Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Dewhurst, Forest Hill

Once a familiar sight in British high streets, Dewhurst stores disappeared in 2006. All that is left are some doorstep mosaics like the one below in Forest Hill.

I haven't found anything about the first years of J. H. Dewhurst. However in the early 1920s it was bought, alongside other butchery firms such as Eastmans, by the Union Cold Storage Company Ltd, a company based in Liverpool and founded in the 1890s by William and Edmund Vestey.
Over the decades the number of Dewhurst outlets increased to reach 1,400 by 1977. However from the 1970s they were facing increasing competition from supermarkets. In 1980 Union International, part the Vestey empire, rebranded its butchery subsidiaries as Dewhurst The Master Butcher but this was not enough to save them. Profits and consequently the number of outlets declined steadily throughout the 1980s and the first half of the 1990s, when Britain was hit by recession. In March 1995 Dewhurst, which had by then around 400 shops, went into receivership. A few months later a team of managers rescued the firm in a buy-out that involved around 210 shops. In 2005 West Country butchers firm Lloyd Maunder took over control of Dewhurst but they failed to revive the fortunes of the high street butcher's. In 2006, 60 stores closed down and the administrators were called in to sell the 35 remaining oulets.

Dewhurst is credited with the introduction of front shop windows for butchers'. Previously meat used to hang outside, fully exposed to the elements and to pollution.

I am sure that Finney will provide some valuable additional information about Dewhurst, so check the comments soon.

Click here to watch a video that includes many pitures of Dewhurst stores and tools associated with the trade.

Location: Dartmouth Road / Picture taken in July 2009


grumpyoldman said...

There is a butcher's shop in Bruce Grove N17 that still proudly bears the name 'Dewhurst of Tottenham'. I always found it amusing that the Vestey family would claim an association with that part of North London. I can also remember their heyday in the 1970s, when they would fly by helicopter from their Gloucestershire estate to visit their many farms around the country.

finney said...

John Henry Dewhurst born in 1877 in Southport the son of a butcher,
By 1900 he was a manager at 82 Oak street
in 1906 he had his own shop at 20 Chapel street & by 1914 he was selling in the market hall.
Kelly,s for 1920 list J H Dewhurst ltd bacon curers & sausage makers
at 2a hill st & 20 Chapel st.
John Henry Dewhurst married Florence Farrimond & had a daughter
Before 1923 JHD sold out to the Vestey bros who later adopted the name for their ready money shops.

Sebastien Ardouin said...

Thank you very much Finney for these informations. I was secretely hoping you would be able to cast some light on the origins of Dewhurst.

finney said...

Thanks Seb,Johns wife Florence died
in 1923 so that may have been why he sold the business,Dewhurst being a small fish in a big lake,2 shops & a market stall.
Vestey was accustomed to taking over
big firms of 500 shops & more,
What happened to J H Dewhurst i would like to know.Seems like he vanished like Lord Lucan.

finney said...

In reply to grumpyoldman about Dewhurst in Tottenham,This would be after 1995 when Vestey had liquidated & an MBO was trying to individualise the shops & give a non corporate image that Vestey had built up mainly in the working class areas.
Dewhurst was not a high class butcher they were fast ready money shops (FRM)not unlike Tesco ,Pile it high Sell it cheap,I know i was that butcher.

grumpyoldman said...

Your comments on types of shops are very interesting, Finney. I wonder what your views are on the predicted decline of the high street, and what could be done to prevent it?

I hope that topic isn't straying too far from the subject of this blog!

finney said...

Just picked this up & since my first comment we have lost 50% of our town butchers,the jobs gone on as we say in the trade,rent/rates,parking,price of meat,vegetarian,etc etc,