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Guildford Retailer Celebrates 125 Years Trading In The Town

Published on: 20 Nov, 2022
Updated on: 24 Nov, 2022

By Hugh Coakley

Gentleman’s outfitters Weir Rhodes, in the upper High Street, has been serving customers from the same location and by the same name in Guildford for 125 years, making it, possibly, Guildford’s oldest retailer.

Originally owned by two generations of the Weir Rhodes family, they opened their shop opened in 1897 selling luxury menswear from 9 High Street. The numbers of the builders in that part of the High Street have changed over the years.  Today’s Weir Rhodes’ number is 183 High Street. But the location is the same.

Owner Blake Bowden said: “Weir Rhodes have served its loyal customers through thick and thin ever since.

A photograph of Weir Rhodes’ shop, believed to be from about the 1950s, before demolition and rebuilding of the shop in the same location. Next door is ‘Guildford House’, which at the time was the borough’s library and art gallery.

“We have survived wars, depressions, recessions and even Covid. Indeed, the only times our doors have been shut for more than one day in a century and a quarter were during the 2020-2021 government lockdowns.”

Weir Rhodes shop front in 2022 showing 125 Year celebration banners.

In 1988 the Bowden family from Epsom bought the shop from David and Anne Weir Rhodes and, said Mr Bowden: “We have continued that tradition of excellence for nearly 35 years.”

He said the building itself had changed over the years. Talking of the current shop, he said: “The airy and bright store offers a range of luxury brands including Canali, Bugatti, Ralph Lauren, Hackett and hand-lasted English-made shoes from Cheaney.

“The professional and knowledgeable team always puts the customers needs first and aims to offer unrivalled choice and service combined with many years of experience.”

Photo of the Weir Rhodes shop thought to be from the 1950s.

125 years of trading is an extraordinary milestone and Weir Rhodes held a raffle to celebrate with its loyal customers. The prizes included a luxury Italian Canali suit, a perfectly fitting English bench grade pair of Joseph Cheaney shoes and a superb handmade Swedish Eton shirt.

Football legend Glen Hoddle, a customer over the years at the family’s shop in Windsor, came to draw the raffle. He spent the afternoon in Weir Rhodes “sipping bubbles with staff and customers to celebrate the anniversary,” said Mr Bowden.

Football legend Glen Hoddle came to celebrate the 125 history. He is pictured here with staff at Weir Rhodes and the Mayor and Mayoress of Guildford.

Mr Bowden is a fourth generation menswear retailer and added: “I am is always looking to innovate and improve whilst maintaining the highest standards of contemporary and classic men’s clothing.”

He travels across Europe and beyond to select the very finest products for his loyal and discerning customers.

Photo of Mr Weir Rhodes, the founder of the shop. The inscription reads: “Best Wishes from Brother Percy. Oct 18th 1918”. From his youthful looks, he must have been very young when he opened the shop 19 years previously in 1897.

Mr Bowden said many clients are regular visitors who have become friends over the years. Others are looking for a special outfit for a big occasion and are increasingly coming from far afield due to the impressive selection of quality tailoring always in stock and exciting ranges of exclusive casual wear.”

A receipt from 1937 from one of Weir Rhodes’ customers. The invoice for a pair of gloves costing eight shillings and eleven pence was issued on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1937 and paid for in February 1938. Perhaps it was a case of: “Put it on my bill Mr Weir Rhodes”. Would this have been a New Year’s present to Mr Grimmond Esq?

Weir Rhodes advert published in the Surrey Advertiser in about 1960.

Mr Bowden promised: “Everyone who shops at Weir Rhodes will be always be given a warm welcome by the team and the best possible service.”

He and his family are very proud to be custodians of Weir Rhodes at this momentous time and hope to continue offering an exceptional customer experience for another 125 years.

Weir Rhodes shop pre-1990.

Weir Rhodes showing the restored marble shop front in the 1990s.

A history display table in the Weir Rhodes shop celebrating its 125-year anniversary.

Weir Rhodes updated its shop with a new navy and brass colour scheme in 2015.

Weir Rhodes Canali jacket display in 2022.

Weir Rhodes 2022 display of Hackett soft tailoring.

If you have any vintage photos of the Weir Rhodes shop over the years, we would love to see them. Please email images to guildford.dragon@gmail.com and we will look to add them to this story.

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test One Response to Guildford Retailer Celebrates 125 Years Trading In The Town

  1. Jan Messinger Reply

    November 20, 2022 at 8:38 pm

    Great interesting history piece. Especially because it’s a Guildford business still here 125 years on.

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