Published: April 25, 2022 | Updated: April 27, 2022

Happy birthday! Family-run Goulds now in its fourth generation celebrates 120th anniversary

By Andrew Diprose, editor

It was the year that saw the coronation of Edward VII, the second Boer War ended, Land of Hope and Glory received its London premiere and Marmite was first produced.

And in Dorchester, Harold and Florence Gould opened a store stocked with general and fancy drapery.

The year in question was 1902 and on April 26, exactly 120 years later, independent family-run retailer Goulds held the first of a series of birthday events.

It took place at Goulds Garden Centre in Preston, Weymouth.

Harry and Florence Gould’s drapers shop, pictured, opened on the corner of High East Street in Dorchester Town.

Four generations later, the Gould family are still running the business which has grown to three department stores and a garden centre.

Goulds (Dorchester) Limited now employs more than 200 people.

The company’s two stores in South Street, Dorchester, sell branded clothing and accessories, home living and gifts as well as the Dorset Kitchen eatery and Dorset Kitchen Farm Shop.

The Goulds Garden Centre, in Weymouth, has a range of more than 25,000 product lines including horticultural and outdoor leisure products, a well-stocked plant area and gifts.

Speciality foods and drinks from local suppliers and beyond are available in The Dorset Kitchen food hall, while The Dorset Kitchen eatery provides meals and snacks.

Further along the coast, in East Devon, Goulds also owns the Fields of Sidmouth department store, pictured.

Acquired in 2015, it opened in 1809 in the same location from which the business still trades.

Chris Gould, 40, Director of Goulds (Dorchester) Limited and the great grandson of Harry Gould, said the company had faced many challenges over the years, ranging from wars to the pandemic.

He said: “There is no doubt the retail sector has, and continues to meet, strong challenges, evident from the many shops that have disappeared from the High Street.

“We are most thankful for the support of our community, which has helped us keep the doors open and provide employment opportunities for local people.

“Serving our local communities with respectful, personal service, quality goods and great value is at the forefront of our business ethos, just as it was when my great grandparents started the business.

“We currently employ over 200 local people, some of whose families have worked here for generations before them.

“None of this would be possible without the continued support we have received from our customers.

“We would like to take this opportunity to thank them all for their valued custom and extend a warm welcome to the exciting, fun-packed shopping experience we have planned on the anniversary of the day we opened 120 years ago.”

The Goulds Garden Centre, in Preston, Weymouth, was the venue for the first of a series of birthday events.

It held a demonstration day on April 26 followed by an evening meal in The Dorset Kitchen with three courses inspired from bygone recipes.

History of Goulds Stores

  • Established in 1902 independent family-run business Goulds has been at the heart of Dorchester for 120 years this year.
  • On April 26, 1902, Harry and Florence Gould opened a drapers shop on the corner of High East Street in Dorchester Town.
  • Harold and Florence Gould placed an advertisement in the Dorset County Chronicle just before the opening of their shop, which, in the language of the time, advertised the forthcoming opening of their new venture.
  • It read: ‘Important Notice. H.J. Gould begs to inform the inhabitants of Dorchester and District that he will be opening the premises, lately occupied by H.R. Hayman and Son, with a well selected stock of General and Fancy Drapery and hopes by strict and careful attention to Business, to secure a share of patronage and support. First day of opening Saturday April 26th, 1902’
  • Fourteen members of the family have been on the board of the company over the years. During World War 2, two of Harry’s sons joined up while Ronald, who was in a protected occupation, continued to help his parents in the business. However, once the shop closed, he would get on his bike and cycle to Portland to help protect the naval dockyard base at night.
  • When Harry died in 1947, Ronald and his younger brother Arthur, took over the company as joint MDs; the second generation was in charge.
  • On the death of Arthur in 1971, John Keeping, the uncle of Ronald’s son, Roger, became the Non-Executive Chairman. It was under his financial guidance that the next generation of Goulds took over.
  • The level of advanced planning which went into ensuring the succession was demonstrated by how each new family member coming into the company had experience in the workplace, not just at Goulds, but in other companies too. Third generation Roger was 21 when he joined the business and, like his brother Richard, had returned from training at Bentalls, a large family-owned department store in Kingston Upon Thames. Together with cousin, Stephen, they were joined a few years later by Philip, Ronald’s youngest son.
  • Chris, Roger’s youngest son and fourth generation, had experience at Bentalls and John Lewis before returning to Goulds in 2005 as a Buyer before becoming a Director in 2008.
  • In 1997 Goulds purchased the freehold of Humphries Garden Centre at Preston, Weymouth, covering a seven-acre site and employing around 25 staff. In 2000, Anthony, Roger’s son, became the first member of the fourth generation of the family to join the business in the garden centre.
  • In 2015 Goulds purchased Fields of Sidmouth, Devon and has successfully run the long-standing business ever since.
  • From small beginnings, Goulds has grown to include three department stores – two in Dorchester and one in Sidmouth – and a thriving garden centre in Weymouth.
  • And on April 26, 2022, Goulds celebrates its 120th anniversary.

Pictures courtesy of Goulds.