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In 1837 a Mr R.S Smith opened a small drapery shop in Bernard Street, Southampton. According to a 1933 edition of the Southampton Echo "he was a man of broad outlook who gave careful attention to detail". It is questionable whether he realised that the firm he set up all those years ago would still be in existence, let alone flourishing 170 years later!
Beginnings and Name Changes
From 1837 Mr Smith was actively involved in the running of the Bernard St business for another 50 years until his death in 1887. In that time the firm's name had changed to reflect the partners with whom he ran the business. In 1865 the business had changed its name to Smith, Bumpstead & Trippe, in 1884 it had changed to Smith, Brookman & Lewis, but following Mr Smith's death Mr Lewis took over as manager trading as Smith & Lewis until he retired in 1892. It was at this point that Mr Bradbeer entered the business and the firm became incorporated. It is perhaps worthy of note that Mr Smith never met Mr Bradbeer.
New Southampton Store
In 1905 the company relocated to a prime site in Above Bar, Southampton. In 1935 the store was expanded by taking over the next door site. Mr Bradbeer remained a bachelor all his life and when he died in 1932 he left the business to his employees. Two members of staff in particular were to benefit from this. The first was a Mr Saunders who had joined the firm back in 1895 and who was Mr Bradbeer's right hand man. The second was a Mr Gwilym Davies who had joined the firm in 1931 and who later married one of Mr Saunders' daughters. Gwilym Davies was the father of the present generation of owners of the business.
World War II
The company experienced a major setback during the Blitz when the Southampton store received a direct hit by a bomb on 23 November 1940. Two weeks later, however, the firm was trading again from sites in Shirley and New Milton. Plans were laid to rebuild the Southampton store after the war, but these were curtailed in 1949 when the local Council served a compulsory acquisition order. The following year's appeal was lost and so Smith Bradbeers left the city where it had been trading for over 100 years.
Post war Expansion
After the war, the company was trading from three towns namely New Milton, Romsey and Eastleigh. The history of the firm in the last 50 years has been one of steady expansion. In 1960 Bradbeers bought an old family-run department store in Eastleigh called Stubbingtons. We soldiered on with the old building for another 20 years before pulling it all down and redeveloping the site and then letting it out. In the mid 1980s the Swan shopping centre was opened next door to the new building.
The story at Romsey is similar, in that the shop expanded by buying up adjoining properties in the 1960s and 1970s. At New Milton the shop expanded vertically by building a new storey in 1969.
1969 also saw the death of Gwilym Davies and the succession of his three sons to the helm of the business.
In the 1990s the firm experienced the best trading years in its history as the department store came back into vogue and as the population of the country started to age, since core department store customers are in the 35+ age range.
In 1997 the firm bought a large edge-of-town furniture store in New Milton. This enabled the mother store in New Milton to concentrate more on fashion and this has made a marked improvement to our presence in the town.
The most recent major expansion of the business was completed in 2003, when the floor area of the Romsey department store was almost doubled and a major refurbishment of the whole premises took place, including installation of an escalator and provision of two new restaurants.
We are proud of our company's history and in our daily working lives we uphold the traditions of service, honesty and attention to detail that have enabled us to reach the point where we are today.
In the next generation of the family there is a strong will to continue with what we have and certainly not to sell out to faceless corporations which bring blandness to our High Streets.
As long as people in this country will visit shops then Smith Bradbeers will be on hand to serve their needs in the same way that we have for the last 170 years.
Bradbeers Charitable Trust
The Smith Bradbeer Charitable Trust was set up in 1997 and is registered with the Charity Commissioners as Reg. Charity Number 1060418. Its stated objectives are "The advancement of the Christian religion (anywhere in the world); the advancement of education based on Christian principles; relief of poverty, hardship, distress, age and sickness; and other such charitable purposes for the benefit of the communities of Hampshire and Dorset".
The Trust is dependent on Smith Bradbeer and Co for donations received, and is administered by a management committee comprising four trustees.
The Trust donates a percentage of profits annually to a variety of causes and institutions for the advancement of its objectives. Recipients include Christian groups, schools, local community organisations, and individuals involved in Christian ministry.
As is the rule for such trusts, each year the accounts are audited by independent examiners to ensure that they conform to the requirements of the Charities Act, 1993.
Smith Bradbeer & Co are pleased to be associated with two popular markets held near our Romsey store.
Street Market held every Friday morning on the cobbled area just outside the 'Dolphin' entrance of our Romsey Store
A busy bakery stall at the edge of the Farmers' Market, which is held six times a year on Sundays in Broadwater Road car park, near the eastern entrance to our Romsey store.