Company name: Charles Richards Ltd
Dates in business: 1913-c.1955
Type of business: Retail drapery
Type of company: Private limited liability company 1913Locations:
In 1890 Rackham & Co, previously known as Wilkinson & Riddell Ltd and later Rackham & Matthews, was acquired by Charles Richards, a trader in Snowhill, who managed the store until 1907. The premises were extended in 1898 into the North Western Arcade and two years later a dressmaking business was launched. In 1907 Frank Matthews, William's son, who had worked in the store during the 1890s, married Charles Richards' daughter, Hettie, and was appointed manager. Richards also owned a cut-price clothing warehouse, called the Beehive, in Albert Street.
In 1913 a limited liability company, Charles Richards Ltd was formed to incorporate both Rackham & Co and the Beehive. Charles Richards became chairman, retaining one-third of the shares and the remainder were distributed equally between his two daughters. Frank Matthews was appointed general manager at a salary linked to the profits. The following year work began on the rebuilding of the Bull Street frontage. The premises then included shops on Temple Row and Bull Street and in the Windsor and North Western Arcades. In 1921 Matthews was succeeded by Charles Phillips, Richards' nephew. In 1926 the property on Temple Row was massively expanded and the store refurbished.
In 1927 Charles Richards died and was replaced by Maurice Clutterbuck. The store was in sore need of further modernisation and the sale of the business was contemplated as an alternative to capital investment. In 1928 the board agreed that 'only a fancy price should be accepted' and several offers for purchase were refused through the early 1930s despite the difficult trading conditions. Meanwhile the company was quite unable to carry out the vital refurbishment or to exercise options for the purchase of the Bull Street and Temple Row freeholds. during the Second World War the store suffered a direct hit in 1940 which destroyed one-third of the premises.
After the war some improvements were made and a new model coat salon was opened in 1954. In 1955 Rackhams was acquired by Harrods Ltd which was able to purchase a large island site, and the construction of a new store began in 1957.
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