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Billion pound brand In 2010 the Qatari royal family paid £1.5billion for Harrods and the next year it set a record as the only stand-alone department store in the world to hit £1 billion in sales in a year. How humble East End grocer went west for richer pickings BY PETER FAULKNER HARRODS is one of the most famous stores in the world and one of London’s top tourist attractions with its legendary window displays. Quite an achievement for a business that started out as a grocery shop in east London! The huge empire of today all began when Charles Henry Harrod opened a draper’s and haberdasher’s in Borough High Street in 1824. But the company’s first grocery store began life as Harrod & Co grocers at 163 Upper Whitecross Street in Clerkenwell, followed by the wholesale grocery store in 1839 at 4 Cable Street, Wapping with a special interest in tea. Charles, born in Lexden near Colchester in 1799, set up the wholesale grocery and tea merchant’s store when he was 35 and lived in nearby Rosemary Lane. The Harrod’s store remained here for around 21 years before he opened another branch in Eastcheap followed by the final move to upmarket Knightsbridge in 1863. In the early years, from 1830 until the end of the 19th century, Harrods Court was a small alley running from the corner of Wellclose Square into Well Street The site where the famous store first stood is today a noodle bar and grill.” (now Ensign Street) although Weller’s map of 1868 lists this as Hard Place and another source calls it Harrald’s Place. The site where the famous store first stood is today a noodle bar and grill. In 1849 Charles wanted to escape the vice of the inner city and to capitalise on the trade from the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park in1851, he took over a small shop in Brompton, on the site of the current store. In 1861 he sold the shop to his son, Charles Digby Harrod, but still worked there until 1864. Consisting of one room, this shop address later became 105 Brompton Road. At this time this area of Knightsbridge was under redevelopment and attracting the wealthy. The Harrods tapped into the www.harrods.com requirements of this clientele, and, providing quality goods and services. The business expanded. The store swallowed up two neighbouring premises, 101 and 103 Brompton Road, and on land behind, they built a warehouse. In 1873 the name Harrod’s Store appeared at the front of the shop. By 1883 the store had six departments over five floors, and more than 200 assistants. Father and son had laid the foundations for what would become an important London department store, but Charles Digby would have to face one big challenge. At 1 am on December 7, 1883, just three weeks before the busy Christmas period, a fire started in the shop. Several fire engines attended but they were unable to prevent the store being completely gutted and neighbouring properties damaged. Fortunately, Harrod was fully insured. He built a new store which opened in September 1884. In 1889, Harrod decided it was time to retire from the business, and after the store became a limited company, he sold it. Its reputation was such that the name was kept and Harrods grew into a success story which shows no sign of ending. Share your story Were you evacuated as a child to St Ives in Cornwall in World War II? If so, a writer wants to hear from you. see below History Were you a St Ives evacuee? DURING World War II, many young children from east London were evacuated to St Ives in Cornwall. Janet Harris, a volunteer at St Ives Archive, has met many evacuees, heard their stories and seen photos from the time. She has completed two books of evacuee memories and is now compiling stories and images for a third publication. If you were evacuated to St Ives and have a story to tell, Janet would like to hear from you. Write to her at The St Ives Archive, Upper Parish Rooms, St Andrew’s Street, St Ives, TR26 1AH, call the archives on 01736 796408 or contact Janet on 01736 799612. The world famous Harrods store in Knightbridge A noodle bar now occupies Harrods’ former premises in Cable Street 12 NEWS FROM TOWER HAMLETS COUNCIL AND YOUR COMMUNITY 18 – 24 AUGUST 2014


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