Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: September 19, 2019
Webpage updated: September 19, 2019




The Plymouth business house of Messrs Harding and Sons Limited, house furnishers, were located at 161-163 Union Street before the Second World War and in Old Town Street afterwards.

Mr John Harding founded the business in 1856.  He was a footman at North Huish Manor House, Ivybridge, Devon.  He was born in the Parish of North Huish in 1815.

He and his wife, Ann, and their three children, John, Elizabeth and Charles, moved to Plymouth and took up home at number 15 Flora Street.  By the time of the census in 1861 they had two more children, William and Caroline, both born in Plymouth.  Mr John Harding senior was a furniture broker while 18-years-old Mr John Harding junior was a cabinet maker.

In 1871 the Hardings were living in Union Street, Plymouth.  Both Mr John Harding, the father, and 18-years-old Charles Harding were classified as upholsterers while 14-years-old William Harding was their 'assistant in shop'.  Mr John Harding junior, still a cabinet maker, was boarding in Mint Street, Exeter, with another cabinet maker, Mr John Hall.  Mr Charles Harding eventually setup his own business, Messrs Charles Harding (Plymouth) Limited.

When the census was taken in 1881 Mr John Harding was employing twelve men and twelve boys at number 162 Union Street, while only 18-years-old Albert Harding, cabinet maker, was still living at home.  They had a domestic servant, Miss Mary Arthur, 18.

A couple of doors away, at number 165 Union Street, lived Mr John Harding junior, also an upholsterer.  He had married Miss Sarah Ann Cummings, a Honiton lace worker, in 1872 and by 1881 they had three children, including two sons, Master John William Harding and Master Albert Henry Harding.

Mrs Ann Harding died early in 1891 and the census of 1891 shows that 16-years-old Miss Caroline Harding, a draper's assistant, was at home with Dad.  The shop had been extended to include number 161 Union Street.  Again they had a domestic servant, 23-years-old Miss Julie E Ayres.

If the business had not already been handed over to son John then it certainly was when his father died in 1907, at the grand age of 91 years.

In 1891 Mr John Harding, the son, and his family were living at number 1 Summerland Place, the family having grown to a total of three boys and three girls, not to mention the domestic servant, 16-years-old Miss Elizabeth Brooking.

Mr Harding moved his family into number 161 Union Street.  15-years-old Ernest George Harding was now a cabinet maker's apprentice while 24-years-old Mr John William Harding was an upholsterer.  Mr Albert Henry Harding was now a furniture salesman assisted by his 18-years-old sister, Miss Bessie H Harding.  Their sister Louisa Caroline Harding, 16, was a dressmaker's apprentice, which left just 12-years-old Ethel Harding still at school.

Unfortunately Mr John Harding died in 1908, when only 66-years-old, which left Mrs Sarah Ann Harding as the head of the family, classifying herself as a 'House Furnisher'.  For some reason the manager of the business was in the hands of Mr Albert Henry Harding and his older brother, Mr John William Harding, was merely a shop assistant, as was their younger sister, Louisa.

After the Great War is was found easier and cheaper to manufacture furniture by machine and the cabinet workshop was closed down.  The business was made into a Limited Company in 1929 and extensive improvements were made to the Union Street premises in 1938-39.

Mr Albert Henry Harding passed away at home, "Lyndhurst", in Queen's Road, Lipson, on Tuesday August 22nd 1939.  He was 61 years of age.  During his 40 years at the head of the business it grew from just one shop to three and it was said that he did not take a holiday for the first twelve years.

His funeral was held in the chapel at the Plymouth Old (Ford Park) Cemetery on Sunday August 27th 1939 and his body was laid to rest in the family's vault there.  In addition to the family mourners and business associates, several members of staff attended the ceremony: Miss Connett, Miss Jewell, Mr E C Coe, Mr W Rowe, Mr Bryant, Mr Durrant, Mr P Parish, Mr G Mead, Mr G Dennis, Mr R Pode, Mr K Baker, Mr L Eccles, and Mr Pearce.  The funeral arrangements were undertaken by Mr F W Hockaday, of 72 Neath Road, Plymouth.

Mr Harding's son and daughter, Mr William L Harding, and Miss V M Harding, continued the business, with Mr C S Parnell, the late Mr Harding's nephew, as manager.

The premises at 161-163 Union Street were destroyed in the Second World War and they moved to temporary location in Richmond Street.

In 1953 a new showroom was opened in Drake Circus, Old Town Street.  Mr William Leslie Harding was the managing director at that time.

With the high demand for house furnishings during the reconstruction of Plymouth the business prospered until the recession of the 1980s.  The store closed its doors on Friday February 12th 1982, with 16 out of the 20 staff being made redundant.

However, in 1976 an out-of-town furniture store, known as Fairway Furniture, had been opened at Tavistock and new stores were opened at Plymstock, Newton Abbot and Saint Austell, all managed by Mr John Harding.

Mr William Leslie Harding died at Derriford Hospital on Saturday January 18th 1991 at the age of 71.  The funeral service was held at Woodford Methodist Chapel on Thursday January 24th 1991 and Mr Harding was buried at Efford Cemetery.  He was survived by his widow, Joan, and his two daughters, Susan and Mary, and one son, Mr John Harding.