Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Eastmans, Exmouth

Like many British towns, Exmouth once had a branch of butchery firm Eastmans Ltd. The company was formed in 1889, when John Bell & Son Ltd, a firm of Glaswegian origins founded in 1827 with more than 350 shops and stalls around the UK, acquired the cattle and shipping businesses of Timothy C. and Joseph Eastman of New York. This was a classical example of vertical expansion: production, transport and retail came to be controlled by a single company. Although it took the name of Eastmans Ltd, there was no Eastman on the board. By 1900 there were more than 400 Eastmans butcher shops and by 1912 the number had increased to more than 1,400, making the company second only to James Nelson & Sons Ltd, who controlled more than 1,500 outlets. During the 1890s Eastmans sold essentially US meat but in 1900 it sold its interests in the US and started importing meat from Argentina, Uruguay, Australia and New Zealand among others.
During the First World War many shops -up to 500- had to close because of the call up of staff and shortages of meat. Eastmans's case was not unique and the situation of multiple shop firms deteriorated to the extent that by the late 1910s-early 1920s their future was uncertain. This led to a wave of amalgations. In 1923 the Union Cold Storage Company Ltd bought Eastmans Ltd as well as its competitors the British and Argentine Meat Company Ltd, W. &. R. Fletcher Ltd and the Argenta Meat Company Ltd. The Union Cold Storage Company Ltd had been founded in the 1890s in Liverpool by the controversial Vestey brothers, William and Edmund. The names of the different shops, including Eastmans, were kept but in the 1960, in order to establish a strong national brand, most were renamed J.H. Dewhurst, after a small chain of butcher shops the Vesteys had acquired in the early 1920s. The initials were later dropped and in 1980 the shops started trading as Dewhurst the Master Butcher. However competition from supermarkets and the recession of the early 1990s led to a dramatic decline in the number of shops (from 1,700 in 1977 to 300 in the mid-1990s) and in the profitability of many outlets. In 1996 after incurring losses of £33 millions in six months, the company at the core of the Vestey empire Union International was placed into administrative receivership. The Dewhurst shops survived for another 10 years but eventually closed down in 2006.

Location: Exeter Road, Exmouth, Devon / Picture taken in April 2012


finney said...

Good post on Eastmans Exmouth,
I never worked there but i did at Lyme,Axminster,Chard,Honiton etc in the 60,s
Look at my pics on Flickr & comment.

Sebastien Ardouin said...

Thanks Finney. Do you have any specific address for your photo set on Flickr? I couldn't find it. Maybe it's me not knowing how to search properly.

finney said...

Go to Flickr & type in varney2008 & it should come up, Or Dewhurst butchers, Good site of yours ,You must come to Taunton there are some Ghosters on East reach,IE Council house & corn merchant

Grampa J said...

My grandfather, James McSkimming, worked as an apprentice at Eastman's in, I believe, Edinburgh, for an undetermined length of time. I don't know his age during this time, but believe it would have been about his mid-teens. The year (I'm guessing) would be around 1890 or so. I have a photo of him in front of Eastman's that looks like one I found online on High Street. Any ideas on how I might confirm if this is the one he worked at?
Thanks, Jim

finney said...

You may be right Grandpa J, sounds a bit early as Eastmans Ltd was a year old in 1890,
I may be able to find out more if more details to hand,
And the photo would be good to see,
finnimore2@gmail.com i hope thats allowed Seb