A FAMILY LEGACY
Our story starts with a family home, but who built it and why?
We did some digging and uncovered a retail legacy dating back to the 1800s.
Almost two hundred years later, things are a bit a different, but boy, has it been a journey.
The board of 'Spencer & Co' circa 1905. Pictured left to right J.W. Shaw, J.A. Gow, Eugene Oakshott, S. McLardy and John Oakshott Robinson.
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John William Spencer together with Charles Durrant found ‘Spencer & Co’ – a retail business in South India, importing and
selling a wonderful
array of soaps,
food & wine
Spencer & Co becomes a Public Limited Company, with 403 shareholders and a capital of Rs.25
The London office opens at 24-26 Broad Street Avenue. Eugene retires to England to run the London HQ and oversee the buying for Madras.
Hotel Spencer opens in Ameer Bagh, Madras, the first of an array of hotels owned and run by Spencer & Co. In 1913 Spencers acquire The Connemara, one of India’s oldest hotels and most iconic landmarks.
In 1937 it was rebuilt by Spencers, sporting the classic Art-Deco architecture of the era and earning it’s prestigious place amongst some of the world’s most luxurious hotels; hosting elegant balls and sourcing ice all the way from Canada to create the city’s finest cocktails! Cheers!
J O Robinson’s eldest daughter Esther marries Stanley Wilson Edwards at St Lukes Church, Grayshott, England.
Edwards later becomes a Director & Chairman at Spencer & Co.
The Edwards' youngest daughter Shirley leaves Grayshott and returns to England (via Sri Lanka, Hong Kong & Texas) with her two sons.
After a period of difficulty and decline, Spencer & Co is sold to RPG Enterprises
Eugene Oakshott joins Spencers as a partner and takes over full control of the business in 1882. Oakshott’s leadership at the helm saw Spencers enjoy a period of rapid growth from a humble local shop, to Asia’s largest department store and a pioneer of the industry.
On December 2nd, Spencer & Co open its flag ship store, 153 Mount Road in Madras. A landmark building of immense proportions, adorned with varnished teak beams, stained glass and ornate pillars. It was said to be regarded as “the finest shop in the East, if not the world”
John Oakshott (JO) Robinson, nephew of Eugene, becomes Director and later Chairman in 1913.
JO Robinson is the man to lead the company through a series of major acquisitions and expansion into a dominant presence continent wide; with over seventy branches across retail, hotels, catering, the motor industry, pharmaceuticals and manufacture.
Toot-Toot! Spencers motor department opens for business.
Esther and Stanley move into Grayshott House in Madras – built for them as a wedding gift in 3 acres of lush botanical gardens, this Art Deco mansion was to be home to their family and the centre of many extravagant parties.
Stanley was a racing man and popular extrovert. The entire racing crowd, would frequently gather on the lawns at Grayshott for the fabulous parties the Edwards’ regularly threw and the lavish Sunday morning `open’ house held exclusively for the highest of Madras society.
Edwards retires as Chairman and the position is taken over by Zal Rustom Irani, who led Spencers into a rapidly industrialising and independent India. JO Robinson resigns as Chief Executive in 1974 and Grayshott House is taken over by Spencer & Co. It is later sold to the tax department in 1995. In early 2000s a development company ‘Ceebros’ purchased the land and built a gated community called ‘Ceebros Grayshott’ which still stands today.