Home Features Walsall Concerto: Queen’s bags and Billingham cheek by jowl

Walsall Concerto: Queen’s bags and Billingham cheek by jowl

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  We will never see The Queen with a Billingham Hadley One over her shoulder. But did you know the royal handbags came from the same neck of the woods? This bag costs £265, a a few quid less than the Launer Traviata, beloved of Her Majesty
We will never see The Queen with a Billingham Hadley One over her shoulder. But did you know the royal handbags came from the same neck of the woods? This bag costs £265, a a few quid less than the Launer Traviata, beloved of Her Majesty
  Above, The Queen
Above, The Queen’s favourite Launer, the Traviata at £1,850. Below: The Maggie, origin of the term “to give a good handbagging”, costs £2,200.

What does The Queen’s famous Launer handbags have in common with our humble Billinghams? I didn’t know until recently when I read an article about HM’s bags. Apparently, she has been packing the same beautifully crafted leather receptacles for 60 years. She still has most of them in running order and tries to exercise them in rotation like a stable of vintage cars. Just like me and my Billinghams, I thought. 

Dark, satanic bags

But, yes, the connection is in the Black Country, west of Birmingham. Posh Launer and posh-in-a-different way Billingham bags are all made within a few miles of each other. Launer’s leather craftery is in Walsall while Billingham lives down the road in Cradley Heath. There must be something about bags in the Black Country, with so many rich reticules now being pumped out from those dark, satanic mills. 

I’ve lost count of the number of photographers, friends and acquaintances, who have confessed a rather unhealthy affinity with bags. Personally, I can’t resist a new bag. But since the males among us aren’t The Queen and would look silly with a Launer, we tend to settle for something a little more masculine — perhaps a Billingham or an ONO.

It’s our excuse for toting a handbag, something to fill with all the bits and pieces that make the day worthwhile. Incidentally, in the interests of evenhandedness, I should mention that there is at least one camera bag made made for ladies and looking like an overlarge royal-style handbag. Check it here. It doesn’t have the Launer class and I don’t see HM with one of those either. And most female photographers I know prefer a Billingham anyway,

Spit and drop it

There is one useful tip I did pick up from the royal personage. Keep in my bag a plastic sucker with a hook attached. All I need to do when visiting dubious locales is spit on the suction cup, stick it under the table and hang the Billingham out of reach of wandering hands. Its amazing she finds this necessary, given the security and all. Mind you, come to think of it and with fresh experience of the soap dish in my shower, would I trust an M10 or SL to a suction cup? The Queen’s effects are clearly very light. 

  The Hampton ladies
The Hampton ladies’ camera bag. Come to think of it, I don’t see The Queen with one of these either.

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