The change in the retail sector started a good few years ago. The man behind the counter. “Are you being served”? Spiller and Webber became part of that change when they closed shortly after their centenary in 1990.
“A Proud Tradition of Service” stated the 100th Birthday special in the County Gazette of April 6th, 1990. Their first advertisement in the Gazette came in April 1890 as Ironmongers and Oil, Colour and Glass Merchants. Kitchen Ranges Fixed and Baths Fitted. The company founders were George Spiller and Charles Webber.
The business at 7 Bridge St prospered and in 1912 became a limited company. The original two-story premises were enlarged in 1937. To keep the business going much of the work was done at night and it took nearly a year to complete. The building work was undertaken by Moggridge and Sons. The fourth-floor containing offices was added in 1956. Work continued in the 1960s as a car park was provided and the ground floor sales area expanded. Stodgels carried out extensive interior work in 1980 to comply with new fire regulations. Two new staircases were built and all four floors restructured. This work took six months and cost £63,000.
1985 saw a change of ownership at Spiller and Webber as the company was bought by the Stansell Group another family firm that sought to maintain the same personal approach to customers and staff. This enabled substantial investment in the warehouse arrangements with new plumbing and building counters. The stock level had risen to over 30,000 items so a new ICL computer system was installed. It took six months to bring the system to full working order.
In 1987 George Spiller’s Penny Farthing bicycle was restored and adopted as the company logo. You can see it in the accompanying image. The same year saw a redesign of the ground floor and a year later a new Twyfords Bathroom Centre was completed on the first floor. Later in the 1980s, the kitchen display area was modernised and the fireplace showroom refurbished to exhibit some 20 fireplaces and hearth accessories.1990 then saw the companies 100th anniversary. Sadly it was not to last. Fashion and times have changed. In 1937 Spiller and Webber advertised a wonderful new concept in design. The coloured toilet basin. Previously all sanitary fittings were white. Now they have reverted back to white again but the “are you being served”? concept is unlikely ever to return.
Some of the staff in later years at Spiller and Webber included John Croker, Jim Westcott, George Glover, Cyril Alexander, Muriel Lewis, Arthur North, Jack and Sid Salter, Harold Winter, Harry Cook, George Kimmins, Jim Crews, Bill Newton, Stan Durman, Walter King, Ron Bone, Arthur Pinn, Edward Ricketts, and Alan Tremethick whom I knew well.
The fine building still remains and is occupied by The Coal Orchard on another road into the ever-changing retail sector of our towns.
By Nick Chipchase