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Thomas Moore, Fore Street

Page updated 8th October 2014

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An old Exeter business

The founder of the well known Exeter store, Thomas Snow Moore was born in 1883. As a very young man, Moore obtained work as an assistant in the men's outfitting trade in Bristol and London. He moved with his parents to 5 Belmont Road, Exeter and using his experience in the trade, he opened on 21st March 1907, a gentleman's outfitters at 103 Fore Street, next to a tea wholesaler and two doors away from a temperance hotel! His slogan was 'unsurpassed for variety, quality and style!'. Indeed at that time, his top quality made to measure suits started at the then reasonable price of 35 shillings (£1.75) and the 'universal shirt' sold for just 2/6 (12½ pence).

Although Fore Street was considered to be somewhat 'downmarket' at the time, with its close proximity to the West Quarter, the shop quickly gained a high reputation among the more affluent of Exeter. By 1910, Moore's had moved into the shop next door and was one of the first businesses in Exeter to install gas lighting to illuminate the display in the shop front. The business expanded with the introduction of children's wear, helped no doubt, by Moore's McDonald's like promotion, of a free penknife to every customer.

A serious fire broke out at the premises in April 1913 when bout £500 worth of damage was done. A large number of straw hats, amongst other goods, were destroyed. The origin of the fire, which was discovered in the second storey, was unknown. Two of the firemen had to wear smoke helmets to enter the premises.

Motorcycling around Exeter

Moore was an early enthusiast for motorcycling and was well known in Exeter as he rode his Triumph motorcycle around the streets. At the outbreak of the Great War, he enlisted as a despatch rider, in the 18th Bn, King's Royal Rifle Corp, leaving his mother to run the business. On 21st September 1917, at the Battle of Zillebeke, he was killed at the age of just 36. It is known that the Germans had counter attacked the British position at 7am, but were repelled. Thomas Moore was buried in the Sir Edwin Lutyens designed Hooge Crater Cemetery in Belgium after the Armistice. Management of the shop continued by Mr W Yeldon on behalf of his mother. His mother, Sophia was heartbroken, so she eventually sold the shop - the new owners continued with the name, Thomas Moore.

Thomas Moore's name can be found on a tablet memorial outside St Olave's Church, adjacently opposite to the store bearing his name. The memorial was unveiled on 30 April 1922 by Sir Robert Newman MP.

The shop was broken into in January 1947 and goods stolen by Royal Marines Gerald Woodward (18), Leonard Bryer (17). Postage stamps, stock and clothing coupons to the value of £47 9s 3d (£47.45) were taken. A kit inspection at Exton Camp of Bryer and Woodheads had found £38 of goods, and the two admitted the offence. William Walters, a director of Thomas Moore stated that the front door had been forced. The accusedalong with and Marine Roy Whitehead (19) were implicated in a further charge related to Colsons in the High Street.

Expansion with tradition

In 1952, a new partnership of Edward Walters and Ralph Alford took over the business and a period of expansion ensued. They purchased the credit traders, Wonnacotts and renamed the business Thomas Moore and Wonnacott Ltd. The credit side of the business expanded, although they reverted to the original Thomas Moore name after a couple of years.

England swings to the Millennium

In the 1960's girls and ladies clothing was added to the range. In 1982, on the 75th anniversary of the founding of the company, Edward Walters died. The business continued to be run by Walters son, along with two of Alfords sons. Although young Walters retired in 1998, the store continued to serve the people of Exeter and now occupies 102, 103 and 104 Fore Street and has grown from 3 employees in 1907 to 35 now. The modern Thomas Moore specialises in school uniforms and is Exeter's largest toy and games shop.

Thomas MooreThe shop was only a single window when it first opened. Thomas Moore Thomas Moore expanded into two windows.Thomas MooreThe shop in 2011.

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