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 has given way to a modem department store. This has been complimented by a second department store based at 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 staff did not 'live-in' graffiti found on the walls of the rooms on the top floor suggests that staff were living in those rooms in 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. Company headed paper of the period identified four principal departments: Milliners, Haberdashers, Costumiers, and Furnishers. The original telephone number was Barnstaple 4 sales staff served behind mahogany Counters 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 lunch 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 '3 piece iron bedstead with spiral spring and wool mattress' could be purchased for just £2; A settee suite was 14 guineas (£14.70p).
The business continued to develop and, following the war, Arthur was joined by his son, Peter Banbury and Mr Horwoods son, John Bentall Horwood, who had recently completed his apprenticeship at Gamages Department Store, Oxford Street. The retirements of Arthur Banbury and John Horwood and the death of Peter Banbury, aged just 49, put a young third generation, Robert David and Richard, under the watchful eye of Mrs Peter Banbury, in control and with the responsibility of updating the business.
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!
1970 – 2000
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 furniture and furnishings store. With the removal of the carpet department the 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 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 a major expansion of the Bamstaple 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 departments.