The long-running family business closed in 1981.
Newbury drapery business AT Inch was established by Arthur and Mabel Inch in January 1914. The shop was located at 119 Bartholomew Street, later expanding into the premises on either side so that by 1928 it took up 118, 119 and 120 Bartholomew Street. No. 120 had previously been the premises of Porter and Turk’s agricultural engineering firm. Arthur and Mabel lived with their son and two daughters in a flat above the shop, and Arthur was still living there in the early 1970s. By then the business was being run by his son Thomas.
Thomas, born in 1918, was educated at Newbury Grammar School (now St Bartholomew’s). After leaving school, he worked in London for a wholesale drapery business. During the Second World War, he served with the Royal Army Ordnance Corps in North Africa, the Middle East and Europe. When the war ended in 1945, he married Joan (nee Thorn) and returned to Newbury to help with the family draper’s business. Arthur Inch retired in 1967 and son Thomas took over the business with his two sisters, Mary Squire and Joan Lambourn.
The shop developed a reputation for providing anything in the drapery line – from a knitting needle to a good quality coat. Thomas Inch remarked “Instead of giving a farthing change, we used to give customers a packet of pins or a reel of cotton”.
In 1971, nos 119 and 120 Bartholomew Street, at the junction with Market Street, were demolished to widen the road junction, and the diminished business continued to occupy the remaining building, which had changed little in appearance since it first opened. At that time, Tom Inch remarked “In our line of business we have found that there is no need to modernise, and our customers prefer to see the shop as it has always been”.
The shop finally closed in February 1981 when Tom Inch retired. The site was bought by local property developers Trencherwood, and in 1983 Tom Inch officially opened “Inch’s Yard”.
Inch’s Yard, a collection of small retail units, is currently home to a handful of successful local businesses including Jones Robinson Estate Agents, Julian’s Hairdressing Salon, Headroom Hairdressing, Rainbow Crafts and Newbury’s first Micro Pub, the Cow and Cask.