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Our Story

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A short history of Banburys ltd.


We've been around for almost 100 years so we will try our best to keep it brief!


Our history is what makes our business so unique. The original store located in the centre of Barnstaple has been trading from the same High Street premises since 1925. During the intervening years, not only have the premises been greatly extended but the 'general drapery' store it once was, has given way to a modern department store. This has been complimented by a second department store based in Tiverton, a specialist furniture store and a removals and storage business. 

The business was started by three partners: Arthur Banbury, a Jewellery representative from Colchester, Mr Horwood, owner of a drapery store in Colchester, and Mr Brand who was a local Barnstaple investor. Arthur and Gwendoline Banbury lived 'over the shop' in the rooms above the High Street shop front. Arthur was responsible for the management of the business. Whilst it was believed that staff did not 'live-in' the premises, graffiti found on the walls on our top floor can be traced back to 1905.

The shop front, which had an arcade of brass framed display windows and were the largest and finest in the area, occupied as much as one third of the entire ground floor retail space! These remained largely intact until the seventies, when they were substantially reduced in size to create additional retail space. The original telephone number was Barnstaple 4 on the switchboard. Company headed paper of the period identified four principal departments: Milliners, Haberdashers, Costumiers, and Furnishers. Staff served behind mahogany cabinets that ran the length of the store. Most of the stock was kept in cabinets behind these counters, for the comfort of customers bentwood chairs were placed at regular intervals. Many customer accounts were paid once a year, normally during the period of the annual fair. This was when many country customers visited the town, and in gratitude for their custom, those that paid their accounts were given luncheon in the store dining room!

In contrast to present-day trends Millinery, Haberdashery and Silks (dress fabrics) were all large, busy departments. The linens department was known as 'Manchester' and ladies fashions or 'costumes' could be found in the 'Gown Room'. Sales receipts from the period suggest that a ladies hat could be purchased for 4 shillings (20p) meanwhile, in the furniture department, a three piece iron bedstead with spiral spring and wool mattress could be purchased for just £2. A settee suite was 14 guineas (£14.70p).

Following the war, Arthur was joined by his son, Peter Banbury, who had served in the Royal Navy on HMS Victorious and had just returned from action in North Africa with the 11th Hussars. They were also joined by Mr Horwoods son, John Bentall Horwood, who had recently completed his apprenticeship at Gamages Department Store in Oxford Street.


The business continued to develop and prosper during the fifties and sixties, however the retirements of Arthur Banbury and John Horwood, shortly followed by the death of Peter Banbury, aged just 49, left a young third generation in charge. Robert and David took the reins and were joined two years later by Richard, who at the time had just finished school. 

1970 – 2000

Retailing was undergoing a period of great change during the sixties and seventies. The era of boutiques and self service retailing had made the traditional drapery stores with arcade style windows and long counters look old fashioned. Banburys was in desperate need of modernisation! Under the watchful eye of Mrs Peter Banbury, Robert, David and Richard had the responsibility of updating the business.  

New premises were purchased so that the highly successful carpet department could further develop its business. Originally purchased in 1974, 101 Boutport Street traded as a carpet shop selling large broadloom carpets and vinyls. The building was subsequently rebuilt in 1990 to create a 6000sq ft furnishings store. With the removal of the carpet department the High Street store underwent a complete refurbishment. The first of many over the years!

As a result of the acquisition of neighbouring premises located in Joy Street, much of the drapery store was rebuilt in 1982. This expansion, which doubled the retail floor space, was significant because it signalled the transition from a drapery store to that of a modem department store.

In 1989 the company acquired and completely refurbished a large 20,000 sq ft department store in Tiverton. Previously trading as Eastmond & Son. Ltd. The store was in desperate need of modernisation. The introduction of departments such as cosmetics and a restaurant, combined with a refit of the entire store, ensured that the re-branded Banburys department store would remain a popular retail landmark in the centre of Tiverton.


A removals division, originally part of the Eastmond business, was further developed in 1999. The head office transferred to an architect designed storage facility in Barnstaple.

Ashford Garden Centre was purchased in 2000. The site and buildings were completely redeveloped in 2003/4 to provide a modem retail environment. Trade substantially increased and the reputation of this new garden centre was further enhanced when it attained a final position in the garden centre of the year award in November 2004. The Garden centre was subsequently sold in 2005 so that Banburys could concentrate on their core department store and removals business.


2005 saw the completion of yet another major expansion of the Barnstaple department store, increasing retail selling space by a further 50%. The additional 8000 sq. ft. of retail space provided the opportunity to extend Ladies fashions and other key departments.


Whilst there have been no structural changes to the business since the expansion in 2005 , the face of retail has changed dramatically! The fall of the Arcadia group had a significant impact on independent retailers. As a direct result, we saw the demise of some of our most popular fashion ranges such as Wallis, Dorothy Perkins and Planet to name just a few. Losing these popular In-house concessions was a bitter blow to the company! However, Banburys has and always will continue to evolve with the times. 

Our Values


Like any company, there have been plenty of ups and downs through the years. Nevertheless the Company’s goals remain unchanged and our priority, as always, is customer focussed.  We are here to provide the best service that we can and after more than a decade of immense change we are still very proud of our business. We're thankful for being a household name and for our wonderful reputation as a dedicated local company . We've had a lot of achievements throughout our history and we are keen to keep adding to them! The success of Banburys is very much rooted in its history, the loyalty of our Banburys staff and the belief that standards should not be compromised.


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Get in Touch

Barnstaple Department Store:

32-33 High St,


EX31 1BN

01271 311 000

Barnstaple Furniture Store:

101 Boutport St,


EX31 1SY


01271 373 624 

Tiverton Department Store:

1-5 Gold St,


EX16 6QD

 01884 252627

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