Company: Cavendish House Co Ltd

Registration number:

Company name: Cavendish House Co Ltd
Dates in business: 1970/1888

Type of business: Department store retailer

Type of company: Public limited liability company 1888-1970

  • The Promenade, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England
  • Regent Street, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England

Company history

In December 1813, Thomas Clark, who was the owner of a small drapery shop at 44 Wigmore Street, close to Cavendish Square, London, England, assumed William Debenham as an equal partner, and thereafter the firm traded as Clark ' Debenham. The shop was later renamed Cavendish House and carried drapery, silks, haberdashery, millinery, hosiery, lace and family mourning goods. As the trade grew, the partners determined to expand the business by opening provincial branches in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England, and Harrogate, Yorkshire, England.

By 1823, Clark ' Debenham had opened a small drapery business at 3 Promenade Rooms, Cheltenham, selling a selection of silks, muslins, shawls, gloves, lace and fancy goods. The new shop flourished. In 1837, Clark retired from the business and Debenham assumed two of his most trusted staff, William Pooley and John Smith, as partners, trading in both London and Cheltenham as Debenham, Pooley ' Smith. By 1840, the management of the Cheltenham branch appears to have been given to Clement Freebody, Debenham's brother-in-law. Around 1843, another branch shop was launched in Harrogate.

Extended and refurbished premises opened in Cheltenham in October 1844. Pooley and Smith retired from the business in 1851 when Debenham took his son, William, and Clement Freebody into partnership, trading as Debenham, Son ' Freebody . By 1872, the store occupied a very large site, stretching from the Promenade to Regent Street, with showrooms offering more than twenty departments and extensive workrooms to the rear. At this time all three shops in London, Cheltenham and Harrogate were trading in similar goods and issued a joint catalogue, called the Fashion Book, that was the basis of an extensive mail-order trade. In 1876 when Freebody retired, a new partnership, Debenham ' Hewitt, was formed. George Hewitt appears to have worked at the Cheltenham store as a draper's assistant during the early 1860s but details of his subsequent career are not known. By 1883, George Hewitt was the sole owner of the Cheltenham business, Frank and William Debenham having withdrawn to manage the London store as a separate concern.

In July 1883 Cavendish House Ltd was registered as a limited liability company to acquire the Cheltenham business with a capital of 35,000. George Hewitt, chairman of the new company, took most of the shares and the remainder were largely split between John Cooper, an accountant and secretary of the company, Charles Williams, manager of the general departments, and Albert Nichols, manager of the furnishing section. In 1888, upon Hewitt's retirement, the first company was liquidated and reconstructed as Cavendish House Ltd, a public company with a capital of 85,000. J C Griffith became chairman and John Cooper, Charles Williams and Albert Nichols initially remained managing directors. Both Hewitt and Debenham had modest shareholdings which were gradually sold off over the following years.

By 1890, the store had a floor space of 20,000 square feet. The capital provided by the public flotation of the business allowed the implementation of an extensive refurbishment programme. In 1891, a new frontage of plate glass, with a frieze of richly coloured leaded windows, was erected, and, in 1898, electric lighting was installed throughout the store. In 1903, an established silk mercery business at Brunswick House, 3 Promenade Villas, London, was purchased on favourable terms. The acquisition was financed by the issue, in November 1903, of 20,000 of debentures. During 1904, the company also purchased 56 Regent Street, London, which was used for the bedding department. In 1920, a gentlemen's outfitter and music shop were acquired with capital raised by the issue of a further 30,000 of debentures, and, in 1928, a site in Regent's Mews, formerly a livery stable, was acquired and opened as showrooms.

In July 1928, the company was taken over by Standard Industrial Trust, Broad Street Place, London, which also owned Morgan Squire Ltd, department store, Leicester, England. In 1931, the Cheltenham premises were entirely refurbished, creating a large store of over 163,000 square feet, with a 287-foot frontage on the Promenade. In 1957, the company opened a branch store in Oxford Street, London, but it proved impossible to manage effectively from a distance and the venture was closed within three months. In 1961, a controlling interest in both Cavendish House Co Ltd and Morgan Squire Ltd was acquired by Swears & Wells Ltd (1926) , a London based company specialising in the development and sale of retail space. The following year, the Cavendish House Co Ltd shares again changed hands passing to J J Allan Ltd, department store, Bournemouth, England. In 1970, J J Allan Ltd was acquired by House of Fraser plc

Cheltenham Local and Family History Centre [01242 532693] hold material relating to employees of 'Cavendish House Promenade Cheltenham'.

Records held for Cavendish House Co Ltd:

FRAS 1737
Title: In-store photographs
Date: 1930-1972
FRAS 1738
Title: Re-building of store photographs photographs
Date: 1965-1966
FRAS 1739
Title: In-store photographs
Date: 1850-1964
FRAS 1740
Title: Photographs of the store exterior
Date: c1960-1970
FRAS 1741
Title: Line drawings of the store exterior
Date: c1960s
FRAS 1742
Title: In-store photographs
Date: 1883-c1960s
FRAS 1743
Title: Presss cuttings
Date: 1884-1968
FRAS 1744
Title: Plans
Date: 1872-1955
FRAS 1745
Title: Prospectuses
Date: 1888-1928
FRAS 1746
Title: Memorandum and articles of association
Date: 1888-1962
FRAS 1747
Title: Director's Report and statement of accounts to shareholders
Date: 1889-1967
FRAS 1748
Title: Staff magazines
Date: May 1949-June 1949
FRAS 1749
Title: Staff guides and rules
Date: c1920/1973
FRAS 1750
Title: Building Notice
Date: 1903
FRAS 1751
Title: Careers information leaflet
Date: c1973
FRAS 1752
Title: Hairdressing department journals
Date: 1928-1957
FRAS 1753
Title: Legal agreements
Date: 1903-1932
FRAS 1754
Title: Building notice
Date: 1903
FRAS 1755
Title: Press release about the rebuilding of the store
Date: 1972
FRAS 1756
Title: Correspondence about the purchase of the Cheltenham Services Club
Date: 1946-1947
FRAS 1757
Title: Letter to shareholders about cash offer from J J Allen Ltd
Date: 1962
FRAS 1758
Title: Minute books
Date: 1900-1972

Related People and Companies:

Corporation name: Debenham, Son & Freebody
Dates of connection: 1844-1876
Connection type:
Corporation name: Debenham, Son & Freebody
Dates of connection: 1844-1876
Connection type:
Corporation name: Debenham & Hewitt
Dates of connection: 1876-1883
Connection type:
Corporation name: Cavendish House Ltd
Dates of connection: 1883-1888
Connection type:
Corporation name: Debenham, Son & Freebody
Dates of connection: 1844-1876
Connection type:
Corporation name: J J Allen Ltd
Dates of connection: -1970
Connection type:
Corporation name: House of Fraser Plc
Dates of connection: 1972-
Connection type:

Access points: Department stores - Retail trade

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