Company: Jolly & Son

Registration number:

Company name: Jolly & Son
Dates in business: 1810-1903

Type of business: Department store retailers

Type of company: Private limited liability company 1903

  • 20 Old Bond Street, Bath, Somerset, England
  • 13-14 Milsom Street, Bath, Somerset, England
  • , Deal, Kent, England
  • 26 High Street, Margate, Kent, England

Company history

James Jolly was born in the Norfolk village of Brockdish in 1775. His father was a linen draper, and, as the eldest son, James was apprenticed to the same trade. During the 1810s James moved to Kent where he opened a linen drapery shop at Deal trading as Jolly & Co. Ten years later he also established a bazaar in nearby Margate. The idea of multiple branches was relatively new but both towns held promise. Deal had prospered during the French wars as the Navy's principal anchorage and embarkation point and Margate was fast becoming a popular seaside resort. As a result the Margate business thrived but James now had help in the shop from his son, Thomas, and was determined to find a suitable place to conduct a higher class of holiday trade.

In about 1823 Jolly, therefore, took seasonal premises in Bath for the first time. A few years later father and son leased a permanent shop at 20 Old Bond Street, largely to sell foreign drapery and other fashion novelties to the carriage trade. Jolly & Son's new branch was a great success and from 1830 the Parisian Depot, as it was known, remained open during the entire year rather than for the winter season only. During the same year Jolly's Bizaar at 26 High Street in Margate was refurbished on a lavish scale and considerably extended.

In 1831 Thomas, who had taken effective control in Bath, moved the branch business to larger premises at 12 Milsom Street. in November 1831 Thomas placed a large advertisement in all of the four local newspapers, announcing the opening of the new shop. 'Economy, fashion and variety' were to be the watchwords of the establishment which was grandly called the 'Bath Emporium'. The new shop sold not only the foreign fashion novelties in which Jolly's had previously specialised, but also regular linen drapery, silk mercery, hosiery and lace. In addition it offered bazaar stock, china, jewellery, perfumery, stationary, toys and cutlery, which would have been on sale in Jolly's Bazaar in Margate. All goods were to be sold for ready money only.

The new showrooms were an immediate success, and within a few years Thomas had acquired the lease of the shop next door and fine roof-lit showrooms were built in the garden behind. in 1834 an imposing frontage was erected to unite numbers 11 and 12, with large plate-glass windows framed by pilasters and a fine fascia board with the words 'Jolly & Son'. The success of the venture meant that the Bath business had begun to demand Thomas Jolly's entire attention. By 1838 the Deal business was managed by William Hutchinson, the husband of James Jolly's deceased sister, Harriet, and the bazaar in Margate was managed by James Jolly himself who had never removed permanently from Bath.

The Bath business continued to grow, adding new lines like furs to the goods sold and providing additional services such as funeral undertaking. Thomas Jolly travelled regularly to Paris to buy silks, shawls and ribbons. By 1851 the shop had a large staff of sixteen male and forty two female assistants, of which twenty six lived in above the showrooms. Around 1852 Jollys opened a branch in College Green, Bristol, under the management of Thomas' second son, Frank.

During the 1860s Jollys developed a speciality in silks which were ordered from agents in France and Switzerland who dealt directly with the manufacturers. these buyers provided advice on the quality, price and fashionability of cloths and negotiated for discounts and exclusive designs. In 1873 Jollys' silks won a medal at the international Exhibition in London. Other stock was also acquired overseas, including linens from Belgium and Ireland and model milinery from Paris. In 1879, 13 Milsom Street was added to the premises and a fine arched doorway was erected to unite the new shop with the old.

In 1888 the showrooms were extensively altered, with fitting rooms and lavatories added to the costume departments and a seperate department for mourning goods created. By this time Jollys had adopted the peacock as a trade emblem in the decoration of the showrooms and the design of the store's stationary and packaging. by the 1890s the mail order business was extensive. Annual fashion shows were held as far afield as Birmingham and Swansea and more than 14,000 orders were received each year.

In June 1903 Jolly acquired the adjoining premises of Pearson & Son at 14 Milsom Street which was converted into a handsome showroom. The acquisition was celebrated with an exhibition of modern and antique lace. That year the proprietors, Jolly and his son, Paul, sold the firm to a private limited company, Jolly & Son, Bath, Ltd, whilst retaining the majority of the shares. William Jolly had moved to Hampstead in 1899 but remained nominal head of the company until his death in January 1904 whilst executive control was assumed by Paul Jolly.

Records held for Jolly & Son:

FRAS 1187
Title: Advertisements
Date: 1831-c.1903
FRAS 1188
Title: Photographs
Date: c.1870s
FRAS 1189
Title: Bill header
Date: 1893
FRAS 1190
Title: Catalogues
Date: c.1850s-1920s
FRAS 1191
Title: Invitation
Date: 1879
FRAS 1192
Title: Envelope
Date: 1879

Related People and Companies:

Corporation name: Jolly & Sons Ltd
Dates of connection: 1903
Connection type: In 1903 Jolly and his son, Paul, sold Jolly & Son to a private limited company, Jolly & Son, Bath, Ltd, whilst retaining the majority of the shares.
Corporation name: Jolly & Son (Holdings) Ltd
Dates of connection: 1968
Connection type: In 1968 Jolly & Son (Holdings) Ltd was formed as a holding company for the group, Jolly & Sons Ltd, with a capital of 150,000.
Corporation name: E Dingle & Co
Dates of connection: 1970
Connection type: In 1970 E. Dingle & Co Ltd of Plymouth acquired Jolly & Son (Holdings) Ltd.
Corporation name: House of Fraser
Dates of connection: 1971
Connection type: In 1971 E. Dingle & Co Ltd which had acquired Jolly & Son (Holding) Ltd in 1968 was taken over by House of Fraser.

Access points: Department stores - Retail trade

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