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Halsted's the Ironmongers

by Pat Saunders

By Pat Saunders, Volunteer at The Novium Museum

Halsted the ironmongers were established at premises on the south side of East Street (originally No 80 and later moving to No 81/82) by 1840. By the 1880s the Chichester directories officially recorded the companies foundry located to the rear of the shop. Halsted was particularly well-known for their farm machinery, in particular their light-weight horse ploughs and a wide range of metalwork from ornamental gates and railings to kitchen ranges such as 'The Chichester' model.

The business was started by Charles Halsted Senior, a plumber born about 1793. He had three sons Charles Townsend Halsted (b 1823) Henry Halsted (b 1825) and John Halsted (b 1826). In 1846 Charles Halsted Senior passed away and the company passed to his sons who had formed a partnership as ironmongers.

Between the 1860s and 1870s the partnership between the brothers dwindled. Charles, the eldest son, became a banker in partnership with Messrs Dendy and Gruggen as well as being Alderman and magistrate. John with his wife Fanny and their family became farmers tending to between 500 and 700 acres of land at West Itchenor employing between 12 and 19 men as well as 4 to 7 boys. They also looked after their widowed mother Ann. Middle son Henry was left running the ironmongery and foundry business.

By the 1870s Halsted & Sons had become well established as an ironmonger, but had also developed their manufacturing business. Invoices from this time list many of their services including ironmongery, copper smithing, tin plate working, whitesmithing, bell hanging, brass founding and dealers in oils and colours. In reality however, as recorded in a memo book now in the West Sussex Record Office collections, their services included much more than this. The business grew immensely and the time came for the company to increase their manufacturing further. An additional site was purchased at 1 North Pallant, a large Georgian house, attractive due to its substantial garden to the rear where a large engineering works was established.

Many of the company's farming implements were displayed courtesy of the Corn Exchange company on the access road which ran along the east side of the Corn Exchange. This was a sneaky marketing opportunity for Halsteds as the machinery might catch the eye of passing farmers who had sold their corn at market.

The running of the business was not without complications. The East Street shop was destroyed by fire in the 1870s and had to be rebuilt. A graphic account detailing the events suggests that the building had been lit with paraffin lamps and assistants would use candles to light their way down to the cellar, which held stocks of merchandise such as gunpowder, bullets, paraffin, petrol and agricultural machinery. The account suggests that one evening an older man of 50 was left in charge when a customer came in for some paraffin necessitating a trip down to the cellar. The assistant accidentally dropped his candle setting off a chain reaction as the petrol caught fire and ignited the gunpowder and bullets. The Fire Brigade were unable to cope with the exploding ordnance and called out the Army who brought along bullet proof screens to the scene. Bullet holes are still visible in the brickwork of the buildings opposite.

The ironmongery shop remained in East Street until the 1930s when the business eventually closed. Above the present building, Pret A Manger, a stone with key emblem that was Halsted's trademark, can still be seen.