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Stricklands in Silverhill – the oldest business in Hastings?

By Tim Stickland, September 2012

Stricklands Horse & Cart

Stricklands’ horse & cart delivery service

Stricklands’ Pet and Garden Supplies shop in Silverhill is almost certainly the oldest business trading in Hastingsand can trace its origin back to 1818.  The firm was established by George Strickland as a corn and seed merchants trading from premises in George Street, Hastings.  The business expanded rapidly to satisfy the demand for corn and seed both in the domestic and agricultural markets.  By the early 1960’s, these markets had begun to change and small garden shops were beginning to be established.  These also supplied pet foods and animal feeds.  A much fuller history of the business is available due to the habit of previous generations never discarding ledgers or business papers.  The archive, stretching back to 1818, is a unique record of agriculture and horticulture in Sussexand is now lodged with county archives.

Silverhill

The Silverhill branch of Stricklands is the last remaining one of eight owned by the business, and was originally established when the Strickland family bought out a corn and seed merchant known as ‘Pelling and Company’ who traded from a very small shop on the site of the Co-Op.  They also had an agricultural stores in Silverlands Road and Chatham Road.  At some time, the latter site passed to Alsford Timber Merchants and was then sold for development – resulting in  the terrace of housing which now occupies the site.

Stricklands in Silverhill traded from the premises previously occupied by Pellings until the site was demolished to make way for the Co-Op.  At this time, 1966,  the company moved  to one of the two current shops it now trades from.  The shop was very small with only one member of staff needed.  Some of the forecourts of the parade of shops were still the front gardens of private houses and offices.  Local shops included two greengrocers (one, Baileys, occupied the whole of the Lloyds pharmacy site), the Dorset laundry, a butchers, a post office, Dexter’s the grocers, two ironmongers, a fish and chip shop, a solicitors’ office and an undertakers.  The BP garage was established on the site of a coal merchants.

Drapers

Stricklands developed its trade in garden supplies, pet foods and garden plants and supplied customers throughout St Leonards via its van deliveries – a service it continues to offer today.  By 1980 Stricklands had expanded its pet food range and attracted many new customers as a result of this.  It further developed this trade when it bought out another similar but dilapidated business in Silverhill – ‘Drapers’, whose flour mill was located inWindmill Road.

Stricklands' shop in the 1970s

Stricklands’ shop in the 1970s

Stricklands’ colourful forecourt displays of plants, which are a landmark of Silverhill, have developed from the days of a few plants being placed outside the shop door on up-turned potato boxes.  For a long time the forecourt was occupied by a glass greenhouse which, in the 10 years it stood, (1970’s) was never vandalised or broken in to.

In spring it is not unusual for over 1000 plants to be displayed on the forecourt and the shop prides itself on being able to supply plants at prices well below those of major garden centres and multiple stores.  Customers often ask how long it takes to set out the forecourt – the answer is up to two hours in the spring and at the weekends this starts at 07.30!  Extensive stocks of plants are also kept in the garden supplies area at the rear of the shop.

Shopping in Silverhill has changed radically in the past 10 years and the lack of parking has led to an increase in the number of customers who phone for a home delivery.  These were originally made by horse and cart, and the slogan on the Stricklands’ van today tells the story of the longevity of the business:  “Delivering since 1818”!

 

 

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