By S Williams
From 1785 to 1971 Harradence’s was one of Ware’s most important shops. Initially 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, which is Grade II listed and has 15th century origins. 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, James, John, Joseph, Thomas and William.
James’ grandson, Robert Walker Harradance expanded the business and after he died in 1900 it was left to his only surviving son, Robert William Harradence who then died in 1934. William Rawson Harradence took over and retired in 1947 and the shop continued to be run by Jimmy Chapman.
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 –
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
Annie Mead, 20, domestic servant, Takely, Essex
In the 1930s, a Miss Long worked there as an assistant. They all 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. It was considered a shop that catered for the ‘well-to-do”. Each summer, the family would give a garden party. After WW2, things 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 summer house. By the 1990s, they were long forgotten but were known as ‘The Secret Garden’. In spring there were carpets of bluebells. Most of the trees were not native it and once, it would have been beautifully maintained. Sadly, it was built on in the 1990s.
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.