Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: October 28, 2017.
Webpage updated: October 28, 2017




Messrs E Dingle & Company Ltd, drapers, refreshment room owners and motor engineers, were located at 28 to 31 and 33 Bedford Street, 4 to 6 Cornwall Street and Bank Street, Plymouth, before the Second World War and in Royal Parade thereafter.  The motor engineering department was in Frankfort Square.

Mr Edward Dingle, the founder of the business of Messrs E Dingle & Company, was born in the parish of Linkinhorne, Cornwall, in 1840.  It would appear that young Edward got his initial interest in the drapery trade from his sister-in-law, Mrs Jane Dingle, the wife of older brother, Mr John Herring Dingle, who in the 1860s was a draper in Wellington Square, Callington, Cornwall.

Edward was sent off to London to learn the trade properly.  He returned to Plymouth in 1870/71, married, and as a drapery assistant.  In 1880 he purchased a small drapery shop at 30 Bedford Street from Mr John Adams.  At the time of the census in 1881 he was employing 13 drapery assistants, 12 dressmakers and 2 boys.  Amongst the staff living with him and his wife, Ann, in 1881 were his nephew, Mr Henry Dingle, aged 17, and his niece, Miss Rebecca Dingle, aged 25.  These were the children of Mr John Herring Dingle, the draper turned farmer.

There was another young drapery assistant in Plymouth at that time by the name of Mr Thomas Baker.  He came from north Devon and was lodging with Mrs Elizabeth Davis at number 7 Bayswater Terrace in Albert Road, Plymouth.  It is not known who he was working for: it may have been Spooner's rather than Dingle's.  Now, Mr Thomas Baker married Miss Rebecca Dingle in 1885 up in north Devon and he then joined Edward in running the business.

Mr Thomas Baker served as Mayor of Plymouth between 1913 and 1916, covering the extremely busy period of the amalgamation of the Three Towns, and was knighted in 1920 as a result.  When Sir Thomas Baker died on December 17th 1926, his two sons, Mr Harold Baker and Mr John Russell Baker, joined the firm.

When the founder of the business, Mr Edward Dingle, died on Saturday February 25th 1928, at the age of 87 years, it was his second son, Mr Frank Hanscomb Dingle, who took over control of the business.

Mr Dingle's funeral took place at Emmanuel Church on Wednesday February 29th 1928 and he was buried at the Plymouth Old (now Ford Park) Cemetery.

Mr Harold Baker died in 1934 and on January 28th 1935 the business became Messrs E Dingle & Co Ltd.  The following year it acquired the adjoining business and premises of Messrs W J Vickery & Company Ltd at 26 Bedford Street.  This was followed in 1938 by the acquisition of Messrs Underwood and Company (Plymouth) Ltd at 32 Bedford Street, now giving Dingle's a freehold site of 26,000 sq ft with frontages in Bedford Street, Cornwall Street and Bank Street.

The Company's premises were during the Blitz of March 1941 and they moved into some forty different properties around Plymouth, including Tavistock (closed by 1954) and Ivybridge (probably both Underwood's).  With the City Centre obliterated and the closest shops being now at Mutley Plain, they opened a combined grocery/cafe/self-service restaurant in Alexandra Road in 1943.

Once the Second World War had ended there were several acquisitions and new developments prior to the rebuilding of their main store.  The first occurred on March 28th 1948, when they acquired Messrs Bruford & Hardy Ltd, ironmongers.  It remained a separate concern until it was merged with Dingle's on October 31st 1952.

The second development occurred on February 1st 1950, when a new company, Messrs Saint Teresa's Industries Ltd, started trading.  This was in a building on the site of Saint Teresa's Orphanage in Beaumont Road.  Covering some 45,000 square feet, this building comprised a bakery, a food and ice cream production plant, and large refrigeration chambers.  It produced bread, ice cream, sausages, and other meat products for their own retail use as well as for wholesale sales to other shops and the Royal Navy.  On September 1st 1953 the second and third floors of the building were leased to the South Western Electricity Board (SWEB) as offices.

Mr Frank Harcomb Dingle, son of the founder and chairman of the Company, passed away on Tuesday July 4th 1950.

On October 23rd 1950 Messrs Dingle's changed from being a private Company to a public one, although shares were not to be traded on the London Stock Exchange until Monday June 14th 1954.

By then work was in progress on their new store in Armada Way, also fronting on Royal Parade and New George Street.  Extending for 35,000 square feet, it comprised four floors plus a small basement amounting to some 135,000 square feet of sales space.  They also had an underlease on the second floor of premises in New George Street.  The architects were Messrs Sir John Burnett, Tait and Partners, and they ensured that the steelwork was strong enough to take a fifth floor when it was required.  On June 24th 1951 a 99-year lease was signed, allowing for an annual rental of 8,750.

Two further acquisitions took place during 1953.  On Monday March 9th 1953 they took over Messrs Garratt's, ladies' outfitters, upon the retirement of Mr W A Garratt; and on June 18th 1953, they took over Messrs Parker & Smith (Plymouth) Ltd, pianoforte makers and retailers.

Thus, by 1954, when the Company was employing some 757 people, the Directors were:  Mr John Russell Baker, chairman and joint managing director; Mr John Jeffery Baker, vice-chairman and financial director; Mr Winston Brimacombe, joint managing director; Miss Edith Arnott, manageress; Mr Edward Donald Hayman Dingle, manager; Mr John Edmund Gullett, manager; Mr Frank Spencer Scott, secretary; Mr Stanley Albert Vickery, manager.

In 1955 Dingle's acquired the local wine merchants, Messrs Collier & Company, and then on Wednesday December 2nd 1959 took over the restaurant ain New George Street of Messrs Goodbody's Ltd.  In 1962 Dingle's took over its neighbouring competitor, Messrs Popham's Ltd.

After only sixteen months of operation the Dingle's branch in Bridgwater, Somerset, was closed down in June 1963, with 14 or 15 employees being put out of work.

Messrs E Dingle and Company Ltd finally lost its local business status in 1971 when it was bought by the House of Fraser for 6,150,000.   However, they did retain the Dingle's name until very recently.

Mr Edward Dingle would have been proud, and his parents even prouder, to have known that from his small beginning in 1880 the business was eventually worth over 6 million and that despite the efforts to suppress the name, it is still referred to by the older generation, at least, as Dingle's.