Martins of Letchworth launches search for relatives of customers listed on 1936 invoices

Martins manager Stephen White outside the Leys Avenue store with one of the 1936 invoices.

Martins manager Stephen White outside the Leys Avenue store with one of the 1936 invoices. - Credit: Archant

Do you have the surname Jackson or Tearmer – or have you a grandparent or a long-lost cousin with one of those names?

If so, you might be able to help reunite two households with pieces of their family history, as a Letchworth furniture firm tries to track down relatives of two of its very first customers.

The team at Martins of Letchworth has a brace of invoices which date from 1936, the year they opened on Leys Avenue, in their archives – and a quick crunch of the numbers shows that one of the buyers spent the equivalent of more than £2,000 fitting out a bedroom and dining room.

“It’s truly fascinating to read through these old invoices,” said Stephen White, who took over the management when his brother-in-law Norman Reed retired in 2008.

“As a family-owned and run business that has been passed down through generations, the history of the store is fascinating to all of us.”


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The handwriting makes some of the words difficult to make out, but careful analysis by Comet staff with some experience of deciphering spidery script has established to our satisfaction that the customers were called Jackson and Tearmer.

The Jackson invoice, the heftier of the two by some distance, is dated June 27, 1936, and records his address as 2 Souberie Avenue.

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Mr Jackson bought a parchment oak bed, bedroom suite and dining set for £29/15s (£29.75) – which may not sound like a lot, but it’s about £1,805 in today’s money.

He also ordered a spring mattress, a bolster, feather pillows and more to bring the total bill to £37/15s (£37.75), which was marked down five per cent to £35/17/9d (£35.89) – or £2,178.

The shop accepted £2, equivalent to about £121 today, as a deposit.

The second invoice, which is dated September 18 in the same year, refers to Mr Tearmer of 10 Council Cottages, Willian.

He bought seven square yards of parquet pattern floorcloth at a shilling (5p) a square yard, and paid the balance on collection. In modern money, the bill would have been £21.24.

Martins has remained a constant fixture in Leys Avenue ever since it was founded as Frederick Martin by Norman Reed’s father Maurice.

These invoices perhaps indicate how quickly the firm expanded – the September 1936 letterhead gives the address as 66-68 Leys Avenue, while the one from three months earlier only mentions number 66.

Nowadays Martins is at numbers 54-64. The store’s original site is today the North Herts headquarters for Citizens Advice.

Stephen said: “As a store that has been operating for more than 80 years within Letchworth, we are incredibly proud to have survived the rise and fall of the retail industry – and we cannot thank our customers enough for their continuing loyalty.

“I urge anyone who believes they may be descended from Mr Jackson or Mr Tearmer to get in touch.”

If you can point them in the right direction, you can call the shop on 01462 685811, and you can find out more about the business at martinsofletchworth.co.uk – an option which certainly wasn’t available when those orders were placed eight decades ago.

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