Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: October 29, 2017.
Webpage updated: October 29, 2017

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Messrs H J & E A Boolds Ltd, drapers and haberdashers, were located at 1 Tavistock Street, and 1 to 4 Market Street, Devonport.

Harriet James Boolds was baptised at Stoke Damerel Parish Church on June 16th 1816.  Her father, Mr James Boolds, was a shipwright in the Royal Dockyard and he had married her mother, Miss Harriet Coward, at Stoke Damerel Church on February 13th 1810.

Although there were a few schools in Plymouth Dock at that time, there is no mention of her having received any formal education.  In 1838, at the age of 22, she opened a small haberdashery shop in Pond Lane, in what had become the Town of Devonport.

At the time of the 1841 census she was the eldest in a large family.  20-years-old Andrew Boolds was a printer's apprentice who later became owner of the "Devonport Independent" newspaper, but the others, Helen, Eliza, Henry John, Sarah, Cornelius Charles, Edwin and Adelain, were all of school age.   Later in life, Mr Henry John Boolds later became the head surveyor for Lloyd's at Newcastle-on-Tyne and Mr Cornelius Charles Boolds opened a drapery business in George Street, Plymouth.  Harriet's eldest brother, Mr James Almond Boolds was a theoretical scholar of great renown.

Miss Boolds is reputed to have had boundless energy and regarded with unconcern the tedious coach journeys to London when buying had to be done.  She was one of the first to get the coach to Exeter and change on to the railway for the remainder of the journey to London.  She considered the railway a tremendous boon.

It was at this point in time, in 1860, that she took on her brother, Mr Edwin Alfred Boolds, as a junior partner.  He had served his apprenticeship with his sister but then went to Messrs William Tarn & Company, wholesale drapers, of Newington Causeway, London, and Messrs Jackson's at Salisbury in Wiltshire to gain knowledge.  When he returned to Devonport the business became H J & E A Boolds.  The two of them were then living with their widowed father at number 7 Catherine Lane.  As there were two "shop women" living there as well it would seem that this was where the shop was then located.

They slowly increased their space and the range of items.   When Tavistock Street was being widened the Council purchased the premises of their brother, Mr James Almond Boolds, who was operating a paper hanging and carpet warehouse at number 84 Fore Street, on the corner with Tavistock Street.  Not all of it was required so Harriet bought up the surplus and turned it into a furnishings department.  Later they purchased some rack-rented properties in Sydney Street and Market Street and redeveloped those.   The displays were arranged as cosy, compact homes of varying sizes.

Mr Edwin Alfred Boolds had married Miss Fanny Proctor at the Anglican Church of Saint Mary on September 24th 1868 and in 1873 they had a son, James Edwin Cornelius Boolds.  Shortly before the founder retired, in 1890, when she was in her mid-seventies, he entered the business, having been educated at the Exmouth House School and taught the trade by his father.

On Sunday July 19th 1896 Miss Harriet James Boolds passed away at her home, number 5 Tamar Terrace, Stoke.  She was 81 years of age.   During her life she had been a staunch supporter of the Christ Church Unitarian Chapel in Devonport as well as a benefactor of the Mechanics' Institute and many other charities.

Living just two doors away from the late Miss Harriet was Mr Thomas P Horton, a fellow draper, who owned Messrs Pinsent & Company, at 31-33 Market Street, Devonport.  When he retired, sometime after 1901, Boolds took over his business, remodelled the frontage and used it for the costume and underclothing department.  They also took the opportunity to start glass, china and footwear departments in those premises.

On Sunday February 23rd 1902 Mr James Almond Boolds passed away at his home, number 5 Paradise Place, Stoke.  He was 85 years of age and had been retired since 1892.

Mr James Edwin Cornelius Boolds became a partner in the business in 1904.  In either 1904 or 1906, sources differ, the business was changed into a limited liability company, with Mr Edwin Alfred Boolds as chairman and Mr James Edwin Cornelius Boolds as managing director.  Edwin's wife, Mrs Fanny Boolds, and their daughter, Miss Harriett "Hattie" James Boolds, also became directors.   He retired from the business in 1905.

Mr Edwin Alfred Boolds died peacefully at 1.30pm on Wednesday January 15th 1908 at number 8 Albermarle Villas, Stoke.  He was 73 years of age.

Under the leadership of Mr James Edwin Cornelius Boolds the Company took over the premises of boot maker Mr William Hornbrook, at number 3 Tavistock Street, when the owner retired and turned it into the millinery department.

A new furnishing arcade was opened on Thursday April 8th 1909.  It ran through the centre of their premises between Tavistock Street and Market Street.  In addition to the 'largest and most attractive display of furnishing goods in the West of England', it also had showrooms for carpets, rugs, Melba gramophones and -- for some reason -- mailcarts. 

On September 14th 1910 Mr James Edwin Cornelius Boolds married Miss Amelia Davenport at Stoke Damerel Parish Church.  They had at least two children, Peter James Edwin Boolds, who was baptised at Stoke Damerel on November 26th 1914 and Millicent Joyce Boolds, who was baptised on March 15th 1917.

At the end of 1913 it was decided to remodel the whole of the drapery frontage.  The work was started in February 1914 and was entrusted to Mr G B Turpin of Plymouth, while the fittings were installed by Messrs S Haskins Brothers Ltd of Old Street, London.

The business ceased trading in the late 1920s but the name was kept alive when, in 1931, Mrs Amelia Boolds and her 14-years-old daughter Miss Millicent Joyce Boolds opened a shop at number 77 Cobourg Street, Plymouth.  This one was called, simply, Boolds.

Mr James Edwin Cornelius Boolds died on Friday February 28th 1947 at the age of 73.  His widow evidently moved in with their daughter at 77 Cobourg Street, where she died on December 11th 1947 at the age of 62 years.