Our Heritage

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 over 178 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, 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.

Southampton Store Circa 1940

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 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 business owners.



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.

Southampton Store after bomb

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 Bradbeer left the city where it had been trading for over 100 years.

At the end of the war, the company was trading from three towns; New Milton, Romsey and Eastleigh. 1969 saw the death of Gwilym Davies and the succession of his three sons to the helm of the business. The firm has continued to expand in the last 50 years.


Recent History

In the 1990s the firm experienced the best trading years in its history. In 1997 the firm bought a large edge-of-town furniture store in New Milton. This enabled the original store on New Milton High Street to concentrate more on fashion which has made a marked improvement to our presence in the town.

2003 saw a considerable expansion of the Romsey department store where the downstairs floor area was almost doubled and a major refurbishment of the whole premises took place.

In 2009 the firm acquired a large retail property in Salisbury. Previously operated by 'Messrs Style and Large' and then 'Style & Gerrish'. The property is now let to a major department store.

Circa 1970  
Style and Gerrish  


The most recent major expansion of the business was in 2010 with the acquisition of a retail park in the thriving retail arena of Hedge End, the largest of the site was redeveloped and is now operated by Bradbeers as a furniture showroom. The remaining 4 sites are let to other businesses.


The Future

The New Milton department store is undergoing a complete re-development which will see the building increase in height by two floors, almost double in retail space and the implementation of escalators.

Illustration of planned exterior developments Illustration showing planned interior modifications
New Milton planned exterior New Milton Department Store planned interior

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 expanding the business and certainly not to surrender to large corporations who risk bringing blandness to the British retail industry.

As long as people in this country will visit shops then Smith Bradbeer will be on hand to serve their needs in the same way that we have for over 178 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. The key objectives are to support the advancement of the Christian Faith (anywhere in the world). It is a grant making charity to support churches, missionary's and evangelism anywhere in the world.

The Trust is dependent on Smith Bradbeer and Co for donations received, and is administered by a management committee comprising five trustees.

The Trust donates a percentage of profits annually for the advancement of its objectives.



Smith Bradbeer & Co manages the popular Romsey market held in the Cornmarket outside the Romsey department store. Taking place 3 days a week (Tuesday, Friday and Saturday).