RefNoMD7291
TitleWigfalls Public Limited Company, Domestic Appliance and Furniture Fashion Retailers, Rutland Road, Sheffield
AdminHistoryHenry Wigfall (Senior) was born in 1869. He married Ellen Whitley in 1890, and their first child was born in Mar 1891, Ellen Wigfall. In the 1891 census, Henry Wigfall (Senior) was recorded as a File Forger, living at 2 King James Street, Walkley, Sheffield. Their son Henry Wigfall (Junior) was born on 17 Dec 1892 and May Wigfall was born in 1896. Also in 1896 Henry Wigfall (Senior) became a ironmonger at 102 Infirmary Road.

His early trade included the making of “penny-farthing” bicycles and the business prospered, mainly in the cycle trade. The family business soon expanded and moved to additional larger premises at 544 Langsett Road where the repair of bicycles continued and the assemblage of cycles from components. By 1906 he was recorded in White’s Trade Directory as a cycle dealer, as well as an ironmonger. By the time of the 1911 census, the family was living at 47 Overton Road, Sheffield, and Henry Wigfall (Junior) was working with his father, both recorded as working on their own account as cycle agents.

In 1916, while Henry Wigfall (Junior) was a Private serving in the Army Service Corps, Henry Wigfall (Senior) listed the company as Henry Wigfall and Son Limited. The first meeting of Directors was held at 102 Infirmary Road on 3 Jan 1917. The directors included Henry Wigfall as chairman and John William Barker (who married Henry’s eldest daughter Ellen in 1912). Henry Wigfall (Junior) married Catherine Fearn 1 Nov 1917.

On 6 Jul 1922, May Wigfall married Frank Neville Hearnshaw, a Wire Mill Manager. In Dec 1924 Frank Neville Hearnshaw was asked to join Henry Wigfall and Son Limited, and by Sep 1925 was a member of the Board of Directors and would eventually become the company’s Chairman. In around 1927 Frank’s younger brother, Robert Kenneth Hearnshaw, joined the company, who would also eventually become the company’s Chairman.

Sports equipment and phonographs were added to the range of goods sold, but it was radios and the bicycle, especially the `Wigfall's Royal', that really established the business. Thousands of these cycles were sold, many on easy terms of 1/- per week which marked the beginning of the Wigfalls credit style of business, and further shops were established in Rotherham, Mansfield, Worksop and Leicester.

These sales assisted the great expansion of the business; between 1927 and 1939, 37 new branches were opened. Furniture was added to their sales range and in 1938 clothing and footwear were added, all available on weekly credit terms. During this period Henry Wigfall (Senior) was both the Chairman and Managing Director of the company, but he resigned from the latter office in 1939, and was succeeded by his son, Henry Wigfall (Junior), and his son in law, Frank Neville Hearnshaw, as Joint Managing Directors.

In 1942, Frank Charles Bernard Morrell married Audrey June Wigfall (daughter of Henry Wigfall Junior and Catherine Wigfall). He began working for the company in 1945, and was appointed onto the Board of Directors 18 Sep 1950 (and would eventually become the company’s Chairman).

After the war, radios were still selling well, but the Royal Cycle had lost a lot of its popularity due to the emergence of mass-produced cycles such as the Hercules. Wigfall now became an agent for the top cycle manufacturers like Raleigh, Sun and Hercules. In 1950, Hoover appointed Wigfall as agents for their domestic appliances. These became one of Wigfall's best sellers and eventually Wigfall became the largest Hoover Service dealer in the United Kingdom. By the time of Henry Wigfall (Senior)’s death aged 85 in 1955, the business consisted of 45 shops located between York and Leicester and employing over 1,000 people. The great expansion of television in the early 1950's saw Wigfalls really begin to expand by becoming one of the first companies to rent televisions and by 1958 the Company went public and was oversubscribed twenty times.

In 1960 the Company undertook further expansion by purchasing an old established draper called `Blanchards', which had taken over 102 Infirmary Road in 1921 where Henry Wigfall first started, and then a rival firm, Dobsons, with 25 shops in and around Sheffield and head office based at Truro Works, Matilda Street, Sheffield. During the 1960's Wigfall took over a number of other smaller businesses, all of which continued to operate under their own names, including R. G. Poole Limited, formerly a business of radio engineers incorporated on 7 Aug 1937 and carried on in partnership by R. G. Poole and L. Bacon, in Nov 1963. The Company now incorporated various trading and non-trading companies, as well as retail branches, which were known as the Wigfall Group of Companies with its registered and Head Office based in Rutland Road, Sheffield.

In 1972, Wigfall bought a rental and electrical business based in Newbury, P. A. Baker Limited. Shortly afterwards they acquired Scotts Radio with shops in Brighton and district, and then Colourama. The Company had also purchased a department store called Muntus in Rotherham, opened four `New Girl' shops in the north and a high class menswear outlet in Rotherham.

Wigfall had also entered the mail order business in 1962. This had started in Wakefield and Chesterfield and eventually centralised in Bolton, Lancashire, where Graves Mail Order Limited was based. However, with ever increasing overheads and intense competition the company soon realised it was safer to concentrate on its retailing side.

The Mail Order subsidiaries were sold in 1976 and the Company used the capital to buy 67 further shops and a number of Television Service Departments from Lloyds Retailers in order to achieve a greater coverage of the country than ever before with all its retail outlets now trading under the name of Wigfalls. In 1977 the Groups rental business gained a separate identity under the newly formed company Wigfall Rentals Limited, (prior to this time the rental of colour televisions had been through branches of the Debenham Group), and the Company also acquired the share capital of Nu-Lyfe Electronics Limited, producers of re-furbished television picture tubes, a company originally incorporated on 22 Oct 1957.

By 1979 Henry Wigfall and Son Limited had in addition taken over a property investment company, a computer bureau, a computer data preparation company, and an insurance company. They had over 200 retail outlets, displaying a comprehensive range of domestic electrical merchandise, with the widest choice of credit facilities available at that time on the High Street, and were still planning to expand their geographical spread of outlets in the country.

The 1970s saw retirement or death of family members on the Board, but also the addition to the Board of Directors of Richard Wigfall Morrell (who would become Managing Director) and Robert Frank Morrell, sons of Frank Charles Bernard and Audrey June Morrell, and great grandsons of the company’s founder.

The 1980s was a period of great change in the company. After the death of Frank Charles Bernard Morrell in 1979, the company appointed its first non-family member as Chairman, Michael Craufurd Abbott. He would not be in the post long, dying in Oct 1980. Lawrence Gordon Hazzard was appointed as another non-family Chairman in Sep 1981.

1981 also saw the company become Henry Wigfall and Son Public Limited Company. However, profits had begun to decrease by the late 1970s, and by Jun 1982 a £3.72m loss was reported and no dividend was paid out to shareholders for a number of years. 1983 saw Robert Frank Morrell leave the Board of Directors, followed by his brother Richard Wigfall Morrell in 1984, thus ending the family presence on the Board.

The Company started to concentrate on the retail of domestic electrical appliances and Mr Charles Limited, department stores and fashion outlets, took over the retailing side of clothes etc. The name of the company was changed to Wigfalls Public Limited Company in 1985 with its registered office remaining at 161 Rutland Road, Sheffield. The company began to move away from the rental market towards promoting customer purchase, introducing the Purchase Plan Scheme and encouraging customers to purchase service back-up over a three year period, which was copied by several of their competitors. It sold its rental accounts to Granada and purchased 15 ex-Connect shops. As part of the rationalisation programme, from 1984 it closed 25 smaller, less profitable units and replaced them with 12 superstores. By 1988 the company had 106 stores in the areas around Manchester, Bradford, Leeds, York, Hull, Sheffield, Nottingham, Derby, Stafford, Wolverhampton, Leicester, Peterborough, Northampton, Oxford and Bristol.

Retail sales increased, and in its 1987 Annual Report stated it has returned to profitability by the year ending 31st Mar 1987, making a profit of £316,000, on a turnover of £48.61m and had begun to pay dividends again. However, while it had a strong identity, particularly in the north, it was unable to achieve a satisfactory level of profits. On 15 Jan 1988 Wigfalls announced an unaudited loss before tax for the 28 weeks to 10 Oct 1987 of £837,000 on a turnover of £27.94m. After considering an offer by Bennett and Fountain Group Public Limited Company, on 11 Feb 1988 the Board of Directors decided to accept an offer by Dixons Group Public Limited Company (Dixons) to take over Wigfalls. From the beginning of March there was a Wigfalls Clearance Sale in all shops lasting for approximately four weeks. After that the majority of their shops were re-signed Currys with a few re-signed Dixons.

Chairman:

Henry Wigfall (Senior) 3 Jan 1917 – 1955.
Henry Wigfall (Junior) 1955 – 1959.
Frank Neville Hearnshaw 1 Apr 1959 - 10 Jul 1970 (died).
Robert Kenneth Hearnshaw 17 Dec 1970 - 20 Oct 1975 (retired).
Frank Charles Bernard Morrell 20 Oct 1975 - 23 May 1979 (died).
Richard Wigfall Morrell Temporary Chairman Jun 1979 - Jan 1980.
Michael Craufurd Abbott 4 Feb 1980 - 23 Oct 1980 (died).
Richard Wigfall Morrell Temporary Chairman Sep 1980 - Sep 1981.
Lawrence Gordon Hazzard 24 Sep 1981 – 30 Apr 1988 (resigned).

Managing Director:

Henry Wigfall (Senior) 3 Jan 1917 – 1939.
Henry Wigfall (Junior) 3 Sep 1925 – 1955; 1959 - 23 Mar 1966 resigns as Joint Managing Director, but continues as a Director in a non-executive capacity.
Frank Neville Hearnshaw 1939 - 31 Mar 1967.
Robert Kenneth Hearnshaw Deputy Managing Director 1965 – 1966, Joint Managing Director 1966 - 17 Dec 1970.
Frank Charles Bernard Morrell Deputy Managing Director 1965 – 1966, Joint Managing Director 1966 -17 Dec 1970 and Managing Director 17 Dec 1970 - 20 Oct 1975.
Richard Wigfall Morrell 20 Oct 1975 - 17 Dec 1984 (resigned).
Thomas Cole 17 Dec 1984 – 6 Jun 1988 (resigned).

Secretary:

Ernest Gorton 3 Jan 1917 – 1921
May Hearnshaw 3 Sep 1925 - 1 Apr 1937.
Frank Neville Hearnshaw 1 Apr 1937 – [1959]
Alan Kenneth Armstrong 20 Oct 1959 - 20 Dec 1971.
Eric Russell Dickinson 1972 - 1984 (retired).
Gordon Laurence Myers 1985 – 6 Jun 1988 (resigned).

Administrative history based on earlier administrative history by an unknown author; research in company minute books and annual reports; Obituary Notice for Henry Wigfall, bound in Quality of Sheffield 1955, vol. 2, number 2, Feb 1955 p. 25 (Sheffield Local Studies Library 380 SQ); 1871 - 1911 census, accessed via Find My Past; 1939 register accessed via Find My Past; World War One Army records accessed via Find My Past; FreeBMD; Whites trade directories 1900 - 1920; and Kelly's trade directories 1929 - 1954.
DescriptionCorporate management records Jan 1917 - Aug 1989 (MD7291/1).
Financial records 1971 – 1987 (MD7291/2).
Legal records 13 Jun 1938 - Jun 1988 (MD7291/3).
Employment records 1972 – 1980 (MD7291/4).
Production and sales records 1964 - Jun 1987 (MD7291/5).
Plant and property records 08 Feb 1980 - 04 May 1983 (MD7291/6).
Subsidiary companies 1909 – 1977 (MD7291/7).

The collection consists of the records of Wigfall Public Limited Company (previously known as Wigfall and Son Limited), Blanchards Limited, Dobsons (Sheffield) Limited, Graves Mail Order Limited, Nu-Lyfe Electronics Limited and R.G. Poole Limited, later Wigfall (South) Limited.
Date1909 - 1989
Extent160 items
AccessStatusOpen
LevelCollection
RelatedMaterialSheffield Local Studies Library:

Billheads: Retails, wholesale and services (MP Folder 33).

Annual Reports and Accounts for Wigfalls Public Limited Company 1971 - 1987 (CAR 1971 - 1987).

Obituary Notice for Henry Wigfall, bound in Quality of Sheffield 1955, vol. 2, number 2, Feb 1955 p. 25 (380 SQ).
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