The Legacy of J. Hepworth & Son

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Hepworth’s lobby floor, Penrith

For a full century, between 1884 and 1985, Hepworth’s was a thriving national chain of men’s tailoring shops, specialising in ready-made and made-to-measure suits. Rivals in the same field were Montague Burton, Henry Price The Fifty Shilling Tailor (later John Collier), Alexandre the Tailor, Jackson the Tailor and Horne Brothers.

Hepworth’s shops were converted to the Next format in 1982-85. The premises had never been quite as striking visually as Burton’s – the company did not construct so many complete buildings and did not engage in such all-encompassing shopfitting – yet traces of Hepworth’s can still be spotted on the high street.

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Hepworth’s, Penrith

Hepworth’s was founded by Joseph Hepworth (1834-1911), the son of a ‘cloth dresser’ from Lindley near Huddersfield. Joseph followed in his father’s footsteps while he was still a schoolboy, becoming a part-time woollen cloth dresser at a local mill. Because he had to start work at an early age, Joseph always felt that his education was neglected. He compensated for this, however, with business nous.

Joseph married a local girl, Sarah Rhodes, in 1855. Six years later he was living in his mother-in-law’s house and working as a ‘teazel setter and woollen draper’, probably at George Walker’s Wellington Mill in Huddersfield. Teasels were used to brush the surface of the woven cloth, to raise the nap. In 1864 Joseph and his brother-in-law, James Rhodes, entered business together as ‘Juvenile Clothing Manufacturers’ in Scarborough Buildings, Bishopgate Street, Leeds. Although this partnership was dissolved in 1867, Joseph continued to specialise in the manufacture and wholesaling of juvenile clothing, employing 2 men and 20 women in 1871.

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Hepworth’s, Blandford Forum

In 1878 Norris Rhodes Hepworth (1857-1914) became a partner in his father’s business, which was known thenceforth as Joseph Hepworth & Son. By 1881 the firm gave employment to 272 hands: they used outworkers as well as employing machinists in the factory at 25 Wellington Street, Leeds.

Shortly after this, on Norris Hepworth’s initiative, the firm adopted a new strategy. It cut out the middleman. Instead of continuing to act as a producer and wholesaler that supplied the trade, Hepworth’s began to retail direct to customers, not just in Britain but also in the Colonies. The decision was taken to open shops in ‘all important towns’ as rapidly as possible, rather than to build up a chain gradually. Amongst the first retail branches, which opened in 1884, were South Shields, Middlesbrough, Birmingham, Derby and Aberdeen. A year later there were 53 shops, promoted as ‘The World’s Clothiers’ or ‘the Great XL’ (seemingly a pun on ‘excel’). When the Wellington Street showrooms were extended in 1885, the basement was lit in the most modern fashion, by electricity.

In 1891, with 81 shops, Hepworth’s became a limited liability company with capital of £360,000 (Leeds Times, 14 November 1891, 4). This followed the opening of a large new factory, the Providence Works on Claypit Lane (Leeds Times, 17 January 1891, 8), designed by the London architect H. A. Cheers. Unfortunately, it had to be rebuilt after a fire just four years later, in 1895. By the eve of the Great War, Joseph Hepworth & Son was probably the largest clothing manufacturer and retailer in the country, a position usurped by Montague Burton in the early 1920s.

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Hepworth’s Arcade, Hull

Fragments of several Hepworth’s shopfronts have survived, as does their painted sign in Hepworth’s Arcade on Silver Street in Hull. This L-shaped shopping development was designed by the architects Gelder & Kitchin specifically for Hepworth’s, who relocated there in 1894. In the mid-20th century Hepworth’s shops were characterised by deep entrance lobbies (maximising window display area), low stall risers of pearl granite (bringing the clothing to the same level as window shoppers) and deep fascias (signboards) with large lettering reading, simply, ‘HEPWORTHS’.

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Hepworth’s Arcade, Hull

Hepworth’s changed its image in 1961, becoming closely associated with Hardy Amies, the Queen’s dressmaker. It opened shops named ‘The Hardy Amies Tailoring Shop’ within several Debenham Group department stores, such as Woollands of Knightsbridge, Pauldens of Sheffield and Plummer Roddis of Southampton. A new production centre opened at Ashington. Expansion remained strong throughout the 1960s, with 13 new shops opened and another 19 planned in 1966 alone.

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Hepworth’s, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis: 1954 advertisement

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Hepworth’s, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis

Hepworth’s set off in a different direction in the 1980s. This began when the designer and retailer Terence Conran, then associated principally with Habitat, was brought in as Chairman. Hepworth’s sales were lacklustre in 1981, when the company bought the womenswear chain Kendall & Sons of Leicester, with 79 shops, and used this as a springboard for a new chain of women’s shops called Next. George Davies was brought in to nurture this development. The first Next opened in 1982, followed by Next for Men in 1984, and the chain was augmented by the acquisition of Lord John shops in 1985.

Next proved so phenomenally successful that Hepworth’s name was eradicated from the high street by the end of 1985, absorbed by the new brand.

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Next, Oxford Street, London, 1998

The Hepworth archive 1895-1967 is kept at the West Yorkshire Archive Service, Leeds.
This entry was posted in Fashion and Clothing. Bookmark the permalink.

54 Responses to The Legacy of J. Hepworth & Son

  1. Joe Hepworth says:

    Well researched. Thank you for this. He was my great grandfather and I am very proud of him.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Judith Bulger says:

      Are you the son of Joe and Mary Hepworth? I am the daughter if Anne Norton, the company secretary for many years

      Like

      • Joe Hepworth says:

        Yes! Anne was much respected by the Hepworth’s board and very much by my father, Joe.

        Like

      • Paul Cassidy says:

        I worked in the Estates department of Hepworths which was adjacent to your mothers department
        From leaving school in 1965. She helped me a great deal as did one of her staff Tom Thorpe.

        Like

      • Angi Mary Naylor says:

        Greetings I remember your mother Miss Norton when she lived at Grey Gables Calverley, my father Donald Naylor who died last week was one of the Transport drivers, and sometime acted as chauffeur to Mr Joe, when Geoffrey Naylor his elder brother was on other duties with Mr Shuttleworth. Geoff’s Wife Marion aged 96 can still tell Hepworths stories, so can I. We have photos of the staff Xmas parties at the Queens. We took a photo of the mosiac at the Dartmouth shop a few years ago. Dad would have been thrilled to know about this site. Angi Naylor

        Like

    • Judith Bulger says:

      Are you the son of Joe and Mary Hepworth? I am the daughter of Anne Norton, the company secretary for many years

      Like

    • Ri says:

      Are you his great grandfather?!
      Really?!
      I respect Joseph Hepworth!!
      I’m glad to see you.
      Are his parents British?
      What is his pedigree?

      Like

  2. James Hepworth says:

    Hi Joe – my Grandmother was Isobel Hepworth and live with her sister Edith Hepworth. I know she was from a mill owning family – any relation?

    Like

    • Joe Hepworth says:

      My aunt was also Isobel who married (and divorced) Dunlop of Dunlop and Rankin. Her father was Joe Hepworth of solicitors Hepworth and Chadwick, son of Joseph Hepworth the Tailor and founder of Hepworths and a none drinker!

      Like

      • Nana says:

        Hi.
        Nice to meet you.
        Are you Joseph’s grandson?! I have great respect for him and next. I have something to know about him.

        Like

      • Joe says:

        I am the founder’s great-grandson. And, I am very sorry to say, the last of this line.

        Like

  3. alan hepworth says:

    hello my name is alan Hepworth , I did connect joseph founder of hepworths the tailors ,to my family in emley, but have sadley mislaid my research, any help would be appreciated thanks

    Like

  4. James Cawson says:

    My great-grandfather was James Hepworth. The family always said his father was called Adai Hepworth. I think there was a connection to Batley. Any family connection?

    Like

  5. lampgenii says:

    Was this the same Joseph Hepworth who became the Lord Mayor of Leeds?

    Like

  6. As says:

    Hi there…
    So interesting reading about your family history…and how big a part of British fashion history they were.
    I was actually reading, and looking forward to finding some mention of a huge influencer and my Mentor, as well as Mentor to so many recognisable Designer names in British Fashion,
    Mr David Jones, who was involved in the creation of Next, alongside Mr Conran and Mr Davies.
    Just a touch disappointed that he wasn’t mentioned…
    But really enjoyable to read about days gone by…
    Best Wishes,
    As.

    Like

    • Paul Cassidy says:

      David Jones wasn’t involved in the creation of Next. He led the team who saved it from collapsing. The rest is a history of success thanks to that team and him.

      Like

  7. alan joiner says:

    i WAS A MANAGER WITH HEPWORTHS BOTH AT KIRKWALL IN THE ORKNEY ISLES AND PETERHEAD FROM 1972 TO 1984, THE HEPWORTHS NAME IS STILL ON THE PETERHEAD SHOP ENTRANCE, VERY INTERESTING INFO ON THIS SITE THANK YOU MR ALAN JOINER

    Like

  8. Kevin Moroney says:

    Like a lot of kids interested in a career in selling after leaving school in 1973 I joined Hepworths Luton . What a fantastic system they had for bringing on young lads and teaching them sales techniques . We used to go on training courses to Leeds in claypit Lane . They were run by a chap called Arthur Hadrick , he was a major influence in my career . Our Manager Don Faulkner was one of the best salesman I have ever had the privelage to work for . I left Hepworths in 1979 and became a sales rep needless to say the Hepworths training put me miles ahead of other salesman in the trade I was in . I owe a great deal to Hepworths and miss some of the great characters that worked in the Luton branch .

    Like

    • alan joiner says:

      I joined in July 1972 and was made redundant when all shops closed 84/85, was Branch Manager Kirkwall and Peterhead and your comments reminded me of the Cadet Star System that was in place and I also attended regular training in Leeds and when you mentioned Arthur Hadrick memories came flooding back, thanks for your comments, Alan Joiner.

      Like

      • Kevin Moroney says:

        Hi Alan , yes the cadet system was very good at focussing young lads on a career at Hepworths , they were great days , maybe among the happiest of my working life . I always loved selling and was blessed to be at Hepworths who seemed to really appreciate the importance of training young lads . Arthur hadrick worked with another trainer called Ron can’t remember his surname .
        All the best
        Kevin

        Like

      • Alan Joiner says:

        I also remember Ron,but cannot remember surname,the District Managers were Trevor Norman who was from Sunderland, Bert Knox and John McPeake and Bill McNicol was the Area Manager when a lot of the branches closed down,if Ron`s surname comes to me I will let you know,Kind Regards Alan Joiner

        Like

      • Robert Wood says:

        Arthur Hadrick worked with Ron King as trainers.I began work at Hepworths,Union Street,Glasgow in 1979.John Ewart was my District Manager and,in about 1983,John McPeake was my Store Manager.I went on to work for Next in Jersey,London and Glasgow in Store Manager positions.

        Like

    • Bob Allott says:

      I worked in the Leeds New Market St shop, my manager was Don Faulkner, great guy.The staff were disappointed when he moved back down to Luton. There are quite a few ex-Heppy’s staff that benefited from the Hepworth training.

      Like

      • Kevin Moroney says:

        Hi Bob ,
        Don Faulkner was a real gem , a very good man manager and a fantastic salesman . He was lived by all his staff so much so that in 1990 we arranged a Hepworths reunion which involved staff from the 60’s and 70’s with Mr . Faulkner ( could never call him Don ) as the Center point to the whole occasion . Sadly he died a few years ago he was well into his 90’s so despite continually smoking rolls ups he lived a long life . Sadly I couldn’t make the funeral as at the time I was out of the country . Great memories of him though and the Hepworths training set me up for a successful life in selling without that training I doubt I would have gone on to achieve much at all .

        Like

  9. Philip Allen says:

    My Mum had a friend called Lillian who married Norman Shuttleworth who eventually became CEO of Hepworths. She told me that the ‘Worth’ in Shuttleworth was the ‘Worth’ in Hepworths which was of course complete rubbish. I remember my parents visiting the Shuttleworths at their home and my father coming home with several new suits. Apparently Norman would be given a sample suit every time the company manufactured a new style and was happy to give them away!

    Like

  10. Joe Hepworth says:

    I like the ‘worth’ story! Norman was very good for Hepworths. Smart, intelligent and very likeable he was perfect for the business.

    Like

    • Lawrence Webster says:

      Hi Joe
      I believe that I am related to the Hepworths. My grandfather was Hubert Atack Hepworth and I have Norris as one of my first names. I have a lovely gold embrosed book addressed to Norris Hepworth from his employees on the occasion of the opening of the factory in Claypit Lane in Leeds. It is signed by a number of the employees including Alfred Hepworth

      Like

      • Joe Hepworth says:

        We are lucky to have this channel! As you will know it was Norris, Joe’s (let’s call him Joe the First!) son, who really established the business.(Was Norris a great grandfather?) There are so many to characters in this story! One of them, my father’s uncle, and his favourite was fond of cards but not successful with them so his father put him on a boat to Australia. Onboard he ran up some severe debts so when they arrived in Australia the Captain contacted his father. “Keep him,” he said. “Funds are on the way.” These cleared, he set off to discover Aus with an ice cream cart and was never heard of again. Which was a pity as later one of Joe 1st sister’s died and she left him a great deal of money! I’ve seen those books they are something to be proud of.

        Like

  11. Martin Strang says:

    I joined Hepworths in 1972 when the previously mentioned Don Faulkner asked me to join the company.
    He said to me it would be the best career move I would ever make….so right he was!
    As a salesman at 16 years old I was like a kid in a sweetshop!
    Hepworths encouragement of selling suited me perfectly and the level of training was the best I’ve ever seen in the retail trade.
    I can honestly say with pride it was the best working environment I’ve ever been in.
    The Luton branch where I worked had some of the best salesmen I’ve ever worked with,including Kevin Moroney who has commented on here previously.Kevin and I remain friends to this day and are always reminiscing about those great times.
    He is too modest to say it but he went on to be a tremendously successful businessman and the experience he gained at Hepworths helped him to achieve that success.
    My thanks to Hepworths and I will always be grateful to the best company I’ve worked for.

    Like

  12. Martin Strang says:

    Best career move I ever made,joining Hepworths

    Like

  13. John Hamilton says:

    I started at Hepworths in 1965 in Leith Street Edinburgh as junior salesman. Manager was Tom Carlton what a great guy. I owe a great deal to Mr Carlton for his fanatic training. I ended my career with Hepworths in 1972 as Manager of there Perth shop.

    John Hamilton

    Like

  14. alan hepworth says:

    does anyone know what josephs farthers first name was,

    Like

    • Joe Hepworth says:

      George, who married Martha Morton in 1823.

      Like

      • alan hepworth says:

        thank you joe, my youngest son is also called joe, after my grandad joe

        Like

      • alan hepworth says:

        hello joe, I have found two records showing George married martha Morton, 1823, but I am now confused as it states on one record they only had one sibling called david, and another one where it states one son called William , the reason for my research is to find that connection I mislaid years ago, to joseph, as I would be proud as punch to think I was related to such an icon,and something to be very proud of, any help would be much appreciated joe, my hepworths lived in emley ,and Thornhill . I have gone back to the 1500s . thank joe,

        Like

      • Joe Hepworth says:

        This is interesting. I have George marrying Martha 1823, who begat William, Sarah, Harriet, John and Joseph. George was either a blacksmith or a cobbler, can’t find out which. The first Joe Hepworth on my list married Martha Firth 1639. That’s as far back as I can go…. for now… but..

        Like

      • alan hepworth says:

        hi joe , would you possibly have georges father and the line back to your joseph 1639 thanks

        regards alan

        Like

      • Joe Hepworth says:

        OK. JH m. M FIRTH 1639 begat 2 sons Daniel and Richard who m. Martha Matthewman 1680 who begat John Hepworth who m Elizabeth Barker 1764 and begat Mark and John Hepworth who m. Martha Mallinson 1790 and begat Robert, John, David, Abraham and George who m. Martha Morton 1823. Hope these are correct. Best wishes cousin, Joe.

        Like

      • alan hepworth says:

        thank you joe , much appreciated, oh and I found the 1851 census looks seems George had 7 or eight siblings and he occupation is woollen cloth dresser, are you still based in Yorkshire joe.

        regards alan

        Like

  15. Joe Hepworth says:

    Thanks, Alan. A cloth dresser was not a ‘nice’ job. It was dirty and would have caused lung damage. It would be interesting to find the cause of deaths in our ancestors. I now live in Sussex near Goodwood but spent 30 odd years in London running Joes Wine bar and Joes Brasserie so you can tell what kind of a man I am. Currently, I’m writing an adventure story based on my mother’s grandfather, also a tailor. He was born in Ukraine and died in Bangkok. It’s the bit in between which is remarkable and well worth telling! BTW I think Joe was annoyed with one of his uncles, who was wealthy but felt no compulsion to share it. I think that is why Joe was determined to create an enterprise that would provide plenty of jobs. Which he did, and which still does. Good for him.

    Like

    • alan hepworth says:

      very interesting joe, its wonderful what you turn up when you do family research, I have wrote the history of the hepworths from 1575 till present day, it was realy to put a story to all of the names for my grandchildren, I think the most interesting facts I found out were about my hadfield ancesters, one of them a joseph hadfield. had the pleasure of hanging dick turpin, in York jail. apparently it was a practice that if one of the prisoners was chosen to do the deed he was then pardoned, joe was the one they chose, another hadfield ancestor. who had been in the nepolionic wars, walked into drery lane theatre and tried to assassinate king George, and I believe he was the first person to be sectioned .which is a term used now, I wouldlike to read your story when you are finished joe, I was just a humble explosives engineer, in my working days, working in Egypt training the indigenous arabs how to use explosives in one of their potash mines, and in Algeria, for the Japanese gas corporation, I am also attempting to write a screenplay, its all about murder mayhem and drugs, enjoying our exchanges joe, keep in touch ,how old are you joe

      Like

      • Joe Hepworth says:

        Good stuff, Alan! I’m 74, I think! Everyone has stories. I used to go to Heathrow and chat with anyone who wanted to talk and the tales people told! These must not go to waste! And a Joe hanged Dick Turpin?! You can’t beat that! And another was the first to be sectioned! My book A Tailor’s Tale is about six months from completion. Keep writing.

        Like

      • alan hepworth says:

        cant wait to read your book, I am 77, love to hear storys from the past, I went down to emley where the hepworths settled in the 1500s, the vicar kindly let me have the freedom to look at the records of births deaths and marriages, could not believe it when she looked down at the isle and said here is your ancesters,took my breath away joe,. in the middle of the isle, my ancesters are burried, and I am sure you will have connections to these hepworths, henry Hepworth 1575, was known as de capella of the chant in st michaels in emley, and he lived in what was the knights hospitaliers building later being pulled down by his grandson john Hepworth and with the stone he built chapel house farm which I have had the pleasure to go inside, have you an email address joe, then if there is something of interest I can upload it for you.

        Like

      • Joe Hepworth says:

        joehepworth@aol.com I knew Emily was familiar. Emily Moor – the transmitting tower is sited there! I looked on Goggle maps to find St Michaels. Well worth a visit! Apparently many moons ago we were called the D’Hepworths. Yes, we must keep in touch.

        Like

      • alan hepworth says:

        hi joe hope you are well. I have some good news for you and me, I was right we are blood relations I have found the connection, joseph Hepworth who married martha firth 1639, was the son of Thomas Hepworth1580 and ann blackburn 1584 , Thomas 1580, was the son of Thomas 1553 and janet sunderland1553 , josephs farther Thomas, was my henry hepworths brother,s and josephs uncle, and the good news for you is you are now officialy the 3oxgreatgrandson of Robert the bruce, king of England and Scotland ,

        Like

      • Joe Hepworth says:

        Now, this is News! Are you holding the crown? And thanks for the other facts. Pity we can’t meet them all.

        Like

      • alan hepworth says:

        well you can stand next to your 30xgreatgrandfarther he is in a large marble sarcophagus, in st hildas church in Hartlepool, 10 miles from me to view it, I had a lot of information on our line back to William the conquerer, which I cant find, but its fact I have seen the records, that we go back to a sister in law of the William, he had an affair and there was a child, we go back to the sister in law and Williams bastard son, all good stuff joe, so now emley has become part of your ancestry, because josephs dad Thomas and his brother henry my 10xgreatgrandfarther lived at chapel house, I will upload the ancestry that goes back to Robert the bruce, on an email

        Like

  16. Stephen Guile says:

    I was brought up in Leeds and as a young man I had several Hepworth suits made, I think, through a branch in Briggate. Very good service and good suits. The second suit was a Hardy Amies window-pane check- rather loud I would now say. I thought I looked the bees’ knees. Wore the suit to friends’ wedding at Immaculate Heart Church, Harrogate Road. Much to my chagrin, old school friend wore an identical suit!

    My wedding suit was made by Willerby- again ordered in Leeds.

    Happy days and I was pleased to read the comments above, especially from Joe Hepworth. So much industrial and commercial history has changed drastically during my lifetime.

    Like

  17. Lawrence webster says:

    Hi
    Does anybody have or done a family tree for the Hepworth family?

    Lawrence Webster

    Like

    • alan hepworth says:

      hi Lawrence joseph Hepworth line goes back to Thomas Hepworth1557 this is where our trees meet, Thomas was my 12xgreattgrandfather, and I think josephs 9xgreatgrandfather, from there we both go back to Robert le brus,

      Like

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