Company: John Barker & Co

Company name: John Barker & Co
Dates in business: 1870-1894

Type of business: department store retailers

Type of company: Partnership

  • High Street, Kensington, London, England
  • Ball Street, Kensington, London, England
  • Young Street, Kensington, London, England

Management of company

James Whitehead was the principal investor but was not greatly involved in the running of the business. John Barker was the managing partner. In 1871, John Barker & Co employed over thirty staff including John Barker's younger brother, Francis. By 1892, the staff had grown to over a thousand. In 1893, Barker bought Whitehead's share in the business.

Company history

In 1870, John Barker opened a small linen drapery shop at 91 and 93 Kensington High Street in partnership with James Whitehead, a wealthy city merchant. His plan was to create a vast store selling a huge range of goods. Accordingly, he took every opportunity to acquire the leases and freeholds of adjoining premises and the business expanded rapidly. Barker dealt directly with manufacturers and sold for cash. He was therefore able to keep prices low and achieve a rapid turnover. By the end of 1870, he had annexed 26 and 28 Ball Street where he installed millinery, dressmaking and underclothing departments. In 1871, he moved into 87 Kensington High Street, setting up men's mercery and tailoring and juvenile clothing departments. In 1872 he acquired the stock and premises of a draper at 89 Kensington High Street and 24 Ball Street, where he installed book, stationery, fancy goods and mantle departments. In 1873, these departments were extended into a newly acquired parcel of land behind 85 and 87 Kensington High Street. In 1880, he took over 77 Kensington High Street, 14 and 16 Ball Street and the stock of a firm of ironmongers. This acquisition led to the development of furniture, carpet, china and glass departments. Later the same year he purchased 75 Kensington High Street and 12 and 14 Ball Street, redeveloping the latter site to accommodate showrooms for groceries, provisions, wine, spirits and cigars. In 1885, he acquired 95 and 97 Kensington High Street for silk and dress goods, mantles and millinery. In 1888, he purchased the former London and County Bank and two shop premises at 67-71 Kensington High Street for cabinet, upholstery and drug dispensing departments. In 1889, he purchased and demolished 63 and 65 Kensington High Street, 2, 4 and 6 Young Street and 6 Ball Street and began building a new wing primarily for the extension of the furnishing, upholstery and carpet departments. The new wing was completed in December 1889. By 1892, John Barker & Co was operating one of the largest emporia in London with over forty-two departments and allied workshops.

In 1894, the business was incorporated as John Barker & Co Ltd.

Records held for John Barker & Co:

FRAS 964
Title: Register of deeds
Date: 1850-1893
FRAS 1515
Title: Private ledgers
Date: 1870-1883
FRAS 956
Title: Half yearly departmental profits
Date: 1893
FRAS 949/1
Title: Staff engagement book
Date: 1893
FRAS 984
Title: Extract from minutes of parliamentary committee on early closing bill
Date: April 1886
The extract is of part of an interview with John Barker, chairman of John Barker & Co.
FRAS 955
Title: Publications on the history of John Barker & Co Ltd
Date: 1930, 1944

Related People and Companies:

Corporation name: John Barker & Co Ltd
Dates of connection: 1894
Connection type: John Barker & Co was incorporated as John Barker & Co Ltd in 1894.
Name: Barker, Sir John, 1840-1914, 1st Baronet, MP, retailer
Dates of connection: 1870-1894
Connection type: John Barker was the managing partner of John Barker & Co.

Access points: Department stores - Linen drapers - Retail trade

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