yeovil people

robert james damon

Draper of High Street


Robert James Damon was born in 1838 at Fordington, Dorset, the first son of Robert Damon and his wife Jane. Robert Damon senior was a farmer of 160 acres employing 6 men, 2 boys and 2 women at his farm, Near Court House, at Fordington, Dorset. Robert had two younger brothers, Henry and Edmund, and two younger sisters, Nancy and Ellen.

By the time of the 1861 census Robert Damon senior had moved his family to Parsonage farm, Dorchester, and was now a farmer of 400 acres employing 10 men and five boys. His wife and four of his children including Robert lived with him and Robert, now aged 20, described his occupation as linen draper.

By the time of the 1871 census both Robert and Edmund had moved to Yeovil where they had set up, in partnership, a draper's business in the High Street. By this time Robert was aged 30 and Edmund was 27. Living with them at the draper's shop were five draper's assistants, a draper's apprentice and two general domestic servants. For many years Robert and his younger brother Edmund ran the Cooperative Outfitting Stores, later R&E Damon, Drapers, Clothiers, and Outfitters, in the Borough at 16 and 17 High Street, seen in the  photographs and advertisement below.

Robert was a Freemason, initiated into the Lodge of Brotherly Love in Yeovil in 1871. He served as Worshipful Master of the Lodge in 1878/79 and again in 1889.

The site of their premises is where Superdrug is today. Robert, a silk mercer and costumier, managed the drapery side of the business and Edmund ran the clothing and outfitting side. Robert also undertook funerals, advertising in Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser "Washington Funeral Car, Shillibeer & Mourning Coaches kept".

In 1881 Robert, by now aged 39 and still unmarried, was listed in the census as a draper. He was living above the premises at 17 High Street and with him were a cook and a housemaid, six young female draper's assistants and five young male draper's assistants. In 1891 and 1901 the situation was almost identical to that of 1881.


In the 1891 edition of 'Where to Buy' the Damon Brothers' business was given the following description -

Messrs. R and E Damon,
Silk Mercers. Linen and Woollen Drapers and Outfitters,
High Street

The district of South Somerset, of which Yeovil is the commercial centre, includes a wide area and a large and prosperous agricultural population, among which reside some of the leading county families. In such a district the business of silk mercer, draper and outfitter, is a very important one, and one of the most notable houses in this line is Messrs. R & E Damon's, Silk Mercers, Linen and Woollen Drapers, Hatters and Outfitters, of High Street.

It is appropriate that such a leading house should have its seat in the principal centre of the town, and the extensive premises are in every way adapted for the purposes to which they are applied. There are two adjoining shops in High Street, forming two separate departments entirely distinct from each other. In one branch the silk mercery business is carried on, the spacious ware-rooms being fitted up with every modern convenience. The stock is extensive, and includes all the most fashionable dress materials in silk and other fabrics. The latest novelties are always on hand, Messrs. Damon having made special arrangements with the leading wholesale houses whereby they are enabled to offer the very latest fashions at the same moment as the London houses. A fine assortment of woollen, drapery and hosiery, of guaranteed quality and at moderate prices, is on hand. A competent staff of work people are engaged in dressmaking, the garments turned out being noted for elegance of style and perfect fit. The mourning department, under able management, is a speciality, and funerals are furnished throughout in a faultless manner and at the very minimum charge.

The adjoining shop, No. 16, High Street, is devoted exclusively to male outfitting, and an extensive assortment of men's and boys' ready-made clothing is always on hand in a great variety of materials. Suits in tweed are offered at exceedingly moderate figures, and cord trousers, dust coats, covert coats, Jersey, sailor and knickerbocker suits for boys, are remarkable for the low price as well as the excellent style in which they are made up. There is also a tailoring department, where orders are promptly carried out by first class cutters and workmen. A very large assortment of hats and caps by the best makers, hosiery, ties, scarves, collars, cuffs, gloves and shirts of a high class, and, in fact, general outfitting of every kind, is on hand. Throughout the whole business the proprietors adopt every means to ensure the complete satisfaction of customers, and both in quality and price their goods can bear comparison with any offered to the public in this district or elsewhere. The firm have been established for 25 years, and have gained a wide and permanent connection in Yeovil and the counties of Somerset and Dorset.

In 1897 he was appointed as a Borough Magistrate.

The business partnership was dissolved in January 1901 but Edmund carried on the business until he retired in 1908.

Both Robert and Edmund joined the Yeovil Volunteer Fire Brigade in April 1871, as soon as they moved to Yeovil. Robert was made Brigade Lieutenant in 1875 and became Captain in 1885 until his death, at which time his brother Edmund took over the Captaincy. Robert Damon was also a Justice of the Peace and a churchwarden for eighteen years at Holy Trinity church in Peter Street.

In 1902 Robert was the sole beneficiary of spinster Elizabeth Indoe, in the sum of £4,059 18s 4d (over £420,000 in today's value).  Robert died in 1905 and in 1906 a five-light stained glass window depicting the four Evangelists was placed in the south transept of Holy Trinity in his memory by his brother Edmund.




Robert Damon's horse-drawn funeral bier outside the Damon Brothers' store in High Street. This colourised photograph was taken around 1900 and the business partnership between the two brothers was dissolved in January 1901. Edmund ran the clothiers and outfitters at left (and clearly doing a nice line in pith helmets) while his brother Robert ran the drapery and haberdashery at right as well as his funeral service.


This postcard of the Borough dates to about 1905 and shows the premises of the Damon Brothers as the first two of the three buildings at left.


A Damon Brothers advertisement from Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser of 1897.