Home & Haberdashery Since 1933 - The History of Closs & Hamblin
The Founding of the Company
Closs & Hamblin was founded on 1st April 1933 by a Mr Harold Closs and a Mr Cyril Hamblin. The original shops were based in London, specialising in silks and other dress-making fabrics, as well as paper patterns. This was at a time when the off-the-peg garments we now all take for granted were few and far between, and sewing and dress-making was very much the norm for every day families. Fabrics were purchased from the textile mills of Northern England and The Midlands, while more specialist cloths were sourced from Italy and further afield.
The Company was set up with the principal goal of offering a wide range of good value products, allied to experienced and knowledgeable staff offering the very highest levels of customer service. This remains our Company mission statement to this day.
The War Years
The onset of the 2nd World War made business tough for ‘C&H’ as it had by then become known, just as it was for the rest of the nation. The Company had grown to 6 shops in the North and East of London. Staff numbers dwindled from 200 to fewer than 20, as people left to sign up or work in the munition’s factories. Shop windows were blown out during raids, and the rationing of fabrics as well as other essential materials made staying it challenging to open the doors. Barry Hamblin, the late Company President and son of Cyril Hamblin, had joined the family business in 1938, but spent most of his first 5 years flying Spitfires over Europe and North Africa, followed by two years in POW camps. He and his brother Keith, who left the services in 1948, began a steady rebuilding process after the war, and managed the Company back to prosperity through the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s. The Closs family interest in the business ended after Harold retired.
A New Era
By the mid-1970’s, the focus of the business shifted from it’s London base to the prosperous market towns of South East England, and stores were opened in Tunbridge Wells, Guildford, Bromley, Eastbourne, Brighton and Maidstone, some of which still exist today. Barry’s two sons, Bryan and Bryce took the business on at that stage. As the art of dress-making started to dwindle into more of a hobby than a necessity, so to the Company evolved, and the 3rd generation introduced furnishing fabrics to the offer along with a curtain and blind making service. Comprehensive ranges of Haberdashery, Knitting Yarns and other Crafts were also added to complement existing ranges. As with Dress Fabrics, C&H set out to become a specialist in these new product areas. By the 1980’s, more stores had also opened in Ilford, Canterbury and Winchester. The company continued to expand, and by the mid-90’s employed around 400 members of staff.
The Fourth Generation
In the early 2000’s, Bryan’s 3 sons, James, Tom and Roddy had joined the family business, and in 2019 now run the Company. James oversees the Property and Personnel departments, Tom heads up the all-important team of Buyers, and Roddy is responsible for the Finances, as well the ecommerce Website which was first launched in 2008 and has now become a central part of the business plan. Bryan remains as Company Chairman, offering invaluable experience to all parts of the business and mediating between his three sons as only a father can!
Having traded as C&H for the better part of 80 years, in 2016, the 4th generation decided it was time to reposition the Company for the challenges of retail in the 21st Century, and the name was changed to ‘Closs & Hamblin’; a direct acknowledgement to the original founders of the business. The new strapline 'Home & Haberdashery since 1933' is also an acknowledgement to the heritage of the Company, as well as the ongoing commitment to specialisation in the products we sell. We recognize that we may always remain as C&H to our tremendously loyal customers and long-standing members of staff, and we wouldn't want to have it any other way! Our values are still very the same today as they were in 1933 - Quality, Value & Service.
If you have made it this far, thank you for your interest in our unique Company and for your continued business and loyal support. We look forward to helping you design your next set of curtains and blinds, or lending support with your next craft project. We very much hope we will still be doing so in another 86 years’ time!