Ernest Debenham

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Sir Ernest Ridley Debenham, 1st Baronet (26 May 1865 Marylebone, London[1] – 25 December 1952 Poole, Dorset[2]), was an English businessman. He was responsible for the considerable expansion of the family's retail and wholesale drapery firm between 1892 and 1927.

Educated at Marlborough College and Trinity College, Cambridge,[3] he joined the successful business in Wigmore Street, London, which had been run by his grandfather and father. His restructuring activities led to the splitting of the manufacturing from the retail side of the business, under the name Debenham & Freebody (Freebody was the maiden name of his grandmother). He effected a merger with Marshall & Snelgrove as well as a takeover of Harvey Nichols. He was noted for his paternalistic attitude towards his staff, providing medical and educational support. He was also a pioneer in the dairy industry.

On 8 November 1892 he married Cicely Kenrick (1869–1950), daughter of William Kenrick. The couple had eight children.

He was elected unopposed at a by-election on 28 February 1912 for the Municipal Reform party to represent the Marylebone East division on the London County Council.

On his retirement he sold most of his shares in the firm for £1.8M, so severing his family's connections with the retail chain that still bears his name. He was created a baronet, of Bladen in the County of Dorset, in 1931.


  • Marjorie Cecily Debenham (3 Dec 1893-1990)
  • Hester Mary Debenham (17 Sep 1895-1985), married Wolmar Tycho Marlow
  • Joan Millicent Debenham (24 Feb 1897-5 Apr 1943), married her cousin, Kenneth Murray Hutton
  • Alison Edith Debenham (18 Feb 1903-24 Nov 1967), married René Jules Leplat
  • Piers Kenrick Debenham (28 Jul 1904-14 Sep 1964), 2nd Baronet, married Angela Sibell Paget
  • Gilbert Ridley Debenham (28 Jun 1906-3 Jun 2001), 3rd Baronet, married Violet Mary Higgins
  • Cecil Audrey Debenham (28 Jun 1906- ), married Charles Robert Bielby
  • Martin Ridley Debenham (16 Oct 1909-17 Mar 1977), married Beatrice Sydney Radcliffe[4]



Baronetage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
New creation
(of Bladen)

Succeeded by
Piers Kenrick Debenham