Dawe & Son

Dawe & Son

Grocers and Provision Merchants of the Borough


Dawe & Son, Grocers and Provision merchants, occupied a central location in the Borough for the last half of the nineteenth century. In 1883 an advertisement from Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser (see below) claimed the business had been established over forty years. However this almost certainly includes different premises and different generations, as well as different occupants.

There were, in fact, two locations and more than two generations of the Dawe family concerned. The first location being on the south side of the Borough (technically High Street), with the first member of the Dawe clan concerned being Henry Dawe. The second premises were located on the north side, next to the Wilts & Dorset bank (today's Lloyds bank) in the Borough with a different member of the Dawe family - James Harris Dawe.

The High Street premises were owned by druggist Edward Granger and occupied, since Granger's retirement, by grocer and tea dealer Elisha Walker - listed in Slater's Directory of 1852. The Dawe grocery was founded by Henry Dawe who took over the premises from Walker in March 1857 as evidenced by the advertisement below.

Henry Dawe was born at Podimore, five miles or so north of Yeovil, in 1833, the son of farmer George Dawe (b1791). In the 1841 census eight-year old Henry was listed with his widowed father and siblings Anne (b 1821), Susan (b 1826), Sarah (b 1826), Jane (b 1827), William (b 1829) and younger brother George (b 1839). I couldn't find Henry in the 1851 census but, as seen above, by 1857 he was living in Yeovil and in the summer of 1860, at Somerton, he married Ann Oatway (b 1834) of Somerton. The census of 1861 listed Henry and Ann, together with three shopmen assistants and a domestic servant, living above the shop premises in the Borough. During the 1860s Henry and Ann were to have five children; Mary E (b 1862), Alice J (b 1864), William H (b 1865), George E (b 1867) all born in Yeovil. 

In March 1864 the High Street shop premises were largely destroyed by fire; the building gutted, the stock destroyed and Henry and his family only just escaping with their lives (see Gallery). Henry Dawe's only listing in a trade directory was in the Post Office Directory of 1866 in which he was listed as a Grocer of High Street.

In February 1867, Henry moved his family to Sidmouth, Devon, where daughter Bessie was born in 1868. In the 1871 census Henry and his family were listed living in Fore Street, Sidmouth, together with a governess, domestic servant and a shop assistant. Henry had taken over the wine, spirit and grocery store of WG Harris. In the census he listed his occupation as a Wine Merchant employing one assistant and two men. Henry and Ann had their last child, Francis John, in Sidmouth in 1875. By 1881 they had moved to Bideford, Devon.

Henry's brother, William John Dawe, had taken over the twine works in West Coker from Israel Rendell around 1877. However, he died in 1894 and Henry moved to West Coker to run the business. He leased Cross House, West Coker. He ran the firm until his death in Yeovil in the spring of 1899 and was buried in Bideford.



Of the second Dawe grocery - that next to the Wilts & Dorset bank in the Borough - this was earlier the grocery of Charles Gardiner established in the late 1840s and mentioned in trade directories of 1850 and 1852. By 1861 this establishment was being run by 35-year old grocer William Worner who lived above the shop with his wife Eunice, their three children, two grocer's assistants, three grocer's apprentices and two house servants. One of the grocer's assistants was 21-year old James H Dawe. It is thought, albeit not proven, that James Harris Dawe was a nephew of Henry Dawe.

James Harris Dawe was born on 15 November 1839 at Axminster, Devon, and by 1861 as seen above was living in Yeovil and working as an assistant to grocer William Worner. In the winter of 1870 James married Yeovil-born Elizabeth Perry (b 1842) at St George's, Hanover Square, London and in the 1871 census James and Elizabeth were listed living in Brunswick Street. He gave his occupation as a grocer's shopman. The shop, at this time, was being run by Eunice Worner, her daughter Eunice and her sister. On 19 August 1875 James and Elizabeth's son Frederick George was born.

Certainly by 1875 James Dawe had taken over Worner's premises and was listed in the Post Office Directory of 1875 as a grocer of High Street. He was listed almost annually in Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser as a grocer and provisions merchant of 10 High Street, latterly known as the Gun Tea Warehouse. In the 1881 census James, Elizabeth and Frederick were listed as visitors in Castle Cary but the following 1891 census found them at 10 High Street once again with Elizabeth's unmarried sister Temperance Perry as well as four live-in grocer's assistants and a general domestic servant. Frederick was at boarding school in Taunton.


In the 1891 edition of 'Where to Buy' James Dawe's business was given the following description -

Mr J H Dawe,
Wholesale and Family Grocer and Provision Merchant,
"Gun" Tea Warehouse, Borough

"The Gun Tea Warehouse" has gained high reputation during the fifty years of its existence for the superior blends, which are sold at low prices (on the principle of
small profits and quick returns), the proprietor by judicious purchases being enabled to offer his customers exceptional advantages. As the title indicates, Mr Dawe makes tea his speciality, and his blends of the choicest productions of India, China, and Ceylon have become widely known, the sale of which is not confined to Yeovil alone, but extends to the surrounding district.

He has also a complete stock of general groceries, sugars, spices, sago, rice, sauces, biscuits, cakes, tinned goods, pickles, preserves, etc. The stock of bacon, hams, and cheese is also good and in great variety. The premises are situated in the " Borough," the principal business centre of the town, and the proprietor spares no effort to maintain a high standard of quality in every department. Mr Dawe keeps a very fine assortment of British and foreign wines and cordials ; the "invalid port," for which he is sole agent in the district, is a most remarkable and effective tonic. Mr Dawe is also agent by appointment for Thos. Grant and Sons' celebrated products from the Kent Morella cherry. Special attention is given to all orders, and we can cordially recommend the establishment to those requiring a thoroughly good tea, grocery and provision store.


By 1898, Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser was listing the business as JH Dawe & Son but James was soon to retire. In 1899 Frederick married Alice Nottle at Croydon. James and Elizabeth retired to Folkestone, Kent, and Frederick and Alice moved there too. Both couple were listed in the Folkestone 1901 census. James died in Folkestone in the spring of 1907 aged 67. Elizabeth returned to live in Yeovil following James' death, she died in Yeovil in 1909 aged 68. With both James and Frederick living in Folkestone, who actually ran the shop in the Borough is something of a mystery although ownership clearly remained in the family. It was listed as JH Dawe & Son in Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser of 1903. There were two final trade directory listings, both in Collins' Yeovil Directory of 1907 and both listings simply as Dawe & Son, one as a grocer and provisions dealer, the second as a wine and spirits merchant. There were no further listings.




A section of John Martin's 1813 map of the properties owned by the Yeovil Corporation (shown blacked-in). The first property leased by Edward Granger was in the Borough on the south side (the blacked-in property beneath the 'O' in the word Borough). This would become Henry Dawe's grocery between 1857 and 1867. 




The 31 March 1857 edition of the Western Flying Post carried this announcement of Henry Dawe's shop opening on its front page.


This advertisement from the Western Flying Post of 14 June 1859 shows that tea-dealer Henry also dealt in porter and stout.


A report from the 19 March 1864 edition of the Somerset County Gazette recording the serious fire that took hold in Henry Dawe's shop while he and his assistants were asleep upstairs. In fact during the early 1860s Henry was the Yeovil Fire Agent for the Liverpool & London Fire & Life Insurance Company.


From my collection. This colourised photograph features in my book 'Secret Yeovil'.

A postcard of about 1905 (this one was posted in 1911) showing the weekly market in the Borough that extended along High Street. At left the Damon Brothers' stores are festooned with hats and coats but forty years earlier the centre, two-storey shop had been the premises of grocer Henry Dawe. 



One of James' first advertisements, this from Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser of 1878.


An advertisement from Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser of 1883 by which time, it was claimed, the business had been established over forty years.


Dawe's advertisement from Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser of 1892.


A photograph of the Borough, with Dawe & Son's premises at centre, by Jarratt Beckett and published in his 1897 book  "Somerset viewed through a Camera".


A full-page advertisement from Beckett's 1897 book  "Somerset viewed through a Camera".


This postcard is dated 1906 and shows the Wilts & Dorset Bank (now Lloyds TSB) at left, then grocer and tea dealer JH Dawe & Son who were in the Borough from the mid-1870s to the 1910s (later Shirley & Somerville) and at right is the clothiers, hatters and outfitters the Redwood Brothers who were located in the Borough from around 1890 until the 1930s.


From my collection

This postcard of 1909 (but with a much earlier photograph) has been so heavily touched-up and hand-coloured in the studio that it now looks like a water colour painting.


From my collection

This postcard of the Borough was posted in 1907. Note the "Gun Tea Warehouse". By this time these were the premises of Shirley & Somerville "formerly Dawe & Son".