Successful Ottery businessman remembered as ‘lovely gentleman’

PUBLISHED: 17:02 12 September 2019 | UPDATED: 17:20 12 September 2019

Alan Hemmings. Picture: Kings Manor Care Home

Alan Hemmings. Picture: Kings Manor Care Home

Picture: Kings Manor Care Home

A telephone engineer who turned his hand to running one of Ottery’s oldest businesses will be remembered for being a ‘lovely gentleman’.

Alan Hemmings, of Coles, died on August 29, less than two months before his 100th birthday.

The businessman helped to expand Coles, which had been the town for 166 years before it closed in July this year.

He was born in Hertfordshire and came down to Devon to work for the Post Office engineering department, which would later become BT.

He worked at the Braunton telephone exchange before meeting his wife Mary Coles, whose family ran the long standing business.

The couple married at the Ottery St Mary registry office in 1942.

Coles first opened in 1853, beginning as a greengrocers in Cornhill. It expanded into crafts, haberdashery and furnishings, with additional premises in Broad Street.

His father-in-law Tom Coles was eager to keep his new son-in-law from moving abroad for a new job and offered him the business at the end of the 1940s.

Mr Hemmings's son David, said: "My grandfather was rather keen to keep them in Ottery. He didn't want to lose his newly married daughter. He offered dad the opportunity to run the business as he was getting close to retiring.

"Whatever dad did, he normally did quite well. He was quite meticulous with business dealings. He had a way of making sure that things were achieved. His general approach was successful.

"Dad was a very quiet chap and very private. It's rather poignant how his passing came so soon after we closed our shop."

David and his brother took over the business from their dad to become the fifth generation to run it.

Mr Hemmings retired from the business in his 70s but stayed around to help manage admin side. Outside of the business, he had a keen interest in sailing and walking.

David said: "He loved to be near or on the water. That is what attracted him to Devon life. It gave him an opportunity to get on the water. He had a number of boats that he owned and sold them as he got older."

The businessman lived had lived on his own since 2001 following the death of his wife and remained in his own home until this year when he moved into Kings Manor Care Home.

Mr Hemmings is survived by his three children, five grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

A funeral service will be held at Ottery St Mary Parish Church on Friday, September 13.

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