Stratfords celebrated 100 years of business in 2018. We pride ourselves on our bespoke friendly service, if you are interested in how it all began you can find out more below.
The group was founded by GEORGE WILLIAM STRATFORD (I'll refer-to as GWS). He was born in 1882 in Northampton, a son of a shop assistant ironmonger. GWS followed the same line, became fully apprenticed and eventually took a job in Norwich at Colmans. Also working at Colmans was a Herbert Carnegie whose sister, Miss Emily Gertrude eventually became his wife.
After the end of the Boer War GWS went off to South Africa to seek his fortune, starting as a free-tacking ox-cart packman. Having brought his father to join him, eventually the whole Stratford family came to South Africa, moving to Johannesburg where the father set up an ironmonger shop. Emily, a trained teacher, also accompanied them.
GWS, having his qualification as an ironmonger, became a railwayman and stationmaster. He and EGS married and in due course they had one daughter, Audrey, the present proprietor of the firm. While she was still a toddler the family returned to Norwich and decided to stay there. GWS starting as assistant in an ironmonger shop and occupying his spare time in the Territorial Army, so in 1914 when war broke out on August Bank Holiday, GWS reported to his regiment on that same day. Unfortunately his health was not adequate for the infantry so he did not continue in the Royal Norfolk Regiment but was transferred to the Army Service Corps becoming a Staff Sergeant working as an enlister in King's Lynn. There, wishing to keep his family near him he obtained the lease of the Coffee Tavern (demolished in 1936 and replaced by Burton’s) which offered full restaurant facilities and billiards as well as various sales. During this period he readily took advantage of opportunities afforded both in the army and in the business.
GWS used his experience during the war to good advantage and after he was demobed on 11th September 1918 he set up his sign over a shop 124 Norfolk Street, King's Lynn which is now owned by the firm and operated as a branch by the firm to this day.
The first advertisement in the local newspaper was on the 9th November 1918 advertising Stratfords Army Supply Stores, 124 Norfolk Street, King's Lynn. The business was advertising army boots new and second hand but it is true to say that thereafter GWS marketed anything. Which he thought would be a successful bargain, initially the business targeted agricultural workers and farmers, as the principal source of employment during that period was agricultural work. GWS's style of shop was suited to country people with very subdued lighting, very unlike today’s shops. GWS was always on the lookout for further opportunities and kept his eye open for bargains or apparently empty shops which he could put to good use and in one time or another Branch shops were opened in Norfolk, Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire and Suffolk.