apparently a notorious underground figure anyway. Eleven of his twelve business premises burned to the ground, with Clarkson pocketing the insurance money, and he is rumoured to have been an active blackmailer.

His most odd connection was with Virginia Woolf. Willy Clarkson disguised Woolf and five others as Abyssinian royalty so that they could infiltrate the Royal Navy’s flagship HMS Dreadnought. I’m not going to share a picture because they did all this in blackface (sigh), but the practical joke was successful thanks to Clarkson’s disguises.

Clarkson’s house on Wardour Street did not in fact suspiciously burn down; it is now a large Cantonese restaurant.

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