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Chiesmans Ltd was a department store chain that started in 1884 as a drapery, but was acquired by House of Fraser in 1976.[1]

Early history[edit]

Chiesman Brothers was started by the brothers Frank and Harry Chiesman in September 1884 in Lewisham.[2] They bought Cross Brothers at 59 High Street, Lewisham which was known as Paris House, and specialised in the sales of remnants and job lots. The brothers changed the business and starting selling new lines taking the business away from a drapery to a department store.

The store expanded into neighbouring properties and in 1899, waiting rooms and a tea room were added to the store,[3] By 1908 the store encompassed 41-59 High Street, which were divided by a road and had a subway connecting the two stores. The business furniture department grew and Chiesmans purchased several properties to hold their stock.

After the First World War, the brother's sons Stewart, Russell and Howard joined the firm and in 1921 a new store was constructed. Also in 1921, the company was incorporated into Chiesmans Ltd, a private liability company. During the 1930s the store was extended and other properties were purchased, including property on the opposite side of the High Street. By 1939, a new bridge was built across the Street to link the two halves of the store.[4]


In 1933, Chiesmans began a period of expansion beyond Lewisham with the purchase of Denniss Paine & Co. of Maidstone, Kent.[5]The next acquisition was that of Martins of Canterbury in 1949, while a third store was added in 1957 at Gravesend (previously Bon Marche).

In 1957, the business also became a Public Limited Company, with most of the shares still owned by the Chiesman family. Over the next two years stores were purchased in Tunbridge Wells (Waymarks), the Isle of Wight (Morris - 1959), Ilford (Burnes - 1959), Upton Park (John Lewis - 1959) and Rochester (Leonards - 1959). In 1960, the Lewisham store was extended again, and new additions included a fabric hall and a self-service restaurant.

Further branches were added to the Chiesman group under House of Fraser’s ownership. A number of the former Hide group stores in London and the south-east were initially renamed Chiesmans, including the eponymous Kingston upon Thames store and the J R Roberts branch at Southend. A store was also opened in Bexleyheath.


In 1976, the group was purchased by House of Fraser,[6] and joined the newly acquired Army & Navy stores as part of House of Fraser’s Southern Division; all Chiesmans stores were eventually renamed under the Army & Navy banner. The former Chiesmans head offices at Lewisham became the head office for House of Fraser Southern Division. Maintenance costs and changing retail patterns led to the Lewisham store shrinking to half its size in 1993 and later, closing down entirely in 1997.


  1. ^ "HOUSE OF FRASER Archive :: Company: Chiesmans Ltd". Retrieved 1 November 2014.
  2. ^ "HOUSE OF FRASER Archive :: Company: Chiesman Brothers". Retrieved 1 November 2014.
  3. ^ "HOUSE OF FRASER Archive :: Company: Chiesman Brothers". Retrieved 1 November 2014.
  4. ^ "HOUSE OF FRASER Archive :: Company: Chiesmans Ltd". Retrieved 1 November 2014.
  5. ^ "Maidstone Centre Conservation Area Appraisal - Maidstone Borough Council p.27 Feb 2009 Pg.21" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 December 2014. Retrieved 22 December 2014.
  6. ^ Moss, Michael and Turton, Alison, A Legend of Retailing. House of Fraser (London, 1989)