Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: August 26, 2019
Webpage updated: September 11, 2019




The Plymouth business house of Messrs E Dingle & Company Limited, drapers, refreshment room owners and motor engineers, was founded by Mr Edward Dingle (1840-1928), a Cornishman.  Before the Second  World War it was located at 28 to 31 and 33 Bedford Street, 4 to 6 Cornwall Street and Bank Street, Plymouth.  The motor engineer department was in Frankfort Square.

In 1880 Mr Dingle purchased a small drapery business at number 30 Bedford Street, Plymouth, from Mr John Adams and by the census of 1881 he was employing 13 drapery assistants, 12 dressmakers and two boys.  After Miss Rebeca Dingle, Edward's niece, one of his drapery assistants, had married Mr Thomas Baker, another of his assistants, in 1885, Mr Baker was invited to become a partner in 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 Harold Baker died in 1934 and on January 28th 1935 the business became Messrs E Dingle and Company Limited.  The following year it acquired the adjoining business and premises of Messrs W J Vickery and Company Limited at 26/27 Bedford Street.  This was followed in 1938 by the acquisition of Messrs Underwood and Company (Plymouth) Limited 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 and Hardy Limited, 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 Limited, started trading.  This was in a building on the site of the Roman Catholic Convent and Orphanage of Saint Teresa 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 and Smith (Plymouth) Limited, 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 and Company, and then on Wednesday December 2nd 1959 took over the restaurant ain New George Street of Messrs Goodbody's Limited.  In 1962 Dingle's took over its neighbouring competitor, Messrs Popham's Limited.

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.