Home and Colonial Stores

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Home and Colonial Stores
FateName Change / Acquisition
SuccessorAllied Suppliers / Cavenham Foods
Defunct1961 / 1972
HeadquartersLondon, UK
Key people
Julius Drewe (Founder); Sir Lancelot Royle (Chairman & CEO)

Home & Colonial Stores was once one of the United Kingdom's largest retail chains. Its formation of a vast chain of retail stores in the late 1920s is seen as the first step in the development of a UK food retail market dominated by a small number of food multiples.


Shop assistants outside the Home and Colonial Stores on Broad Street, Waterford, May 1910

The business was founded by Julius Drewe, who went into partnership with John Musker in 1883, selling groceries at a small shop in Edgware Road in London.[1] He subsequently opened stores in Islington, Birmingham and Leeds.[1] The shops mainly sold tea;[1] by 1885 they were trading as the 'Home & Colonial Tea Association'.[1]

On the incorporation of the business in 1888, William Slaughter took over as chairman.[1] By the turn of the century the company had over 100 stores;[2] by 1903, it had 500.[1]

Home & Colonial bought the share capital of Maypole Dairies of Wolverhampton from the Watson family in 1924.[3] Between 1924 and 1931, several stores, including Liptons, merged with Home & Colonial to form a company with over 3,000 branches.[4] Within this period of rapid change, Home and Colonial formed Allied Suppliers to act as a buyer on behalf of the whole group.[5]

From 1948 until 1964, the group Chairman and CEO was Sir Lancelot Royle, KBE. He had joined the group in 1928. By 1955, the company was ranked 27th-largest in UK.[6]

By 1960, Home & Colonial Stores Ltd was still a major force in the UK food industry. With retail operations in the UK and abroad and factories in the UK, it was able to report a 10% rise in profits to £4,033,057.[7]

By 1961, reflecting the end of the British Empire, the group had restyled itself under the name of the company it created in 1929, Allied Suppliers. Early in 1972, Allied was acquired by Cavenham Foods, formed six years previously by British tycoon James Goldsmith. Melia's Grocers and Tea Dealers, another popular grocery chain at the time, was forced to amalgamate with the Home and Colonial company due to competition from larger national supermarkets.[8] The business purchased the South East-based supermarket chain Cater Brothers from Debenhams in 1979, and converted the stores into its Presto brand.

By 1981, Allied had a turnover of £800m.[9] In the following year it was acquired by James Gulliver's Argyll Foods; five years later Argyll merged with Safeway UK.[10]

In literature[edit]

Home and Colonial was one of three stores immortalised in a verse in John Betjeman's poem "Myfanwy":[11]

Smooth down the Avenue glitters the bicycle,
Black-stockinged legs under navy blue serge,
Home and Colonial, Star, International,
Balancing bicycle leant on the verge.

In Dorothy L. Sayers' novel Busman's Honeymoon (1935), the "Home and Colonial" network is mentioned as maintaining a branch also at the small Hertfordshire village where the book's plot is set—indicating its wide reach at the time of writing. A local woman tells Lord Peter Wimsey and his servant Bunter that groceries sold at the "Home and Colonial" are "better and half a penny cheaper" than those provided by the village's unaffiliated grocer.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Julius Drewe at Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  2. ^ 20th Century London Posters
  3. ^ Clare, David. "Maypole Dairies". Wolverhampton History & Heritage. Retrieved 29 July 2014.
  4. ^ Supermarkets; a report on the supply of groceries from multiple stores in the United Kingdom. Volume 2, page 8, The Competition Commission, October 2000
  5. ^ Home & Colonial Stores, The Times, 8 March, P.19, 1930
  6. ^ Rise of Big Business
  7. ^ The Times, The Home & Colonial Stores Ltd, 11 May 1960
  8. ^ Practical grocer: a manual and guide for the grocer, the provision merchant and allied trades, Volume 1, W.H.Simmonds
  9. ^ "Gulliver and his Expansive Travels", The Times, 6 July 1982, p21
  10. ^ Geoffrey Owen Corporate Strategy in UK Food Retailing 1980-2002 Archived 27 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine, p.8
  11. ^ "Myfanwy". John Betjeman.com. Retrieved 14 October 2017.