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Lack Bros Drapery Store - Can you help ?

The great grandson of a well known Thornton Heath businessman is hoping Heritage readers will be able to help him piece together his fascinating family history. Andrew Wyatt, 41, the great grandson of William Joseph Lack, joint founder of famous Lack Bros drapery store in Thornton Heath, is eager to speak to former employees and customers of the business in order to learn more about his late relatives.

Image: The Lack Bros drapery shop in Thornton Heath taken in 1935

Andrew believes the story behind his family's successful business is a mirror to British society and illustrates how an area like Thornton Heath developed and grew. He has discovered his family's association with the linen industry stretches back more than 250 years and some of his earliest ancestors have been traced back to before the 1730s.

The focus of Andrew's research centres around his great grandfather, William Joseph Lack, a young, ambitious lower middle class entrepreneur who set up the first Lack Bros drapery store in Walthamstow, east London, with his brother George, in 1898.

William had married a wealthy local girl and the couple had two sons, cementing the businessman's aspirations of, building a family drapery dynasty.

Business was so successful that William was able to send his sons to a private boarding school and in 1906 the Lack brothers returned to their Croydon roots to open another shop in Thornton Heath High Street.

William's enterprise expanded to include a downstairs restaurant, with a modern hairdresser's upstairs.

Very soon, the store became a firm favourite with customers, with people queuing from 6am on sale days. By 1927 the store had become a limited company and had swallowed up the neighbouring buildings from 115 to 123 High Street opposite the clocktower. Business continued to boom throughout the 1930s.

As well as owning a large house called Silverleigh in London Road, Thornton Heath, William, was also spending more time at another home on the Isle of Wight.

It was at the time of his retirement that William expected his sons to take over the family business, but they had other ideas.

One son moved to Canada and his remaining son Charles, Andrew's grandfather, fought in World War One then aspired to be an engineer.

Andrew, an illustrator from Stepney Green, east London, said: "My grandfather, Charles, caused the family some upset because he never wanted to carry on the family business. He wanted to be an engineer."

Image: William Joseph Lack and son Charles Lack in 1933

Charles' marriage to a shop assistant, Andrew's grandmother, was further frowned upon, as was his decision to open a garage in Thornton Heath, prompted by his love of motor cars.

Andrew believes the Lack Bros store closed in 1937, a year after the death of William Lack.

Andrew is particularly keen to hear from former customers and employees of the store with their memories.

He is also keen to find out if anyone has any photographs of the shop or old signs taken from the business before it closed.

Last modified: 10th November 2010 - Copyright Canning and Clyde Residents Association
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