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




Messrs Popham, Radford and Company was founded in 1844 by Mr Thomas Willcocks Popham (1819-1878) and Mr Daniel Radford (1828-1900).  Thomas's wife was Miss Hannah Radford (1819-1868), the eldest daughter of Mrs Elizabeth Radford (1791-1852), while Daniel was Mrs Radford's second son.

Following the death of Mr Thomas Willcocks Popham in 1878, and his son, Mr Arthur Frederick Popham in 1906, the business largely fell into the hands of the Radford family, firstly Mr George David Radford, Mrs Radford's eldest son, and later his sons, Mr John Heynes Radford and Mr Charles Horace Radford.  Mr Daniel Radford, who was responsible for the start of the business, appears to have retired long before to Mount Tavy House, Tavistock, where he died on January 3rd 1900.  The Radfords were joined in the partnership by a Mr John Popplestone, another draper, who managed the business on a day-to-day basis.  By 1920 all the members of the Radford family had died and the firm dropped their surname from the title, which thus became simply Popham's.  By this time the business occupied numbers 39 to 44 Bedford Street, on either side of the Bedford Arcade, and also shops in East Street, at the rear of the premises. 

Advert for Messrs Popham's Ltd of Plymouth

On Wednesday August 19th 1931 a new Company was registered, Messrs Popham's Limited.  The two directors, each with 5,000 invested, were Mr Richard White Popplestone (1866-1943), of number 2 The Esplanade, son of Mr John Popplestone, and Mr Arthur Newton Hollely (1872-1961), of "Yalta", Thornhill Way, Mannamead.  It is said that Mr Popplestone and his two brothers, Mr Frank Popplestone (1869-1906) and Mr William Gilbert Popplestone (1878-1950), were the prime forces in the growth of the business.  Frank died at the very young age of 36 years.

Although generally referred to as "General Drapers" the registration document listed also silk mercers, provision merchants, farmers, dairymen, licensed victuallers, warehousemen, electrical engineers and contractors, tailors, clothiers, grocers, ironmongers, furniture dealers, gold and silversmiths, jewellers, booksellers, dealers in musical instruments and land and estate agents.  They had previously been undertakers as well.

In November 1940 Popham's had a special offer of Easy Chairs in their East Street window.  With 'softly spring seat and back' they were offered at 69s 6d (3 9s 6d) each.

Their premises in Bedford Street were destroyed during the night of Friday/Saturday March 21st/22nd 1941 during the Plymouth Blitz.

Building work commenced in July 1955 on a new store at the top end of Royal Parade, the frontage of 132 feet filling the gap between the Norwich Union building and Messrs Spooner's store.  Designed by Messrs Easton and Robertson, of Bedford Square, London, the contractors were Messrs Richard Costain Limited.

A new company, Messrs Popham's (Stores) Limited, was formed in 1957.

On Thursday February 27th 1958 the new store was officially opened.  Lord Westwood of Newcastle, a director of the Company, performed the ceremony, with assistance from Mr Dennis Price and Mr Alistair Grainger, both former Royal Navy men, who hauled the huge silver-bronze doors open with a white ribbon.  It was a grand, five-storey building with a restaurant on the top floor.  Part of the building was used by Lloyds Bank Limited for their banking hall and offices and there was also a small apartment on the third floor of their section.

Mr Sidney Newman was the chairman of the directors, while the joint managing directors were Mr Stephen Hubbard and Mr C K Rudkin-Jones.

Unfortunately, times were changing and Plymothians were no longer interested in elaborate service or spending much on their meals and the Company soon ran into financial difficulties.  Messrs Popham's (Stores) Limited was purchased by Messrs E Dingle and Company on September 3rd 1962 and in mid-November 1974 they started their last "Sale".  The restaurant closed on Friday June 21st in preparation for a farewell party and Popham's ceased trading at 5pm on Saturday June 22nd 1974.