Harradence's Department Store
Ware High Street 1785 - 1971
From 1785 to 1971 Harradence’s was one of Ware’s most important shops.
It started as a haberdashery but over the years expanded into a general drapers, outfitters and house furnishers to the four adjoining shops, selling boots, carpets and china, among many other things. Its fancy goods and wool department was housed in what was part of former the Christopher Inn, one of the town’s largest. The shop has been empty for a couple of years since Edwards Furnishers closed and now awaits a new lease of life.
James Harradence of Ware married Ann Whitelock in 1783 and two years later opened his business. He died in 1842. Between 1784 and 1803, they baptised six children at the non-conformist meeting house in Dead Lane:- Elizabeth, John, Joseph, Thomas and William and James (who continued to run the business in the 1840s and 50s)
James’ grandson, Robert Walker Harradence expanded the business and after he died in 1900 it was left to his only surviving son, Robert William Harradence who died in 1934. William Rawson Harradence took over but he retired in 1947 and the shop continued to be run by Mr Jimmy Chapman, a long term employee.
In the 19th century, the staff lived above the shop – the 1881 census lists the family and their assistants:-
Robert Harradence, aged 50, a Linen Draper employing 18, who was born in Ware; his wife Maria Harradence, aged 50, from Kent and their two granddaughters. Most of their staff were not born locally – one even came from Australia:
Ellen Wise, servant and dressmaker, 17, Lewes, Sussex; Jane Myhill, 31, draper’s assistant, Middx; Edward Moody, 25, draper’s assistant, Frome; Edwin Noble, 23, clerk, Ramsey, Cambridgeshire; Florence Sinclair, 23, draper’s assistant; Annie Maria Trimby, 22 milliner, Wood Green, Middx; Emma Durrant, 23, draper’s assistant, Norfolk; Elizabeth Roukland, 24, mantle maker, Weymouth, Dorset; Catherine Allen, 21, dressmaker, Biddenden, Kent; Alfred Bungay, 22 drapers assistant, Melbourne, Australia; Edward R Benson [or Penson] 14, draper’s assistant, Oxfordshire; Mary Ann Pettit, 30, domestic servant, Wareside and Annie Mead, 20, domestic servant, Takely, Essex
In the 1930s, a Miss Long worked there as an assistant. All the staff had to wear black uniforms and an apprentice earned 10 shillings a week. They opened Monday – Wednesday 9am – 5.30pm; Thursday 9am-1pm (traditionally Ware’s early closing day until the late 1990s) then 9am – 8pm on Fridays and Saturdays. There were 20 staff, including a senior floor manager.
Harradence’s was considered a shop that catered for the ‘well-to-do” and each summer the family would give a garden party. After WW2, the way people worked had changed – the owners could no longer be fussy about who they employed. The summer parties ceased and the uniform was no longer insisted on.
Behind the shop were long and extensive gardens which ran down to the river and the family’s private summer house (or gazebo). By the early 1990s, they were largely forgotten and overgrown but were known locally to a few as ‘The Secret Garden’. In spring there were vibrant carpets of spanish bluebells between exotic trees and shrubs. No doubt it would have been beautifully maintained in its day. Sadly, what remained of the garden was flattened by developers and a warden-assisted living complex now covers the site.
Due to Jimmy Chapman’s retirement (he had worked there for 53 years), the doors finally closed 27th February 1971 after nearly 300 years serving the people of Ware.