Plummer Roddis originated as two separate companies in the 19th Century. William Plummer was a draper in Hastings with a store at 3 Robertson Street in 1871, later opening another store in Southampton. George Roddis in 1870 was a draper in Market Harborough, by 1881 becoming partner in a drapers & milliners called Roddis & Goldsmith at 1-2 Robertson Street, Hastings with some 50 employees. At this time, William was aged 44 and resided at 3 Holmesdale Gardens and George, who lived at Harborough House, was aged 45.
In 1887, another partner joined the firm by the name of Beecroft; this partner was not in the business for very long, advertising under the name of Plummer, Roddis and Beecroft disappearing by 1896.
During the late 19th Century William Plummer, George Roddis and Reginald Tyrrell, a Bournemouth draper, combined to create Plummer, Roddis and Tyrrell but Reginald Tyrrell relinquished his partnership in 1898 to focus on his other business Tyrrell & Green; thus the business became Plummer Roddis by 1905 at the latest. Advertising around this period reveals a steam lorry which was utilised for deliveries and the acquisition of a depository warehouse in the station yard.
It is noted that in 1901 the store in Robertson Street provided acccomodation for 47 live-in staff on the upper floors of the building. This may well have been to relieve the over-crowding that was common in households at the time when having six children was not uncommon. The staff would most likely have been in shared rooms or a dormitory, with senior staff members perhaps having their own room.
In 1927 the Hastings store was rebuilt by the renowned architect Henry Ward, involving the complete demolition of 1b, 2, 3 and 3a Robertson Street; the new building providing accommodation across five floors. Whilst the re-build took place, the ground floor of the old Observer newspaper office in Claremont was utilised for the china, glass and ironmongery departments, whilst at 31, 32 and 33, Robertson Street (orig. Barrance and Ford), the departments devoted to lace. ribbons, gloves, hosiery and trimmings were to be on the ground floor and ladies’ and children’s outfitting on the first floor, while at Nos. 6 to 9, Robertson Street showrooms were prepared for millinery, costumes and coats on the ground floor, and knitted wear, blouses and dress materials and silks on the first floor, all of the temporary properties that were bought for this time were sold on once the new building was completed.
As planned, the new building provided accommodation on the ground floor for the 'Fancy' department; this being pins/ribbons/lace/hosiery etc. The first floor housed millinery, gowns and costumes, with furs, knitted goods and ladies clothing on the second floor. The third floor was primarily dedicated to offices, but had an anciliary show-room and the fourth floor was earmarked for a tea room. Access to all floors was via two lifts, one being accessible from outside the store to provide access to the tea room when the shop was closed. The fourth floor tea room also had a balcony where people could enjoy drinks whilst overlooking Robertson Street and the Albert Memorial - the floor of the balcony still remains, although what were presumably railings have since been removed. The top floor provided kitchens for the tea room, together with workshops and stock-rooms.
On the fourth anniversary of moving into the new building, Plummer Roddis acquired a front-page feature in the Hastings & St Leonards Observer detailing a week-long series of events including orchestral and choral concerts, a 'jungle' feature on the first floor depicting a fur trapper to feature their range of fur coats, and a number of practical demonstrations of products from the store
The store was extended into, and over, the site of the Albany Hotel which had been bombed during WW2 in 1963, the works including basement levels and a yard, accessed from Robertson Terrace which incorporated a vehicle turntable in order lorries making deliveries to the store could be turned around in the limited space. The turntable was also reportedly utilised by the adjacent Queens Hotel. The first floor of the space above the Albany Hotel became a restaurant with views over the English Channel.
By 1965 Plummer Roddis had been bought by Debenhams Ltd. (a company that had commenced when William Debenham purchased the drapery store at 44 Wigmore Street in London's West End that had been run by William Clark since 1778, trading initially as Clark and Debenham. Following a further investment in 1851 from Clement Freebody the chain became 'Debenham & Freebody', and, finally, in 1905 'Debenhams Ltd.') by 1973 the store rebranded as Debenhams. By 2014 the only Plummer Roddis stores that operated as Debenhams still open were Guildford and Hastings. Debenhams had also retained the depository warehouse adjacent to South Terrace in the station yard which later became the ESK warehouse in 1986
The future of the large building is currently uncertain following news that Debenhams would be going into liquidation in December 2020, although in January of 2021 it was suggested that a mixed-use development was being considered for the site, with an entertainment complex on the ground floor and offices above; this opening during 2022.
References & Notes
- UK Census 1881
- British Newspaper Archive Hastings & St. Leonards Observer 12 March 1887 Pg. 0001
- British Newspaper Archive Hastings & St. Leonards Observer 4 July 1896 Pg. 0009
- Hastings Forum: Plummer Roddis Tyrell
- Hastings Forum
- British Newspaper Archive Hastings & St. Leonards Observer 2 April 1927 Pg. 0010
- British Newspaper Archive Hastings & St. Leonards Observer 16 January 1926 Pg. 0003
- British Newspaper Archive Hastings & St. Leonards Observer 19 September 1931 Pg. 0001
- Hastings Borough Council Planning application ref HS/63/00107
- BBC News: Debenhams: Over 200 years of history - BBC News, accessdate: 5 May 2021
- Hastings Borough Council Planning application ref HS/FA/86/00099