Local firm traded through two World Wars

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This week, in his ongoing series, Ion Castro looks at the origins of local builders merchants Crew and Co.

He writes. The building now occupied by Car Crazy on the corner of Nelson Road and Queens Road was once occupied by the well-known local company, Chas Crew & Co Ltd, builders’ merchants.

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They had been founded on borrowed capital of £300 in January 1901 by Mr Charles F. Crew who had been a travelling representative in the South East for his father’s firm.

Mr Crew senior traded in North London as Oil, Colour Varnish and Paper Merchants, and Charles saw the possibilities of trading in Hastings so business was begun at 165. Queens Road and was at first devoted to the sales of wallpaper, varnishes and paints with Charles preparing his own wallpaper pattern book for loan to customers.

The records show a steady expansion of business. In 1907 the original premises at 165, Queens Road had been outgrown and the firm moved to 121, Queens Road where, in addition to the ground floor shop also boasted a first floor showroom for the display of baths and fireplaces.

Additional warehouse accommodation was acquired in Waterworks Road opposite and this provided stabling for the firm’s own horse and cart used for deliveries in the town and outlying areas.

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Staff during World War 1 was reduced to Mr. Crew and one boy, but in spite of Charles’ ill health the business was carried on until the close of hostilities when all the staff returned. 1922 saw the business expand into the next door premises at 122 Queens Road giving increased accommodation for showroom, shop and stores and later a large building at the rear of 130 Queens Road was added for additional stores.

The firm was made into a Limited Company in 1926 but in August 1927 Mr. C.F.Crew died at the early age of 52 and in 1928 his son F. Leslie Crew took over control of the Company and continued as Managing Director until the 1960’s.

Further expansion followed in 1930 when the next door premises of 120, Queens Road were acquired and a warehouse with electric lift was added at the rear, followed by occupation of the first and second floors and the Company started Tile Fireplace Slabbing under the name of “Dragon Fireplaces”.

World War II saw the staff again reduced to a mere handful but in spite of shuttered shop windows, and blackouts and bombs the firm carried on. During the War considerable help was given to the local authority in supplying material for first aid repairs and in co-operating in a pool arranged for the supply of materials in the town.

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After the war, in spite of shortages, licences and controls, business again expanded at considerable speed. By 1947 the accommodation at Queens Road was becoming inadequate and a prominent corner premises in the town centre opposite the Memorial Clock Tower became available. Before the war this had been the showrooms for the Gas Company and had been damaged during the war (now occupied by Andrews Estate Agents).

Under Chas Crew these showrooms opened in April 1949 for the display of fireplaces, bathroom appliances, cooking, heating and water heating appliances.

1950 saw further expansion when the four storey building in Stonefield Road on the corner of Nelson Road at the rear of the Queens Road premises was purchased to increase storage facilities even further. In 1960 the remainder of 120 Queens Road was incorporated and confidence in the business was such that the firm issued a commemorative booklet “60 Years of Service to the Building and Allied Trades” upon which much of this information is based.

As the 1960’s progressed Chas Crew amalgamated with Gilbert Davis of Castle Hill Road, a Hastings firm with roots going back to the end of the 19th Century, to become ‘Crew-Davis’ who in turn were taken over by Wolseley, now part of Plumb Centre and the original firm was dissolved on 26 April 2011

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All illustrations throughout this series are from Ion Castro’s own collection and he can make available copies of many of the historic images used in this series. Contact ion@1066.net or tel 01424 437468 and there’s more local history on Ion’s website, www.historichastings.co.uk

1901 Chas Crew Ad.

An advert from 1901, Chas Crew’s first year of trading. They were to stay at 121 until 1907.

1916 Chas Crew Ad.

By 1916 when this advert appeared Chas Crew had moved to 121 Queens Road on the other side of the road and had been there for almost a decade.

Chas Crew 165.

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An early bill from Chas Crew at their original premises in 1903 – a ‘1 knot 1½” Bevilled Pound Brush for 1/6 (7½p)’ and an ‘Oval Sash Tool’ for 10d (4p).

Chas Crew Memorial.

A page from the 60th anniversary booklet showing the premises at ‘The Memorial’ and reminding us that Robertson Street actually extends to the junction with Havelock Road.

Chas Crew Truck.

Shown against a background of the railway bridge this early open van (1928) operated by Chas Crew was one of the first in the area to be built with an enclosed cab

Chas Crew vehicles.

From Chas Crew’s 60th Anniversary booklet the caption says ‘The present day modern fleet of vans with the specially designed coach bodies for maximum storage and protection of goods’.

Chas Crew

From the anniversary booklet, Chas Crew’s original premises and contemporary accommodation. “Showing the original shop (on the left) as the new tramway system was being laid”.

Davis 1901.

An advert for Davis Bros in 1901, they were eventually to become Gilbert Davis, Builders Merchants and amalgamate with Chas Crew in the late 1960’s to become Crew Davis. ‘Castle Road’ was renamed to ‘Castle Hill Road’ in the early part of the last century.

Kelly 1950.

Chas Crew advertised on the back cover of Kelly’s Directory throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s

Kelly 1972.

By 1972 Crew Davis, as it had become, were still taking the back page of Kelly’s Directory to advertise, and still trading from 120 – 122 Queens Road.

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