End of an era for Govier’s of Sidmouth fine china shop stirs memories

PUBLISHED: 12:27 19 May 2018

John Govier, grandson of the original owners

John Govier, grandson of the original owners


The grandson of the founders of Govier’s of Sidmouth has been reflecting on the end of an era and recalling how, as a youngster, he used to unpack china delivered to the town’s railway station.

William Govier, when the shop was located next door to current siteWilliam Govier, when the shop was located next door to current site

“I can remember vividly going down and unpacking the crates with the unpacker and I would get right in the crates and hand the stuff out. In those days, 90 per cent of what we sold came by rail,” said John Govier, who lives on the seafront.

The shop was opened by his grandparents William and Ada Govier. The current owner, Alan Morgenroth, announced earlier this month it was going mail-order only after 114 years on the high street.

“I fully understand that everything has got to come to an end and that is sad, but then the world is changing very quickly. The family all admire what he [Mr Morgenroth] did and the way he did it. I’ve got nothing but praise for him,” John said.

Mr Morgenroth’s parents bought the shop in 1978 and he took over five years later, turning it into an international brand. He blamed the internet and the country’s declining china industry for the closure.

Govier's shop in the early 1900sGovier's shop in the early 1900s

“Our suppliers are no longer producing what we are selling. We are not running out of customers, but the English ceramics industry is not what it used to be,” he said.

William Govier was a builder who worked for Colonel Balfour in the Bickwell Valley. The store was created from his father Claude’s tailor’s shop and two thatched cottages behind. It moved briefly next door until that property was sold to the National Provincial Bank. Govier’s was created as his wife’s dream china shop.

John said: “She was the real driving force. He was not that interested in serving customers. He would come down and have a chat and in no time he’d be down on the seafront. His main preoccupation in life was fishing.”

Born in 1940, John clearly remembers the difficult post-war period.

Govier's shop in the early 1900sGovier's shop in the early 1900s

“The problem was you couldn’t get any stock because everything came from Stoke-on-Trent and it all went for export, so we literally survived on what we would call ‘export rejects’ and we relied very heavily on the local potteries,” he said.

He ran the business for a year in 1961 when his mother died, but had his own shop where Saltrock is now.

“The sixties was the heyday for Sidmouth,” he added.

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