Company: Debenham, Son and Freebody

Registration number:

Company name: Debenham, Son and Freebody
Dates in business: 1844-1876

Type of business: Department store

Type of company: Partnership 1883/1888

  • The Promenade, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England

Company history

In December 1813, Thomas Clark, who was the owner of a small drapery shop at 44 Wigmore Street, close to Cavendish Square, London, England, assumed William Debenham as an equal partner, and thereafter the firm traded as Clark ' Debenham. The shop was later renamed Cavendish House and carried drapery, silks, haberdashery, millinery, hosiery, lace and family mourning goods. As the trade grew, the partners determined to expand the business by opening provincial branches in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England, and Harrogate, Yorkshire, England.

By 1823, Clark ' Debenham had opened a small drapery business at 3 Promenade Rooms, Cheltenham, selling a selection of silks, muslins, shawls, gloves, lace and fancy goods. The new shop flourished. In 1837, Clark retired from the business and Debenham assumed two of his most trusted staff, William Pooley and John Smith, as partners, trading in both London and Cheltenham as Debenham, Pooley ' Smith. By 1840, the management of the Cheltenham branch appears to have been given to Clement Freebody, Debenham's brother-in-law. Around 1843, another branch shop was launched in Harrogate.

Extended and refurbished premises opened in Cheltenham in October 1844. Pooley and Smith retired from the business in 1851 when Debenham took his son, William, and Clement Freebody into partnership, trading as Debenham, Son ' Freebody . By 1872, the store occupied a very large site, stretching from the Promenade to Regent Street, with showrooms offering more than twenty departments and extensive workrooms to the rear. At this time all three shops in London, Cheltenham and Harrogate were trading in similar goods and issued a joint catalogue, called the Fashion Book, that was the basis of an extensive mail-order trade. In 1876 when Freebody retired, a new partnership, Debenham ' Hewitt, was formed. George Hewitt appears to have worked at the Cheltenham store as a draper's assistant during the early 1860s but details of his subsequent career are not known. By 1883, George Hewitt was the sole owner of the Cheltenham business, Frank and William Debenham having withdrawn to manage the London store as a separate concern.

Records held for Debenham, Son and Freebody:

FRAS 1739/1
Title: Mr Debenham
Date: 1850
FRAS 1744/1
Title: Ground floor plan of store
Date: 1872

Related People and Companies:

Corporation name: Debenham & Hewitt
Dates of connection: 1876-1883
Connection type: Partnership
Corporation name: Cavendish House Ltd
Dates of connection: 1883-1888
Connection type: Private Limited company
Corporation name: Cavendish House Co Ltd
Dates of connection: 1888-1970
Connection type: Public Limited Company
Corporation name: House of Fraser Plc
Dates of connection: 1972-
Connection type: House of Fraser bought Cavendish House Co Ltd in 1970

Access points: Drapers - Retail trade

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