The National Fur Company was established by Arron (or Arnold) Barder (1859-1914) in Sloane Street, London. In the early 20th century it moved to 193 Brompton Road, eventually expanding to fill 191-195, a site now occupied by Blom Bank.
Barder’s father – a Jewish immigrant from Krakow – and brothers were also in the fur trade. The National Fur Company claimed, in its advertisements of the late 1920s, to have been established in 1878 ‘by the Grandfather of the present Managing Director’. It also claimed to have been the first company to sell ‘Good Furs at Reasonable Prices’. By the late 1920s it was offering ‘deferred terms’: 12 monthly payments with 5% interest, effectively hire purchase.
By 1932 the National Fur Company had opened branches in Leicester (15 Market Street), Cardiff (20 High Street), Swansea (35 Castle Street), Newport (68 High Street) and Carmarthen (49 King Street). The oldest of these appears to have been Cardiff, which was based at 23 High Street before the Great War. Birmingham had been added by 1950, and an additional branch opened in Exeter before 1970. The premises at 193-195 Brompton Road, previously leased, were bought in 1960 with the intention of rebuilding the company headquarters, bringing manufacturing, retailing and administration under one roof. Despite this, in 1978 the National Fur Company relocated to 241 Brompton Road.
The National Fur Company shopfronts in Leicester, Cardiff and Carmarthen survive. All three were carefully designed in the same tasteful house style. Each has a similar pale ashlar surround (perhaps reconstituted Portland or ‘Empire’ stone) topped by a moulded relief frieze of running animals, including skunk, fox, mink, stoat, squirrel, rabbit, beaver and antelope.
Within the stone frame of each shopfront, the display window was positioned to one side of an arch-headed doorway. The door at Carmarthen survives with its original glass panel, etched with a tree and two animals: a prancing goat and a seated fox, perhaps a reference to one of Aesop’s fables. None of the shops retains its original lettering, which was affixed directly to the stonework rather than to a separate fascia board. Nevertheless, a ghost of the lettering may still be discerned.
The fate of the National Fur Company is unclear. It is unlikely to have survived the tremendous backlash against wearing fur which gained momentum in the early 1980s and led, ultimately, to the closure of most British furriers, as well as fur departments in large department stores.
According to Companies House, the company was dissolved in 1991.
My father was the delivery driver for the Brompton Rd branch for circa 30 years. He was made redundant around 1980.
I knew him for sure. I even drove the van on occasion, at least once!
The branch in Exeter was opened in 1953. My father Percy Rider was the manager from its inception until his death in 1962.
As a former employee of NFC I remember George Baird and Mr Rider.
I am now in my 77 year but worked for the company for 10 years in the 1960s. I joined the company through my Father but left to join my Father in Laws engineering company when I got married
My Father worked in the Brompton Road branch in the 60’s and 70’s as a Designer and Pattern Cutter. I remember fondly visiting him at work.
Hi, My Uncle, Frank Crave worked for the NFC for a number of years in London. I think he was one of the last employees as he continued to work way into his 70’s. Did you come across Frank?
Hi Audrey and Tony.
I remember both of these Gentlemen. I had to learn the trade from the bottom, I joined NFC before they rebuilt , during the rebuilding we were at No13 Brompton Road.
The personnel I remember are Mr Charles .Frank Crave, Mr Barr ,Geoff Fidderman,
Les Visard, Robert McCarthy just name a few ,my Brother waste relief Manager for the Welsh Branches.
I met,many famous people during my time with the company
My Father worked up this a year before death in 1979 he was a director of the company.
It would be nice to meet with you all
Audrey I also remember being taken into the Brompton Rd store by my father as a small child in the 1950s before we moved to Devon for him to open the Exeter store. He and my mother always spoke very fondly of the Barder family who were very good to him when he suffered problems with his heath.
My father was kind and aware man and I grew up loving NFC and all who knew me there.
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It is so nice to hear from the offspring of former employees.
I am going back to before the war when my Father was taken on by Mr HC Barder in the 1930s but sadly he passed away because he had great ideas for the company, having said that no body knew animal rights would have such a great influence on the trade.
Before my Dad passed away NFC was taken over by RC Wintersons who we’re chamber masters for NFC but by then the company had moved into the old Air Lingus check in depot before customers were bused to Heathrow.
When I joined Derek Barder was Chairman with his Brother Alan and his son Richard, Rose Lyons was a director.. T he business was very family oriented! When I joined Rotary I did my job talk on the 20 years I was at NFC I knew my way around London very well as I went to chamber masters and traders during my Service
I know nothing about a Winterson take over, only a closure and the shareholders meeting where the windup was announced for agreement. Knowing NFC affairs at first hand and my father and I being somewhat regular! – he more than me, this tale rings no bells, I must say.
Hi Christopher, Kathryn here, thanks for commenting on my blog! Can you shed light on the foundation of the business? And do you know who designed the wonderful shopfronts? It’s great that at least two survive (there may be more??). They are quite beautiful. All best!
Remember all very well started working there when I was 16 (now77) knew all the people mentioned and more mr Crave was my manager. Worked in old building move out while rebuilt new one moved back to new building HAPPY DAYS IHAD THERE
21 High Street, Cardiff (now the Warhammer Shop) still has a similar shop front.
Glamorgan archive hold photos of the former fur shop taken in the early 80s (see D1802/20).
Searching ’21 High Street’ also provides a number of shop front alterations, including 1927 by GH Griffiths. I cannot tell you if it was he who was responsible for the fur shop design without retrieving the entries though!
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It seems the Cardiff property was 20 High Street in 1918 (Glamorgan Archive ref: BC/S/1/19913).
Alterations to the Shop Basement were by the architect T A Beavan.
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