As it was revealed this week that long- standing gentleman’s outfitters Hope & Co was closing its doors soon, Looking Back has delved into the archives of this well known Eastbourne business which has spanned three centuries.
In the late 1880s, a young and ambitious Harry Clarke set out from his home town of Winchester to take up a position as a salesman at George Brown’s, a well known company of gentlemens’ outfitters situated in the centre of Eastbourne during the latter part of the 19th century.
Over the next few years he worked hard to learn his trade, feeling confident enough to leave in 1894 and set up his own concern under the trading style of Hope & Company.
Harry’s astute business acumen paid dividends. A few years later saw one shop established opposite the Hippodrome on Seaside and a further three on Grove Road trading as bespoke tailors, shirtmakers and hatters and supplying uniforms to most of the small independent schools which were numerous in and around Eastbourne at that time.
Harry continued trading throughout the First and Second World Wars but in 1945, having run Hope & Company for more than 50 years, decided to retire and hand over to his son Kenneth, recently demobbed from the RAF.
Because of the extensive bomb damage sustained, a decision was made to relocate the business to its present day premises at 37 Grove Road, a site directly opposite the original three shops.
Kenneth continued until 1964 when sadly he died of leukaemia and the business fell into the capable hands of his wife. Since the mid-seventies, the company has been managed by Alex Clarke, son of Kenneth and grandson of the illustrious Harry.
For more than 160 years, spanning three centuries from the reign of Queen Victoria to the present day and run by the third generation of the Clarke family, Hope and Company has been committed to supplying quality menswear, complete school uniforms and formal wear for that special occasion with the good old fashioned courtesy and efficiency that generations of Eastbournians have come to expect from one of the oldest established businesses in the town.