This receipt from 1936 recently appeared for sale on ebay and as it clearly referred to a large department store in Harpenden I decided to explore further.
If you are wondering what the 2/6 is doing in the roundel to the bottom left you have never been in an "old-fashioned" department store. The salesman made out the document for the suspenders, and the customer handed over half a crown (a coin worth 2 shillings and 6 pence) and both were placed in a tube and attached to a high level wire that took the tube to the cashier's desk. The cashier would stamp the receipt and return it, and the change, to the sales point, via the wire, when the goods, change and receipt were handed to the customer.
I decided to find out more and the book Wheathampstead and Harpenden Book V reported:
Tailors often had a drapery side to their business. In Harpenden the first draper to be described as such, Samuel Oliver, appears in the directory but not the census for 1851. Allen 'Graball' Anscombe opened a draper's shop in 1855; by 1861 he was employing two young men, two youths and three young women in the workrooms at Leyton Road. His entry in the 1890 directory reads: 'Family drapers, silk mercers, dress and mantle makers, outfitters, carpet warehousemen, boot and shoe factors, wholesale and family grocers and provision merchants, china and glass etc'. The overhead wire system for carrying money to and from the cashier's desk was still in place when the shop closed in 1981. [Picture of system in Anscombe's store]
Harpenden - A Picture History (published in 1977) includes a picture and said:
The Anscombes were another family who helped to build commercial Harpenden. Using a room in their Regency house on Leyton Green as shop, they traded as linen drapers, hosiers, haberdashers, grocers and general stores from 1866. Later the firm specialised in fabrics, furnishings and haberdashery and Mrs. Allen Anscombe taught little seamstresses the trade in an upstairs room. A son, Ernest, became an architect and added an extension of character to the growing shopping centre. Today both Wellington House and the shop are listed buildings in the Conservation Area and keep something of their gentility from another age. Where else, in 1973, can you find - still working - the overhead wire tramway which delivers customers' change?
An online search revealed a history of the store, written in 1982, anticipating the immanent closure of the shop, on the Harpenden History web site - but this says little of the early days. I also found an Anscombe Family Tree (which outlines the genealogy).
I decided to do a timeline relating to the shop using records available to me up to the time the Anscombes gave up control in 1926. However the attempt to find newspaper reports was frustrated by the poor coverage of the British Newspaper Archive for Hertfordshire in the latter part of the 19th century into the 20th century - when I an sure there were adverts in papers such as the Herts Advertiser. However I did find details of several family marriages, etc.
Allen Anscombe was born on 30 Oct 1824 in Hampton, Middlesex, his parents being Allen Anscombe (1797-1851) and Mary Ann Woodham (1797-1836).
At the time of the 1841 and 1851 censuses Allen Anscombe was an assistant draper working for Jabez Cherry in the High Street, Redbourn, Jabez being described (in 1851) as a draper and tailor employing 3 men and 3 apprentices. Jabez Cherry was still listed as a tailor at Redbourn in the 1881 census.
In July-September 1855 in the St Albans area Allen married Mary Dorothea Ashby (born Harpenden 1830), daughter of Thomas Ashby, retired butcher with means, of Fish Street, Redbourn. As 1855 is given as the founding date in a "farewell" picture giving the dates 1855-1982, and the date 1855 is mentioned elsewhere, it seems likely that Thomas helped to set up his new son-in-law in business.
Allen and Mary started a family in 1857 - their children were:
|1857||Allen Anscombe||Lily May Goldsmith||Draper||1933|
|1860||William Henry Anscombe||Draper||1954|
|1862||Arthur E Anscombe||Edith Mary Freear||Architect||1941|
|1868||Albert T Anscombe||1869|
|1869||Edith Mary Anscombe||William R Price||1942|
|1872||Selina F Anscombe||1944|
Information from the time of Allen's death (1903) suggests he had been associated with the Congregational church in Harpenden for about 50 years, so possibly since his arrival in the town.
At the time of the 1861 census he was a draper and milliner in Harpenden employing 2 young men, 2 youths & 3 young women in workroom.
In 1866 the Post Office Directory simply listed, under Harpenden Allen Anscombe, linen draper, hosier & haberdasher.
Luton Times 13 November 1869
By 1871 the business had expanded significantly and Allen is now described as a draper and grocer employing 12 assistants and apprentices, five of whom where living in.
The 1878 Post Office Directory entry for Harpenden listed Allen Anscombe, Linen draper, grocer, &cAt the time of the 1881 census Allen (Senior) and his wife were lodging in Brighton while the children were living in the Draper's shop in Harpenden, the resident staff including a dressmaker, a milliner, and a draper's assistant and three draper's apprentices.
The 1882 Kelly's Directory entry for Harpenden listed Allen Anscombe, Linen draper, grocer, &c
ANSCOMBE-FREEAR. on the 15th inst At the Congregational Chapel, Harpenden, by the Rev Johnson Barker , B.A., LL.B., of New College Chapel, St John's Wood, London, assisted by the Rev. W Glyde Tarbolton, minister of the Chapel, Allen, eldest son of Mr Anscombe, of Harpenden, to Pamela, eldest daughter of Mr Rothwell, of Morton End, Harpenden, and St John's Wood.
Herts Advertiser, 17 March, 1883
The 1886 Kelly's Directory entry for Harpenden listed Allen Anscombe & Sons, drapers, outfitters, carpet warehousemen, grocers & china dealers.
The 1890 and 1895 Kelly's Directory entry for Harpenden listed Allen Anscombe & Sons (established 1855) family drapers, silk mercers, dress & mantle makers, outfitters, carpet warehousemen, boot & shoe factors, wholesale & family grocers & provision merchants, china & glass stores, &c.
By 1891 Allen (junior) and his family were living in the draper's shop, while Allen (senior), his wife, and the other children were living in a separate private house, Hazelbank, Leyton Green, Harpenden,
On the 28 June 1891 there was a large fire in as workshop at the Anscombe's shop,
Outbreak of Fire.—On Saturday night, about 12.30, an outbreak of fire in some sheds on the premises at Messrs. Anscombe and Son's was simultaneously discovered by several persons. Mr. W. H. Anscombe, who is captain of the Fire Brigade, was quickly on the spot, and was shortly afterwards followed by the other members of the Brigade. It was then found that a shed, utilised as a storehouse for empties, with some chairs and fixtures, was in full flames. It was impossible to save this building, and the efforts of the Brigade were then directed to preventing the fire spreading to adjoining stables and premises. The structure was composed of wooden walls, and was about 30 feet long by 12 feet wide and 16 feet high, with galvanised iron roof. Messrs. Anscombe are insured in the Union Office, and the damage is estimated at about £30.
Herts Advertiser 4th July 1891
On 30 June 1891 Pamela Anscombe (36), wife of Allen Anscombe junior, was buried at Harpenden. - See Funeral of Mrs Anscombe
ANSCOMBE-GROSSMITH - On the 27th Inst., at St Stephens, Paddington?. by the Rev Herbert Chapman, rector of Norton-in-????. William Henry, second son of Allen Anscombe, of Harpenden, to Ethel Eva, second daughter of John Graham Grossmith, of London.
Morning Post, 30 September, 1893
PRICE-ANSCOMBE. On the 29th ult., at the Congregational Church, Harpenden, by the Rev Professor Adeney, M.A. of New College, London, William Richard Price, second son of the late Edward Price of Llanelly, to Edith Mary, elder daughter of Allen Anscombe, of Hazelbank, Harpenden.
Morning Post, 2nd April, 1897
ANSCOMBE : FREEAR. - On the 27th Inst., at the Victoria-road Congregational Chuurch, Cambridge, by the Rev John Eames, B.A., assisted by the Rev. W. R. Price, of Harpenden, Arthur Edward Anscombe, A.R.I.B.A., third son of Allen Anscombe, of Hazelbank, Harpenden, Herts, to Edith Mary, only daughter of Charles Freear of Cambridge, and late of Harpenden and Luton, Beds.
The Times, 29 October, 1897
1900 Dec quarter Allen Anscombe junior married Lily May Grossmith in Hackney area
At the time of the 1901 census Allen junior and family were living at Wellington House, Leyton Green. Allen senior, described as a draper and grocer, was at Hazelbank with his wife and two daughters. William was a draper living with his family at Park Side, St Nicholas Avenue, Harpenden. Arthur Edward was and architect living at Vaughan Road, Harpenden. Ernest was an auctioneer & surveyor living in Marylebone.
The 1902 Kelly's Directory for Hertfordshire listed Allen Anscombe & Sons, (estab. 1855) family drapers, silk mercers, dress & mantle makers, clothiers, outfitters & hosiers, carpet warehousemen, boot & shore stores, also wholesale & family grocers & provision merchants, china & glass stores. It also recorded that The Congregational chapel, erected in 1897, at a cost of £2,600, from designs by A. E. Anscombe, architect, is of red brick with Bath Stone dressings in the Gothic Style, and will seat 350 persons. Allen Anscombe junior was on the Harpenden Urban District Council, and William Henry Anscombe was Fire Brigade captain at the fire station in Leyton Road.
Owing to Ill-health, Mr Allen Anscombe has resigned the post of treasurer of the Harpenden Congregational Church, which he has held for over 40 years. The trustees and congregation have presented Mr Anscombe with an enlarged portrait of himself.
Luton Times & Advertiser, 8 May, 1903
Allen Anscombe (78) of Hazelbank, Harpenden died on 10 July and was buried at Harpenden 14 July 1903
In 1911 Allen senior's widow, Mary was living at Hazelbank with her daughter Selina Frances, and her sister Catherine Ashby (who had been in the household in earlier censuses). Allen junior (draper, grocer and furnisher) was with his family in Leyton Green. Arthur Edward was an architect living in East Common, Harpenden. William Henry was now a forage and coal manager "of Brand" living in Kingston on Thames. Edward was a land valuer and surveyor lodging in Gloucester
The 1912 and 1922 Kelly's Directory entry for Harpenden simply listed Allen Anscombe & Sons, drapers, Leyton Road.
FURNISHING. - Experienced FITTER required at once. All round general experience; accustomed to bench; local rate. - Anscombe & Son, Furnishers, Harpenden.
Herts Advertiser, 28 February, 1925
12 December 1925
The 1929 Kelly's Directory entry for Harpenden listed Allen Anscombe & Sons Ltd, drapers, Leyton Road. T.N. 55
The 1932 and 1936 Kelly's Directory entry for Harpenden listed Allen Anscombe & Sons Ltd, drapers, 1, 3, 5 & 7 Leyton Road. T.N. 55
Kelly's St Albans Area Street Directory for 1949
The Store in the 1970s
(which contains 3 other pictures of the store)
(Volume 2) contains a different picture
The store finally closed in 1982.
Shop staff (not family) recorded in censuses as resident in shop/household
|1861||ROSE, Robert||1837||Assistant Draper||Salisbury, Wiltshire|
|1871||GOVILL, Mortimer||1848||??? Assistant||Essex|
|1871||READ, Thomas||1849||??? Assistant||Essex|
|1871||ARNOLD, Eleanor L||1854||??? Assistant||Hertfordshire|
|1871||PORTER, Sarah A||1855||Apprentice||Middlesex|
|1871||WOODROW, Henry R||1850||??? Assistant||Northamptonshire|
|1881||GASK, Sarah J||1849||Dressmaker||Tooting, Surrey|
|1881||PEARSE, Louise||1858||Milliner||Teignmouth, Devon|
|1881||SMITH, William||1854||Drapers Assistant||Furnex Pelham, Hertfordshire|
|1881||SMITH, John J||1864||Drapers Apprentice||Scotland|
|1881||COOPER, Arthur E||1865||Drapers Apprentice||Bromley, Kent|
|1881||NOAKES, Arthur A||1865||Drapers Apprentice||Chatham, Kent|
|1891||BEAMISH, Jessie B||1862||Dressmaker||Camberwell, London|
|1891||SHELDRICK, Annie M||1862||Drapers Assistant||Borough, London|
|1891||WATLING, William T||1866||Drapers Assistant||Ipswich, Suffolk|
|1891||GUBBINS, Harry E||1869||Drapers Assistant||Staines, Middlesex|
|1891||RODWELL, Bertram M||1877||Drapers Assistant||St Albans, Hertfordshire|
|1891||WICKENS, James M1877||1877||Drapers Assistant||Shilton, Oxfordshire|
|1901||FRY, Caroline||1867||Dressmaker||Tunbridge Wells, Kent|
|1901||WAKEFIELD, Marion E||1876||Drapers Assistant||Weston Turville, Buckinghamshire|
|1901||DORRINGTON, Gertrude||1879||Drapers Assistant||Luton, Bedfordshire|
|1901||BERWICK, Lilian M||1884||Drapers Assistant||Cranfield, Bedfordshire|
|1901||COVER, Ernest J||1882||Grocers Assistant||Toddington, Bedfordshire|
If you can add to the information given above tell me.
|June 2013||Page created|
|April 2017||Added info on 1891 fire and funeral|