Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Franklin Homan, Rochester

Around 1903 four houses at the eastern end of Rochester High Street were demolished to make way for the brand new showrooms and warehouse of furnishers Franklin Homan Ltd. A picture taken c. 1900 shows the High Street before work began, with the original office of Franklin Homan Ltd, auctioneers and estate agents. Even though it was not stated on the façade of the office at the time, Franklin Homan was also trading as a cabinet maker and upholsterer (maybe this side of the business was conducted from another office).
One of Homan's most famous customers was Charles Dickens, who contracted him to furnish two bedrooms at Gads Hill Place. The writer, who had purchased this country house in 1856, sent his instructions while visiting the United States for the second time in 1867-1868. Yet upon his return what he discovered was not entirely to his taste and Homan undertook the necessary changes (Dickens considered this to be his, not Homan's fault). Following the death of Dickens in 1870, Franklin Homan was asked to value and sell the furniture and other domestic effects for the executors of the will. He also conducted the writer's funeral. For more information on the relationship between Cahrles Dickens and Franklin Homan, you can refer to A Week's Tramp in Dickens-Land by William R. Hughes (pp. 70-71).
I have not found when Franklin Homan retired or died, nor have I been able to establish the relationship between the two persons who seem to have succeeded him: Franklin George Homan and Hubert Franklin Homan. However I suspect the two sides of the business -auctioneering and sale of properties, and furniture supplier- were kept and F. G. Homan was in charge of the former (his name is often mentioned in relation to legal documents. He died in 1922) while H. F. Homan dealt with the latter. Thus it could be Hubert Franklin Homan who was behind the construction of the large building on the High Street.
Whatever really happened after Franklin Homan left, what is certain is that on July 6, 1938, at a meeting convened at 178, High Street, the members of Franklin Homan Ltd decided to wind up voluntarily the company.
Since then the building has been occupied by several companies and shops, including electrical appliances specialist Seeboard (part of the South Eastern Electricity Board) but none of them removed the two ghost signs found on the gable walls of the former Franklin Homan showrooms and depositories.

Since buildings partly obstruct the view, two photos are necessary to see the whole ghost sign on the west gable wall.

Franklin Homan Ltd
Removals and Depositories

Virtually nothing hindered the view of east gable wall. Consequently it was possible to paint a much longer sign, which detailed the activities of the company. Even if part of the sign was oblitarated when three windows were opened, the text can be easily reconstituted.

Franklin Homan Ltd
The Largest Furnishing
Showrooms in the County
Household Removals
And Depositories.

Location: High Street, Rochester, Kent / Pictures taken in June 2011

1 comment:

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