Generations of Newburians were clothed by Beynons shop - the wall plaque is all that remains
A Mr Burgess began trading as a draper and clothier in Newbury’s Market Place in 1827. Little is known of Burgess’s shop, though a few photographs survive.
In 1890 Richard Beynon left his native Cheltenham and came to Newbury to take over the long established business; it is the Beynon name which has survived to this day in a plaque on the building overlooking the Market Place, though the shop closed in 1990.
Richard and his wife Lucy had a son, Thomas, and a daughter Constance. Thomas died in the First World War in 1916; Constance helped her father to run the family business until his death in 1934.
She then ran the business herself for a few years till she sold it to Charles Summersby in 1937, though the Beynon name was retained. Constance was remembered as a great disciplinarian in the days when shops in the town were open for long hours. In the 1930s there was a cheap-ticket train from Lambourn arriving at Newbury station at 7.30 on Saturday evening, and by 7.45pm the shop was chock-a-block with customers, who often stayed well beyond the 8pm closing time.
After she sold the business and moved out of the family home at Cheriton, Pyle Hill, Constance for a time had a suite of rooms at the Chequers Hotel, where she lived with her parrot and toy dog and her own furniture.
Beynon’s shop was a bastion of traditional old-fashioned customer service. Generations of Newburians were clothed from there. Most of the staff had many years’ experience. In 1989, Mrs Lea Willoughby of Oaken Grove retired aged 76, having worked there for over 40 years. She said “I have really enjoyed it. I don’t like supermarkets – personal service is so much better.”
Times have changed – Mrs Willoughby could remember the Michaelmas Fair on the Wharf and carriers from the surrounding villages calling into the shop, bringing notes that people had written their orders on. The carriers would then take the goods back to them on approval, and bring the money in the following week.
Nowadays shops expect payment up front.
Parts of the building date back hundreds of years. Prior to a major refurbishment in 1984, there was a maze of tiny offices, storerooms and cellars. On the top floor there was even a small chapel, used by staff for morning prayers.
A major facelift in 1984 saw the return of the popular Magpie tea-rooms. Charles Summersby’s photographer grandson, Richard Summersby, ran his photographic studio from there for a while in the 1980s. By then the shop was selling hardware and furniture as well as clothing and drapery. In 1989 it was decided to concentrate on menswear, and there was a brief change of name to Summersby’s Menswear. But a downturn in the retail trade forced the shop to close in 1990, after more than 150 years of trading.
Since then the site has been home to many businesses, including Yorkshire Bank, Caffe Uno, and La Tasca, to name just a few.
But the original plaque of “Beynon, Est 1827” remains on the front of the building.
During the 2005 General Election campaign a publicity stunt by local Conservatives involving a doctored photograph altering the famous Beynon name to that of their candidate Benyon, backfired when Newburians with long memories were not amused.
See next week’s Newbury Weekly News for the story of Thomas Campbell Beynon in the First World War.