One of the features that makes Romsey so attractive is Bradbeers Department Store. The town owes its good fortune to the misfortune of war.

Until 1940, the shop had been trading successfully in Southampton, first as Smith, then as Smith, Brookman and Lewis and finally as Smith, Bradbeer and Co Ltd.

From 1905 it was established in Above Bar but their shop completely demolished by enemy action in a raid in November 1940, when Southampton took considerable damage. The firm has been run by members of the Davis family for many years, but have kept the name ‘Bradbeers’.

Following the raid the business moved to New Milton and to Shirley, this shop soon being relocated to Romsey. It took over 14 Market Place, which building now houses Santander.

In 1946, after the war, the directors decided to stay in Romsey and bought premises in Bell Street. Their new home needed considerable alteration, which meant doing battle with the post-war restrictions on building materials, in addition to the limits on sales caused by the fact that clothing was still rationed.

In 1963 a major fire destroyed part of the old timber-framed building shortly before Christmas, but once again the business bounced back and the shop was largely rebuilt.

In 1972, the shop expanded into No 20 Bell Street and rebuilding took place. In 1997 they crossed the road and took over no 19 as their carpet showroom. This shop had been the headquarters of Romsey’s St John Ambulance Brigade. For a while they also had a shop in Eastleigh.

Subsequently they moved their furniture business to Hedge End thus freeing up space in the Bell Street premises.

A furniture shop was created in New Milton in addition to their Department Store there. Meanwhile the business expanded and established its removals and storage depot in Budds Lane, Romsey on the site previously used by Wilton Carpet Factory.

The next big expansion came at the beginning of the new century, when Bradbeers bought the former Dolphin Inn, expanded the building and incorporated it with their Bell Street shop.