Victorian engineer Sir Henry Bessemer was best known for his famous process for steelmaking, but also had a keen eye for women's underwear. Many of his own designs and prototypes are about to be exhibited in a specially constructed museum in Chaffinch St Cock.
Often Bessemer would stop women in the street and ask to look at their bloomers. This got him into a lot of trouble but a small proportion of women would say yes - Henry called them "the magic 3%". After seeing how large and unwieldy their undergarments were, he had the idea to develop his own range of lingerie. He also realised that if he designed women's underwear then he would have a good excuse for more lechery.
Sir Henry thought that iron would make a suitable material for undergarments and designed a set specially for his wife. This was the world's first example of a pig-iron brassiere, as well as the first rust-proof gusset.
Although his ideas were revolutionary, he had trouble finding buyers. He tried to market his clothing range at working class women who couldn't afford fancy knickers and wouldn't mind the discomfort, but they failed to sell. Most potential customers and his wife complained constantly of being cut badly around the groin by the sharp edges. Also the lingerie could be extremely cold to put on in the morning.
To remedy the situation, Bessemer decided he needed to file down the rough edges, and planned to design a lingerie oven for customers to warm the metal before putting it on.
About this time, his wife left him. On a drunken grief-stricken bout of transvestism, he tried on the underwear that he had made for his wife. He woke up sick in a pool of blood, with lacerated thighs and his scrotum welded to his iron gusset. Having experienced the extreme discomfort and groinal pain for himself, he abandoned any further attempts to make metal lingerie.
"Sir Henry Bessemer, Victorian Lingerie Engineer" is open until December.