Who is the special link between Cross-in-Hand, Waldron and Harrods?
Did you know that Cross-in-Hand and Waldron have a link with the luxury London department store Harrods?
Charles Digby Harrod was born in Whitechapel in 1841. His father Charles Henry Harrod was a grocer and tea dealer and had opened a Harrod’s shop in Stepney but later speculatively rented premises in the up and coming area of Brompton Road, Knightsbridge. Now the World’s leading luxury department store, Harrods still trades there today.
In 1860, Charles Senior transferred the business to his son Charles Digby Harrod.
Charles Junior transformed his father’s business, encouraging wealthy shoppers to visit, providing them with a personal service and also introducing his own line of goods, branded with the Union Jack. He concentrated on selling good quality merchandise at reasonable prices and would not entertain provision of any extended credit accounts. Charles’ energy, dedication and retail expertise resulted in the shop expanding to employ 16 staff with a turnover of £1,000 a week (1868).
In 1883, the shop was razed to the ground by a devastating fire but instead of this being a catastrophic end to the Harrods business, Charles considered it an opportunity and rebuilt a new five floor store incorporating a central staircase with the insurance pay out. The business now employed 100 staff (the wage bill was £15 per week) and 12 months after the fire, Harrods was trading more successfully than ever.
The store now extended credit but only to its best customers, among them Oscar Wilde, Lillie Langtry, Charlie Chaplin, Noël Coward, Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, Sigmund Freud, AA Milne and many members of the British Royal Family.
Charles was by all accounts a fair and well respected man who worked long hours (although he still managed to father 8 children). His health began to decline and as none of his children were interested in taking the store on, he sold his business interests and took early retirement.
After over 40 years working in London, Charles bought country estates in Devon, Somerset and in 1902, he purchased Culverwood in Cross in Hand.
It wasn’t long before he became involved in local life. He was elected as a member of East Sussex County Council representing Mayfield, was a Manager of the Heathfield Schools and supported various local charities. He was also a member of Waldron Parish Council and Chairman of the local Schools Attendance Committee.
On the 14th August 1905, Charles took the train to London with his wife Caroline and stayed at the Grosvenor Hotel in Victoria, London, where, aged 64, he died overnight of heart failure.
Although Charles owned houses elsewhere, I like to think he felt Sussex was his home as his body was transported back here so his funeral could take place at All Saints Church in Waldron, where he had chosen to be buried.
A talented and hardworking entrepreneur.