English Retail Clothing Stores

Figure 1.--A British reader tells us that he remembers getting his first long trouser suit at Allens'. Here is a photograoh of Allenís department store. This one is not the main department store but a branch in one of the towns suburbs. Allenís first started trading in the 1850s in the Laygate area of South Shields and the branch store was opened in the 1930s.

HBC is also collecting information on individual stores and retailers. We had originally conceived of separate sections for mailorder and regular stores. We have since reassess this decission and decided to combine this information. Tis allows us to use the information to better assess fashion trends over time. Our information on English stores is still very limited at this time. Some of the most important chain stores carrying boys clothing is British Home Stores and Marks and Spencers. There have been other smaller chains. One HBC reader has provided us a copy of the Colts catalog. Colts was a store operating in England and other European countries during the 1960s and 70s. There are also local boys' and menswear reatilers. These stores often stock the uniforms for local stores. Several HBC readers remember being taken to these stores, usually by their mothers. We do not yet have information on mailorder companies.

Allen's Department Store

A HBC reader writes, "It was mainly shops in South Shields that we went to for my clothes. Allen's Department Store was favourite. This store had no connection with Peter Allen above. I have provided my boyhood memories to HBC. I can't remember other shops we went to, apart from Wood's The Taylor, it was here that I got my first long trouser suit." Here is a photograoh of Allenís department store. This one is not the main department store but a branch in one of the towns suburbs. Allenís first started trading in the 1850s in the Laygate area of South Shields and the branch store was opened in the 1930s. This closed down around the mid-1960s leaving the firm to concentrate their trading at the main store in Laygate. Allenís itself was taken over by a firm called Headley Youngs and trading of the store ceased sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s.


A reader writes, "Bainbridge's now trading under the name of John Lewis is the only shop in the area still selling fully lined grey school shorts up to 32" waist size. BHS, Littlewoods and Marks and Spencer sell them up to 14 years, but these are unlined."

(Raymond) Barnes

Another shop in Newcastle specialising in school uniform was Raymond Barnes, again no longer trading. This shop was taken over by Issac Walton a bespoke taylor. Walton's sold school uniform for many years until the late 1980s.

(The) Boys' Shop (Bishop Aukland)

A HBC reader growing up in Bishop Aukland, a small town in the county of Durham, remembers a shop specialising in only boyswear. It was called The Boys Shop. There were once hundreds of similar shops all over England. The shop like most others has since disappeared.

British Home Stores

The British Home Stores (BHS) are one of the largest retail chain stoes handling clothing in the United Kingdom. BHS opened its doors for the first time in Brixton in 1928. The highest price of any item sold in the first store was one shilling. From the very beginning BHS stores sold lighting and had self-service cafťs and food departments. British Home Stores became a public company in 1931. After the War in 1945, BHC decided price should not be the Company's sole marketing strategy, so BHC introduced a policy of quality and value-for-money that continues today. BHC in 1985 launched a successful overseas program with their first franchise store in Gibraltar. The overseas stores proved very popular and BHC now has franchises in Europe and the Middle East. These outlets mirror the appearance of the UK stores and sell most merchandise ranges. They operate under licence from BHS, but and are not directly owned by the company. BHC in 1986 merged with Habitat/Mothercare to form Storehouse plc. The influence of design had a stronger presence within our merchandise ranges and store design and 'Bhs' replaced British Home Stores as the registered company name, reinforced by a new company logo and corporate image. Phillip Green In in May 2000 bought Bhs from the Storehouse Group. Bhs Ltd is now a private retailer. BHS in 2001 stocked traditional school shorts for 13 year olds.

C & A

We have little informatiin on C & A at this time. It was an importrant retailer in the 1980s, but we havevfew details on thevhistory of the company. HBC reader repoorts in 2004 that, "C & A stopped trading in Great Britain in 2001 or 2002 and consequently all of it's stores were sold. I'm not sure, but I think it also stopped trading on the continent too."

Caslaw, Haytor and Tate

A reader writes, "I noticed in one of the personal experience pages about a secondry modern boy there's reference to a shop called Caslaw, Haytor and Tate. That shop was in Sunderland, which is 6-miles south of where I grew up. This shop sold mainly children's wear and school and Scout uniform in particular. The shop is no longer trading, however, there are two other shops in the city specialising in school uniform, they are School Daze and Uniform." Another reader writes, "Iíve just been looking at the image of Creics Outfitters and I wish I could describe to you the feelings I have when I look at it. It brings back so many happy boyhood memories."

Charles, Baker & Co.

The firm was Charles Baker & Co., a retailer that had several outlets in London--in Fleet Street (in the City), in Oxford Street (in the West End), and in Tottenham Court Road. The main headquarters of the firm was located at 271-272 High Holborn in the West End. This company seems to have been a large one, appealing to a large cross-section of the British public. We note quite a number of the store's advertisements duting the 1880s, suggesting that it was a very important store. We are not sure when the store was fouded or when it was closed.

Civil Service Stores

Charles Baker & Co. seems to have been in competition with the Civil Service Stores--an official outlet for boy's clothing with at least a nominal connection to the Civil Service. We have no information on these stores at this time. Civil Service stores in Victorian times were a bit like American Army and Navy stores today.


Colts was a store operating in England and other European countries during the 1960s and 70s. A British merchant reports, "In 1965 I started in Hampstead, London, a shop called "Colts," which offered a selection of "the world's best casual clothing" for boys of school age. Colts catered solely for boys' leisure wear, largely imported from France, Holland, Belgium, Germany and the United States.

Co-operative Retail Society Stores

Co-operative Retail Society Store were impprtant in Britain during the 1910s-30s. I am not sire when they were founded. They were known as "the Coop". Members collected discount stamps on their purchases. This was called the dividend or divy and was a perk of being a member. You became a member by paying a membership fee. Coop shopping is a whole social philosophy. The first Labour Government came into power in the early 1920s. The prime Minister bought new furniture and from the London Co-op Society and had the delivery van take it round to 10 Downing Street. His daughter had Government departments fit out his office becoming of a Prime Minister. A HBC reader writes, "I had recollections of Mum buying my school uniforms through a co-op in the UK. You could also buy your food and groceries through there as well, but obviously a different department. I know that school magazines in the 1950s had advertisements for school uniforms and mens clothes at coop stores as well as mens' outfitters. They were exactly what they were supposed to be, a coperative outlet for the same item but cheaper. I am not sure if they are still in the UK to the same extent. A British reader tells us, "In Britain in the 1950s the Coop were dealers in all the local schools and had good schoolwear stocks in all their department stores. I would say that this was the case until the 1980s when school blazers became less common. I assume the same applied to the coop stores in Australia durfing this same period."

Figure 2.--Creicís specialised in menís and boys' wear. I remember being taken there to buy new clothes. I recall gazing at the abundance of boysí wear in the windows. I can still picture the many rows of boysí short and long trousers in an assortment of styles and colours.

Creicís (Newcastle upon Tyne)

A HBC reader rembers Creic's in Newcastle upon Tyne. He writes, "Creicís specialised in menís and boys' wear. I remember being taken there to buy new clothes. I recall gazing at the abundance of boysí wear in the windows. I can still picture the many rows of boysí short and long trousers in an assortment of styles and colours. Sadly the shop was demolished along with the other buildings to make way for the Eldon Square shopping complex in 1973.

Freeman's Catalog

Freemans started business in 1905 in Clapham, a gas-lit London suburb. The founders of the Company were A.C. Rampton, W.E. Jones, S.C. Rampton and H.A. Freeman. Each partner put up £100. The first Freemens offices consisted of two rooms in a terraced house, and there was 12 staff. It became one of Britain's most importan mail order clothing catalogs. This was the case in the 1970s. There was an important selection of children's clothes, including school uniforms. The compsny now has an important om-line presence. Most of Freemans business is now run on an agency basis, with about a million agents serving 3 million customers. Their catalogue includes 1,000's of pages of name brands, including Diesel, Morgan, Warehouse, Levi's and many more. Plus, Denise Van Outen models their exclusive One Collection.


A HBC reader tells us, "A popular local clothing store when I was growing up was was Goldman's in Ocean Road. I remember the town's evening paper and in the retail advertisement section of those papers that were printed in the 1950s and 1960s. There were numerous adverts about corduroy shorts for sale at Goldman's."

(The) John Lewis Partnership

John Lewis is one of the of the United Kingdom's best known companies. Most people who have experienced JLP as customers will have already appreciated that this organisation is different. Geraldine started by explaining the all important cultural climate that predominates throughout the group in particular the 23 department stores where she is responsible for training. This culture is in part driven by the partnership ethos; everyone is a shareholding partner in the business and everybody is referred to as a partner, the word employee is not used. The stores have large children's clothing departments. A exanple of a Lewis ad is available on HBC.

Littlewoods (United Kingdom)

Littlewoods Mail Order is the leading mail order company in the UK. The company was founded in 1923, but only later baegan marketing clothes. American companies began mail order marketing in the the 1870s, but mail order companies developed later in Europe, presumably because most customers were closer to retail shops than was the case in the United States. Littlewoods are still producing catalogues, and past issues provide a wonderful record of evolving styles and fashions in British clothing, household things, and sports goods. While Littlewoods not have the long history of a company like Sears or Montgomery Wards, their catalogs are a useful record of evolving styles beginning with the 1930s. Littlewoods was the largest private company in Brotain. The reclusive billionaire Barclay brothers in 2002 put up £750m to take control of the Littlewoods stores and home shopping businesses.

Marks and Spencers

Marks & Spencer is one of the UK's leading retailers of clothing, foods, homeware and financial services. Serving 10 million customers a week in over 300 UK stores, the Company also trades in 38 countries worldwide, and has a Group turnover in excess of £8 billion. Michael Marks, a Russian born Polish refugee, in 1884 opened a stall at Leeds Kirkgate Market. Marks formed a partnership with Tom Spencer, a former cashier, in 1894. The St Michael trademark, Marks and Spencers store brand was registered in 1928. The company's flagship store was opened at Marble Arch, London. The company introduced Cafť Bars in many stores during the 1930s. These bars provided cheap, hygienic and nutritious mass catering which was a valuable resource during World War II, making efficient use of scarce food. The advent of the War and the Utility Clothing Scheme in 1939 meant that there were strict specifications on the use of materials and trimmings for all clothing. A Marks and Spencers scientist was seconded to help develop the scheme to produce a range of quality garments throughout the period of restriction. The first self-service trial was held after World War II in 1948 at the store in Wood Green, London and was very successful. The first stores in Continental Europe opened during 1975 in Boulevard Haussman, Paris and Brussels, Belgium. Marks and Spensers acquired Brooks Brothers, an American clothing company, in 1988. The company in 1999 opened a website. Marks and Spencers school uniform department in 2001 stocked traditional school short trousers for boys aged 14 years and 5'6" tall.

Peter Allen's

A HBC reader writes, "The shops I remember getting clothes from were in Newcastle. The one I remember best was Peter Allen's. I have already provided HBC from of my boyhhod memmories. The first time was when I was around 5 years old and I think the suit that my Mum bought me is the one in the photograph where I'm wearing a cap. The next time would be when I was about ten and this is the shop that Mum bought me my Robert Hirst raincoat from.


This store was not related to the bif American catalog and department store--Montgomery ward. Wards in England was located in Clayton Street East, Newcastle upon Tyne, like Creics it was demolished around 1973 to make way for the Eldon Square shopping complex. The former Wardís site is now occupied by a Safeway supermarket. I seem to recall Wardís sold uniforms for Boy Scouts, Wolf Cubs, Girl Guides and The Brownies as well as camping and outdoor equipment.


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Created: November 6, 2001
Last updated: 12:35 AM 8/9/2009