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Brentford Families - Griffith

1927 caricature of 'George', thought to be George Arthur Griffith, co-founder of Griffith Bros

Original Query

Guy Richardson wrote in January 2012:

I am researching my maternal grandfather, William Griffith, who ran a gents outftters/clothiers business at 125/126 and 188 High Street from 1900 until the 1930s. My grandfather became the first secretary to the Brentford Chamber of Commerce in the 1920s.

I can't work out the complete picture of how and why the business was set up in Brentford and would be most grateful for any information or pointers.

The information on your website suggests that Griffith Bros took over number 188 in 1900, whilst already established at 125/126. Have I understood that correctly?

The 1901 census shows William Griffith in lodgings in the area - a clothier and an employer. He was 24 years old and ten years earlier had been apprenticed to a gents outfitter in Tunbridge Wells, Kent near where his family lived.

He had one brother, George who according to the 1911 census was a gents outfitter, living in Hounslow and was, presumably, working with my grandfather. However, in the 1901 census George was still living in Kent working in the paper business together with his father.

So the questions I'm trying to answer are - in 1900 what were the first names of the brothers in Griffith Bros? Was George a 'sleeping' partner who moved from Kent to become active in the business after 1901? Also why did my grandfather, at quite a young age, set up (or go into) a business in Brentford? I can find no links with Brentford or gents outfitting in the wider family circle.

I have in my possession a silver salver presented by the Chamber to William Griffith "as token of esteem" in 1921. The family assumption is that it was presented to my grandfather.

Any information would be very much appreciated.

Guy added: William Griffith died in 1949 in the October to December quarter. He and his wife Florence were living at 21 Redway Drive, Whitton, Twickenham. William's brother, George Arthur Griffith, went to America, I'm told, but haven't yet confirmed. Probably in the 1930s after Griffith Bros collapsed.

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Who and How

Guy's query was answered over the following weeks with assistance from Janet McNamara, Kath Richardson, Secretary of the Brentford Chamber of Commerce, and Hazel Dakers' research into the occupancy of 188 High Street. A range of resources were used:
  • London Gazette online archive (free)
  • Historical Directories website (free)
  • 1900 rate book for Brentford
  • 1909/10 Valuation (The National Archives, Kew)
  • 1901 census (findymypast - subscription required)
  • Electoral registers (ancestry.co.uk - subscription required)
  • Newspapers held at Chiswick Library Local Studies
  • Brentford Chamber of Commerce website
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Business Records

There are four references to Griffith Bros in the London Gazette online:
  • Two from 1898 referring to William Mainwaring Griffith, trading as Griffith Bros, 300 High Road Chiswick (hosier and hairdresser)
  • Two from 1934 and 1935 referring to the dissolving of the company Griffith Bros. (Brentford) Limitied
There is also a reference to the dissolving of a hosiers and hairdressers at 300 High Road Chiswick, 'Farrin and Griffith' in July 1897, by mutual consent (John Farrin and William Mainwaring Griffith). John Farrin and William 'N' Griffiths are both recorded in the 1898 Electoral Register as jointly occupying 300 High Road Chiswick. Historical Directories website provide further sightings:
  • Thorpe Bros, 300 High Road Chiswick, hosiers and hairdressers (Kelly's Directory of Essex, Herts & Middx, 1894)
  • Griffith Bros, 300 High Road Chiswick, hosiers and hairdressers (Kelly's Directory of Middx, 1898)
  • Samuel Winter, 188 High Street Brentford, clothier (1897 directory)
  • George William Lay, 125/6 High Street Brentford, solicitor (1897/8)
  • Samuel Winter, 188 High Street Brentford, clothier (1898 directory)
  • Samuel Winter, 188 High Street Brentford, clothier (1899 directory) (he moved to Tunbridge Wells by 1901)
  • Griffith Bros, 188 High Street Brentford, occupiers (1900 rate book)
  • Griffith Bros, 188 High Street Brentford, clothiers (no details recorded against numbers 125/126 High Street) (Kelly's 1901)
  • Griffith Bros, 113 (hosiers) and 125 & 126 High Street Brentford (clothiers) (Kelly's 1907)
  • Griffith Bros, 113 (hosiers) and 125 & 126 High Street Brentford (clothiers) (Kelly's 1911)
  • Charles Harper Escott, 300 High Road Chiswick, (bootmaker) ( Kelly's Directory of Middlesex, 1914)
  • Griffith Bros, 113 (hosiers) and 125 & 126 High Street Brentford (clothiers) (Kelly's Ealing, Hanwell, Brentford & Southall Directory1914)
  • Griffith Bros at 113 High Street Brentford ((hosiers) and 13 York Street Twickenham (outfitters) (1914 Kelly's Middx)

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Electoral registers on ancestry.co.uk:
  • 1904: George Arthur Griffith (abode 18 Clifden Road Brentford) qualifying property: 113, 125 & 126 High Street Brentford
  • 1904:William Griffith (abode Braeside, Windmill Road Brentford) qualifying property: 113, 125 & 126 High Street Brentford
  • 1904: George Arthur Griffith (abode 18 Clifden Road Brentford) qualifying property: 18 Clifden Road and 10 Clifden Road Brentford
  • 1908: George Arthur Griffith (abode 199 High Street Hounslow) qualifying property: 199 High Street Hounslow & 18 Clifden Road Brentford
  • 1908:William Griffith (abode Braeside, Windmill Road Brentford) qualifying property: 199 High Street Hounslow
  • 1910: George Arthur Griffith (abode 199 High Street Hounslow) qualifying property: 199 High Street Hounslow
  • 1910:William Griffith (abode 13 York Street Twickenham) qualifying property: 199 High Street Hounslow
  • 1918: George Arthur Griffith (abode 77 Grove Road Hounslow) qualifying property: 125 & 126 High Street Brentford
  • 1918:William Griffith (abode 13 York Road Twickenham) qualifying property: 125 & 126 High Street Brentford
  • 1918: George Arthur Griffith (abode Hampton House Grove Road Hounslow) qualifying property (joint): 182 High Street Uxbridge
  • 1918:William Griffith (abode 13 York Street Twickenham) qualifying property (joint): 182 High Street Uxbridge

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Adverts in local newspapers (thanks to Janet McNamara):
Spring 1906: photo taken outside 125/126 High Street Brentford showing the arrival of suits in hampers: Photo taken outside the shop in 1906 showing 'fourteen hampers of nice new nobby suits for Boys and Youths'

  • October 1921: Griffith Bros had branches at Richmond, Twickenham, Slough, Hounslow, Surbiton, Teddington, Dorking, Uxbridge, Alton, Chichester and Farnham as well as 125/126 High Street Brentford. The advert refers to their using 'fine quality, hard wearing London shruck cloths' and selling suits at 55/-, ie 55 shillings or 2.75 in today's money
  • 6 April 1927: 18 branches listed, new since 1921: Chertsey, Guildford, Midhurst, Havant, Maidenhead, Southsea and Staines, the advert is included below
  • 19 September 1928: refers to 22 branches in 7 counties; sale of oddments including boys suits at 10 shillings (50p)!

The 1909/10 Valuation took place in May 1915 and records 'Griffith Bros' as occupiers of 113 High Street (30 - presume annual rental), occupiers term 21 years from 25/3/1896; Griffith Bros were also occupiers of 125/126 High Street

The County of Middlesex Independent newspaper reported on 25th February 1920 that it had been a 'very enthusiastic' meeting and that over 100 tradesmen had agreed to join. These represented the trades of butchers, provision merchants, electricians, wines and spirits, tailors, gentlemen's outfitters, chemists, hairdressers, fishmongers, tobacconists, greengrocers, jewellers and watchmakers, boot dealers, drapers and others. Mr Griffith of Griffiths Bros, Clothiers, 125, High Street agreed to become the honorary secretary and the first meeting was held at the Red Lion, New Brentford on Tuesday 9th March 1920. (Brentford Chamber of Commerce website)

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Personal Records: George Arthur and William Griffith

George Arthur and William Griffith were the sons of John and Mary J Griffith, who married in the first quarter of 1871 and a few months later were recorded in the census living in Ermington, near Ivybridge, Devon. John was a papermaker, age 26, born Manchester and his wife Mary J (although at marriage recorded as Mary A) was 23 and born in Newton Abbott. John's brother in law William Rogers lived with them and they had a visitor born London, Catherine Featherstone who was 10.

Their children's birthplaces in the 1881 census show the family moved from Devon to Flintshire to Buckinghamshire to Kent, where in 1881 they were living in Fordcomb, a hamlet of Penshurst. George Arthur was 9 and recorded as 'Arthur' and William was 4. There were also 3 daughters. John worked as a paper maker.

In 1891 son George was living at home and apprenticed as a paper maker (possibly to his father). William at 14 was a Clothiers & Out Fitters Apprentice boarding with Charles Baldwin, Clothier & Outfitter, 21, Camden Road, Tunbridge Wells. By 1898 both boys would have completed their apprenticeships.

In 1896 George married Blanche Harriet Ovenden and in 1901 they were living at Fordcomb Stores, where George was a machine man at the paper mill.

George's younger brother William was boarding with William Augustus Lloyd in 1901, at 78 Whitestile Road Brentford. William was already an employer, his occupation 'clothier'.

George joined his brother in Brentford in the early 1900s, presumably to assist in the business and succeeded in getting elected to the council in 1903. He lived at various Clifden Road addresses and is on a group photograph at the opening of the nearby library in 1904: his name is on the dedication stone.

During the next few years he moved to Hounslow, where his son was born around 1909. In 1911 he was living at 144 Wellington Road, Hounslow with his wife and son, John Wilson Griffith, age 2. Presumably George ran the branch of Griffith Bros at 199 High Street Hounslow.

Meanwhile William married Florence Mary Bruxby in Kettering in 1902, her home area. They settled in Brentford initially: their two sons were born there in 1904 (Douglas Arthur) and 1908 (Clifford William) but by 1910 the family had moved to Twickenham where another branch of Griffith Bros was in operation at 13 York Street. The family lived at the business address, the 1911 census shows it was larger than average, with 8 rooms.

A 1921 advert shows Griffith Bros had 12 branches in Middlesex, Surrey and Hampshire.

1927 advert including a caricature of 'George'By 1927 (see left) the business had expanded further, now having 18 branches.

The 'George' character is presumably George Arthur Griffith, co-founder of Griffith Bros.

The business expanded further (22 branches in 1928).

Returning to the question as to why William Griffith moved to Brentford: did he follow an elder sibling? George, the eldest brother, is known to have followed William. William's elder sister Thirza worked in Dover for a Captain in the Royal Navy in 1891 and in 1901 as a lady's maid in Regency Square Brighton, so does not appear to have had any link with Brentford. Perhaps William took after his father, who was born in Lancashire and had lived in Devon, Flintshire and Buckinghamshire before settling in Kent. His younger son may have adopted the same strategy to 'get on'.

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The other Griffith Bros: William Mainwaring Griffith

The middle name 'Mainwaring' helped locate records of the William Mainwaring Griffith who was in business in Chiswick in 1898.

He married his first wife, Augusta Martin, at the Trinity Church, Upper Chelsea in 1876. He was of full age, she a minor, and the marriage entry (from ancestry.co.uk) shows WMG was a draper and his father, William Griffiths, a gentleman. His wife was the daughter of William Martin, a miller, and the wedding, which was by licence, was witnessed by Charles Gooding and Annie Martin. All parties signed, the surname being Griffith.

The 1881 census shows the couple living at 87 The Grove, Hammersmith, with a four year old son, William P, and Annie Martin, mother-in-law to WMG. Four members of the Thyer family shared the property. WMG was a draper's shopman and the family's birthplaces were Llanfin (?), Glamorgan (WMG), Tiddnam (probably Tidenham, Gloucs) Augusta and her mother, and Kensington for the boy. FreeBMD includes a birth registration of William Percival Griffiths in Kensington Registration District in the Oct-Dec quarter of 1876, which fits.

The best match I could find in the 1891 census was a William Griffith, drapers assistant, living at 7 Holborn Circus - this must have been a huge property as nearly 300 people are recorded at this address, many of them also drapers assistants. William was single, age 40 and born Llansadwrn, Carmarthenshire. However Guy noted this WG was also recorded at this address in the 1881 census, age 31, born Wales, drapers assistant. Thissuggests there were two men called WG (one WMG) born Wales, working in drapery in 1881 and 1891 (or may be just one person who was recorded twice in the 1881 census).

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William Mainwaring Griffith remarried in 1897 at the church of St Mary Magdalene, Peckham, describing himself as 47, a widower, living in Chiswick, a hosier. His bride was Sarah Vogel, age 50, a widow living in Peckham. He named his father William Griffith, deceased, a farmer.

The best match I could find in the 1901 census was William Griffith, widower, gents hosier, a worker age 49, born Brynamman, Glamorganshire (this is about 15 miles from Llansadwrn, the birthplace recorded in 1891). His address: 49 Whellock Road, Acton, he shared the property with the White family. It is not clear what happened to his wife Sarah.

In 1911 William Griffith was visiting the Polak family at 90 Chiswick Lane, Chiswick. He was aged 60 and born in Glamorganshire. Two pieces of information crossed out by the enumerator help confirm it is him: his occupation was originally 'gent's hosiery salesman' (replaced by 'unemployed') and in the column 'total children born alive' was '1'.

William married for a third time in 1917, at the parish church of St Mark, Clerkenwell, He was 65, a salesman, son of William Griffith(?s), farmer and his wife was Rhoda Irving Durham, also a widow, age 36, daughter of Thomas Cartmel, estate agent (deceased). They both gave their address as 17 Pine Street Clerkenwell. William signed with his Mainwaring middle name but it is not clear and is indexed as 'Manning' in ancestry.co.uk.

William and his wife lived in Dulwich until 1939 (electoral registers).

William's birthplace remains unclear: I have not found a birth registration of a William Mainwaring Griffith(s) in the early 1850s. Perhaps he was plain William Griffith, or perhaps he was regisitered as William Mainwaring? The best matching death registration is in 1940, Camberwell, a William M Griffiths aged 88, giving a birth year of around 1851/2.

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Conclusions

At first sight it seemed highly likely that the two William Griffiths who established businesses called 'Griffith Bros' in the late 1890s and early 1900s in Chiswick and Brentford were related, but research into the two families shows no connection (so far).

William Mainwaring Griffith's business appears to have failed a few years after it was established, and he was a 'worker' rather than 'employer' by 1901. Although the Chiswick business was called 'Griffith Bros' research to date has not uncovered details of a brother. Can you provide any more details that may prove a link between the Welsh and Kentish Griffiths? Please get in touch if you can help.

William Griffith completed his apprenticeship as a clothier and outfitter around 1898, and soon after took over 188 High Street Brentford, which was already operating as a clothiers, when Samuel Winter moved to Kent. Initially William lodged in Whitestile Road, but then moved to Windmill Road. By 1903 his brother had moved to the area and was living at Clifden Road, they had taken on numbers 113, 125 and 126 High Street, having given up no. 188, which was in poor repair. They improved numbers 125 and 126 High Street and used the premises until the mid-1930s, by which point both brothers were in their 60s.

Page published April 2012