Beyond the Shop Floor

Beyond the Shop Floor


Every week we welcome customers into our store. During our shop tours, we are often asked about the family behind Broadleys.

This blog post is the first in a series featuring never before seen material, beginning by looking back at the family, how Broadleys was first founded. There is so much more Beyond the Shop Floor that we would love to share.

How the first store came about

George Herbert  Broadley was born in 1870 in Broughton, Kent. He was named after the English 17th century metaphysical poet George Herbert. His father Rev. Benjamin Broadley was a methodist minister and a naval chaplain ( Chaplain of the Fleet) in Malta and India. Benjamin was married to Charlotte Harrison who had wealth of her own which she invested for her children In 1893 Charlotte gave her four sons £500 each to set up their own tailoring business. George and his elder brother John H Broadley came south to Bromley and set up the first business.

The Opening of the East Grinstead store

Three years later George stood on Victoria Railway Station wondering where he should open his own business. On a noticeboard, he saw East Grinstead advertised which he thought would be a good place to open a business  so followed his intuition and caught a train there. After seeing a ‘To Let’ board he founded the East Grinstead branch of the business, our current 14th century premises, which he leased.

In 1898 George married Elsie Gertrude Harding and at first, lived above the East Grinstead shop until their eldest son Tom climbed out onto the parapet for a dare and alarmed them so much they decided in 1901 to move to a house on Lewes Road. Several moves later they bought Lonsdale House, Lingfield Road with a mortgage from the East Grinstead and Mutual Building Society. In 1910 they owned one of the first cars in East Grinstead, a second-hand Talbot, pictured below.

 By now they were a prominent East Grinstead methodist family. They had two sons and three daughters.

Taking to the sky

Their eldest son Thomas Harding Broadley born in 1899 who was educated at the City of London School yearned to fly. After his generation and the daredevils where amazed by the first human flight of 1903. In 1917, overstating his age he volunteered to join the Royal Flying Corps receiving 25 shillings a day. He was not supposed to fly until he was 18 but the RFC was so desperate for pilots that he was allowed to fly while just 17.

In 1918 the RFC became part of the RAF. By now he was a lieutenant in the 62nd squadron and on 15th September 1918 just before the end of the war his Bristol Fighter was shot down over enemy lines in France. Tom was probably on a reconnaissance mission to pinpoint the whereabouts of German troops so there could be follow up attacks. He was reported missing and presume killed in action aged 19. This plaque pictured below, was originally in the methodist church on Lingfield Road East Grinstead but when it was being re-built the plaque was taken down, and now resides with us.

His grave is in the Chilli Trench Cemetery Gavrelle, Pas de Calais France. There is also a plaque on the High Street War Memorial, and on Armistice Day in 2018, Simon Broadley laid a wreath to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.

The expansion of Broadleys

Meanwhile, George expanded the family business with branches in Haywards Heath in 1900 until 1931 - the managing partner was given the option to buy the business which he did and was entitled to continue trading under the Broadley name until its closure in 1993. There was also Hove 1907-2001, Horsham 1907-1915. Towards the end of the First World War George bought a War Bond which financed the Government’s war effort and three months later he had a win. This capital provided him with the money to buy premises in Eastbourne in 1915, briefly in Worthing, and in 1931 they bought a business in Portslade.

In 1925 George bought another property on Lewes Road by auction so he was nearer to the business but unfortunately, he was diagnosed with cancer. He was given a lead cure as it was thought to be an effective way of dealing with cancer in those days but in fact, he died from lead poisoning in November 1926. In 1935 his wife moved again, this time to Ashurst Wood.

So now in 1938/39 his son George (Great Grandfather) was in overall charge of the business in East Grinstead In 1949 George bought the adjoining premises  34-36 High Street, East Grinstead and when he died in 1964 his two sons, Tom and John took over the running of the business.

Passing the business on

Tom died in 1971 from a heart attack at the age of 42. His younger brother John took sole charge of the businesses and bought the freehold of 38-40 High Street from the Percy Dixon trust. The two branches of the family that had founded the family business in the 1890s now over the following many decades closed various branches due to family deaths.

In 1997 Simon took over the running of the East Grinstead store, after the death of his father. His cousin Christopher Broadley, eldest son of Tom was in charge of the Hove shop until 2001 when the shop was closed.

 Looking forward

Now in 2020, we continue to operate our East Grinstead branch where it all began and let the remaining two properties. We have changed substantially over the last few years, and now offer more designer brands.

The High Street over the past few months has gone through something we could never have imagined. But rest assured Broadleys continues due to the amazing support we have had from our customers.




We hope you have enjoyed reading our first blog post for the series "Beyond the Shop Floor".  We are currently looking through lots of information and images which we will share in future installments. 

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