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The History Of Cole Brothers and Coles Corner


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Cole Brothers Sheffield.jpg

Still known to many of its customers as Cole Brothers, this Sheffield landmark has a proud heritage, dating back to 1847.

The Cole Brothers, John, Thomas and Skelton, sons of a shoemaker, were born respectively in 1814, 1824 and 1827. The two elder boys were both apprenticed to drapers and by 1847 felt they had enough experience to open their own business, at 4 Fargate. They described themselves as `Silk Mercers and Hosiers` and were soon joined by their younger sibling.

The business had expanded considerably, occupying premises in Fargate and Church Street, and the brothers had now become `Silk Mercers, Shawl, Mantle and Carpet Warehousemen, Bonnet Makers and Sewing Machine Agents`.

John Cole

Between 1896 and 1902 all three brothers died. They had seen their draper`s shop develop into one of the foremost businesses in the city. `Cole`s Corner` had become a favourite meeting place and the building was one of Sheffield`s best known and well-loved landmarks. In 1898 the business was registered as a limited company and it was the next generation of Cole sons that took the enterprise into the new century.

In 1909 women were employed for the first time to work in the shop and in 1911 the first motor delivery van was acquired. Little is known about the effects of the First World War on the family or the business, but in 1918 sales topped ?200,000 for the first time. By then the two `young Mr. Coles` were in their mid-sixties, and had in their turn become pillars of the local community.

In 1919 they sold the business to H. Gordon Selfridge, the American entrepreneur, who some ten years earlier had opened the successful department store in London`s Oxford Street, and Cole Brothers became part of the growing Selfridge Provincial Stores Group.

There are few records of the interwar years, except it may be safely assumed that Selfridge introduced the same promotional and advertising strategies that he employed in the other shops in his group. We do know, for example, that when Amy Johnson`s aeroplane, `Johnnie`, went on a tour of the country, it was at Cole Brothers that it was displayed in Sheffield.

In 1940 the Selfridge family decided to sell the SPS group to the John Lewis Partnership. The building came through the war unscathed and in the post-war years business began to pick up. Visiting Cole Brothers was considered to be `an occasion` and eating in Cole Brothers restaurant was a special treat.

Though the 50s were buoyant times, by 1960 it was clear that the old shop had to go and the Partnership decided to build a new shop on Barkers Pool, a derelict piece of land some 300 yards from Cole`s Corner. It opened on 17 September 1963.

The move from the old and well-loved building to the new purpose-built shop had been considered by many to be risky, but customers soon transferred their allegiance and flocked to the new shop.

Within ten years it became clear that the selling space was woefully inadequate. In 1974, to free up more space, the offices were moved across the road to accommodation in Barkers Pool House and in 1977 the Partnership acquired a shop in Cambridge Street. By the end of the `70s the interior of the shop was beginning to look dated and a MASSIVE refurbishment programme was begun.

Sheffield was hit harder than most by the recession of the `80s. Out-of-town shopping offered strong competition and the building of the Supertram network made access to the city centre difficult, but Cole Brothers weathered the storm and in 1997 celebrated 150 years of trading and the best sales increase in 16 years.

Five years later, after lengthy consideration, the Partners at Cole Brothers decided to join most of the other department stores in the John Lewis group and take the name of the founder.

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Guest tsavo

Cole Brother 1905, from a postcard

What a great picture, Richard, especislly the liveried horse carrages waiting outside. Coles was a strange shop inside. As you walked through the store, as if going up Fargate, there were ramps to compensate for the slope. Really felt weird to walk on.

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Guest tsavo

Ok to that. What about Wilkes the ironmongers shop in Norfolk St? Think it used to be about where the Crucible is now.

Lots of different rooms, nothing pre-packaged just big boxes of nails and screws, tools etc. Now that's a picture worth searching for. Will start looking.

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My Auntie used to work in the shoe department of the old Cole Bros. I remember going in with my Mum and being able to put my feet into the machine they had there at the time. it was an Xray machine that showed an xray of your feet.

They were banned from use when the risks of xray radiation was discovered.

Little did I know that at the same time my future mother in law was alos working there in the fur 'modes' department - and many years later her daughter, who became my wife, worked at the 'new' Coles in the furniture department.

To continue the family connection with this organisation, my daughter has been working at John Lewis in Peterbrough for the past six months - and her sister is thinking of working there!

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My sister still works at coles ... been there about 30 years now. Something of a novelty with today's employment patterns.

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Cole Brother 1905, from a postcard

Time to bring this photo back to the top of the pile, still a favourite of mine .... check out the original posting, maybe newer members didn't catch it ...

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Guest Gonzalo

My name is Gonzalo. I m from Argentina. Sorry but i don´t speak english. Also.

There must be so many people that are here in Sheffield and in this world who are alive because a love bloomed after meeting here...

on Coles Corner, in Sheffield, the city where i live.

Increible!

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My name is Gonzalo. I m from Argentina. Sorry but i don´t speak english. Also.

There must be so many people that are here in Sheffield and in this world who are alive because a love bloomed after meeting here...

on Coles Corner, in Sheffield, the city where i live.

Increible!

Any excuse to bring this picture back to peoples attention ...

http://www.sheffieldhistory.co.uk/forums/i...art=#entry31570

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Guest Gonzalo

Hello friends. How are they?. In Argentina it is hot ... can they me bring something of cold?

I do a question to them: can they say to me in that street is located the Cole Brothers?

Would it be great to ask, in addition, if they indicate me in that map I can find her?

Thank you

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Hello friends. How are they?. In Argentina it is hot ... can they me bring something of cold?

I do a question to them: can they say to me in that street is located the Cole Brothers?

Would it be great to ask, in addition, if they indicate me in that map I can find her?

Thank you

Here you go, + was Cole Brothers .. Flash Earth

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I think it very interesting that the old Cole Brothers building has survived decades of use and abuse including 2 world wars while the new building on Barkers Pool is falling apart after just over 40 years.

Having worked for John Lewis Sheffield for over 10 years I have seen it decay. It will be interesting to see how long the New "new" John Lewis survives, if indeed it ever gets built!

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Guest Gonzalo

Hello friends...

To the end...In June I will be in Sheffield. I do a consultation to them: of the station of Sheffield's trains, that bus I take to coles corner?

I can be walking?

Thank you

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RichardB

Cole Brothers (1860)

Cole Brothers, Silk Mercers & General Drapers

4 and 8 Fargate

No. 4 Entrance for General Drapery and to the Showrooms for Shawls, Mantles, Millinery, Carpets and Furnishing.

No. 8 Entrance to Silk, Mourning & Flower Department

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RichardB
RichardB

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