Sunday, November 7, 2010

S. & J. Watts & Co.

S. J. Watts & Co. was a wholesale drapery business established by brothers Samuel and James Watts in Manchester. Between 1851 and 1856 the company built a huge warehouse in the center of town.

The warehouse was more like a department store on the inside. 600 staff looked after finished goods:
  • on the ground floor: hosiery, linens and carpets
  • on the 1st floor: dresses, woolens, and dyed goods
  • on the 2nd floor: umbrellas, bags, corsets, boots and shoes
  • on the 3rd floor: ribbons, silks and underclothing
  • on the 4th floor: lace and furs.
During the Second World War, the Watts' warehouse was bombed in the Manchester Blitz, but was saved from destruction when the fire was smothered by textiles after the water supply had failed.

Watts Warehouse Manchester

S. & J. Watts & Co traded until 1960 when the company merged with a rival firm to become Cook & Watts, which was taken over by the Courtaulds Group in 1969. The Watts warehouse is now a Grade II listed building and since 1982 has been the Britannia Hotel.

By Mark Matlach

S. & J. Watts had a rich history of using commercial overprints, with at least five different patterns being known (the four immediately above and the example on the receipt). The last issue I am aware of is SG 518.


  1. I worked for s and j Watts on leaving school in 1959 starting in the basement which was the dispatch department before moving up as head boy to the fourth floor which was ladies dresses and nightwear

    1. David
      Do you know the whereabouts of any of the Watts family?

    2. My grandad., Tom Curran worked in the dispatch department all his working life. Did you know him.

    3. My dad Lawrence Gee worked on the 4th floor. He was a sales rep.

  2. I also worked at S&J,s from leaving school in in 1957 in the ladies dress department. I played football for the company team. For a young man it was a great place to work with very good training so much so that in 1960 i moved to a London Fashion as a rep based in Lever Street. Is there a internet group of former Watts employees?

  3. My grandad, John Mcilroy, worked there before WW1 and on returning in 1918 - 1972 /73. I think he may have worked in packing and then dealing with the post in later years.

  4. My Dad, George Blaine, worked there as a bespoke tailor in the 1960s. My Mum used to take me to visit him in his cutting room when I was a little girl.

  5. was a rep in mens department in 1967, harold mundy was the gaffer, ken halpin sales director and ted burgess was chairman

  6. My Mam Ann Twentyman worked there in the 1950s as a machinist, i wouldn't mind a photo of the the machinist's department if anyone knows where i can get a copy

  7. I moved from Sheffield to lodge with a family in Crumpsall.My first job in manchester was at S&J Watts,i worked in soft furnishings.I am absolutely positive ,"Are you being served", was based on this company ,as I remember it had striking similarities ,the building ,the lifts and how it was set out.The people were very friendly and welcoming to a Yorkshire lad from the wrong side of the Pennines.I wasnt there long as I was chasing the money and swapped this for a job working for Thomas Meadows,Shipping agents ,Stock st ,Manchester.My memories of S&J watts is the homely relaxed atmosphere and the very friendly warm people who I worked with there,and of course its very central location.Happy days!P.s .I think the timeline may be incorrect as I worked there circa 67/68 and it was still S&j Watts then,thanks for the memories ,john Wade. pps just had a senior moment...I was friends with a lad called Steve ,who I think worked in the dispatch Dept?He lived just down the road near the disused church,(thats still there)

  8. My grandad worked there Eddie bradshawand my mum did.