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186 Bath Road (was 1 Upper Bath Road)
For 101 years this was one of the shops belonging to Singletons the gentlemen’s outfitters. Prior to the Singletons this was one of the grocer shops firstly belonging to Mr Alfred Wall and then to Thomas Giles Smith. Mr Smith was a 27 year old widower employing 3 men, who lived in the building with him and his sister-in-law, who kept house for him. He also owned the next door property.
The two Singleton brothers Benjamin and Samuel were born in Newport on the Isle of Wight in the 1840’s. They moved to the mainland where Benjamin married Clara and their first child Harry was born in Henley on Thames. They had moved to Cheltenham by 1878.
Samuel was the businessman and bought up suitable properties, equipping them for drapery and clothing businesses. He sold most of them but kept the best two for himself. These shops were in Albion Street and Bath Road, which his brother Samuel managed. Clara suffered with ill health and they moved to the south coast leaving Harry in charge of the business.
Samuel managed the Bath Road admirably; a kindly man he used to save the small change to give to the poor. An accomplished musician, he was also organist at Emmanuel Church.
When Benjamin opened his shop in Albion Street in October in 1886, the first months takings amounted to just under £60.00. The following month this had almost doubled. It was not always possible for people living in outlying villages to visit the shop, so salesmen from Singleton's made regular visits to obtain both orders and payments. These trips which were shared by salesmen from another outfitter’s, Drakes, were made initially by pony and trap and later by van.
In the 1930’s typical prices would be:-
The opening hours were long so staff were allowed home for a tea break, returning for an evening shift which sometimes went on until 9pm.
The Albion Street shop closed in 1962, leaving the Bath Road shop the only survivor of the Singletons business. Some people will remember Mr Len Lloyd and Mr Ron Piper who joined Singleton's in 1936 and 1937 respectively.
These two obliging gentlemen had, between them, served 101 years when they retired in 1987. The shop closed down on their retirement, bringing to an end a business that was so well known in Cheltenham and the surrounding area.
For the next two years this shop was known as Scales and sold all types of loose produce. It changed hands again in 1989, when it was leased by Preston’s, an independent optician. The 21st century saw a complete change when these premises became home to the Jack in a Box café and delicatessen. This remained here until mid 2014 when it was taken over by MY Coffee, an independently run espresso bar with another shop in Worcester.
Researcher: Marilyn West
Updated: Stuart Manton (Dec 2014)
Wallis & Linnell Ltd, clothing manufacturer, house magazine article from 1958.
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