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Belville, (Elizabeth) Ruth Naomi (1854–1943), horologist and merchant, was born on 5 March 1854 at 9 Hyde Vale Cottages, Greenwich, Kent, the only child of Belville, John Henry (1795?–1856), horologist and assistant astronomer at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, and his third wife, ...

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Burton, Sir Montague Maurice [formerly Meshe David Osinsky] (1885–1952), clothing manufacturer and retailer, was born on 15 August 1885 in the town of Kurkel, Kovno province, Russia (now Lithuania), the only son of Chaim Judah Osinsky (b. 1825), bookseller, and his wife, ...

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Debenham, Sir Ernest Ridley, first baronet (1865–1952), department store owner, was born on 26 May 1865 at 42 Wigmore Street, Marylebone, London, the son of Frank Debenham (1837–1917), silk mercer and draper, and his wife, Emma Folkard Ridley.

Frank Debenham inherited a thriving business in ...

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G. F. R. Barker

revised by Anita McConnell

Dunstan, Jeffrey (1759?–1797), hawker and ‘mayor of Garrett’, was a foundling reared in the parish workhouse of St Dunstan-in-the-East, in the City of London. At the age of twelve he was apprenticed to a greengrocer, but he ran away to Birmingham, where he worked in the factories. The heavy labour probably added to his deformities, for as an adult he had knock knees, a large head, and grew to a height of only ...

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Epstein, Brian Samuel (1934–1967), popular music entrepreneur and retailer, was born on 19 September 1934 at a private nursing home at 4 Rodney Street, Liverpool, the first of two children of Harold (Harry) Epstein (1901–1967) furniture retailer, and his wife, Malka (Queenie), née...

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Fraser, Hugh, first Baron Fraser of Allander (1903–1966), department store owner and businessman, was born at Glencaple, Partickhill Road, Partick, Lanarkshire, on 15 January 1903, the only son of Hugh Fraser (d. 1927), drapery warehouseman, and his wife, Emily Florence, née McGown...

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Heal, Sir Ambrose (1872–1959), shopkeeper and furniture designer, was born on 3 September 1872 at Crouch End, London, the eldest child of Ambrose Heal (1847–1913), bedding manufacturer and furnisher, and Emily Maria (1849–1938), daughter of Thomas Stephenson of Finchley. Thus he was born into the family firm of ...

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Marks, Michael (1859–1907), retailer and chain store founder, was born in Slonim, Russia, in June 1859, the youngest child of Mordecai Marks, a tailor, and his wife, Rebecca. His mother died in childbirth and he was raised by his elder sister. The family lived in considerable poverty and social oppression, typical of so many Jewish communities in nineteenth-century ...

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Packer, Jane (1959–2011), florist and floral artist, was born on 22 September 1959 at 11 St Francis Way, Chadwell St Mary, Grays, Essex, the younger daughter of Maurice Leslie Packer (b. 1930), a motor repairman at Ford's in Dagenham, and his wife, ...

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Porter, Sir Leslie (1920–2005), businessman, was born Leslie Posament on 10 July 1920 at Streatham Manor, Leigham Avenue, Streatham, London, the youngest child in the family of two sons and one daughter of Henry Alfred Posament, later Porter (d. 1955), textile merchant, and his wife, ...

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Roberts, Alfred (1892–1970), shopkeeper and local politician, was born on 18 April 1892 in the village of Ringstead, near Oundle, Northamptonshire, the third of seven children of Benjamin Ebenezer Roberts (b. 1857), shoe manufacturer, and his wife, Ellen Smith. The Roberts family came originally from ...

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Roddick [née Perella], Dame Anita Lucia (1942–2007), businesswoman, was born on 23 October 1942 in a bomb shelter at 32 New Road, Littlehampton, Sussex, one of the four children of Gilda (b. 1914/15), daughter of Domenico de Vito, farmer, and wife of ...

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Selfridge, Harry Gordon (1858–1947), department store owner, was born on 11 January 1858 at Ripon, Wisconsin, USA, the only son of Robert Oliver Selfridge (d. 1873) and his wife, Lois Frances Baxter (d. 1924). Robert Selfridge owned a small retail business in ...

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Stephenson, William Lawrence (1880–1963), retail executive, was born on 13 January 1880 at Scarborough, Yorkshire, the son of Frederick James Stephenson and his wife, Eliza Toder. His father, the manager of a small upholstery business, was determined that his son should learn a trade and take up a commercial career. After leaving school in ...