Wasn’t it grand!

Colmers of Union Street in 1970.
Colmers of Union Street in 1970.

Who amongst our Bath and district readers remembers the department store called Colmer’s which graced Union Street for over a hundred years! My thanks to Mr John Sartain for coming across ‘The Colmers Story’ – a specially produced booklet published in 1970 to celebrate the centenary of the struggling  drapery and furnishing business acquired by James Colmer in 1870. It was to bear his name until 1973 when it was taken over by Owen and Owen. Both stores are no more but the building IS still in the retail business.

An image from the 1920's
An image from the 1920’s

An advertisement from the 1920’s has an amazing list of departments on display. Everything from furs, ribbons and wools to shawls, skirts and corsets. There was stationery and toys, flannelettes and flannels and kid and fabric gloves. James Colmer was a Devon boy who learned the drapery trade in London before diving in to the department store business in Bath – a city which also had Jolly and Son and Evans and Owen up and running for James to compete with.

So successful was he – and his son after him – that shop after shop along Union Street came into the Colmers embrace. In 1914 a new shop front covered all the property under one name. In the 1930’s a complete re-build got underway. Though pitted with shrapnel the store escaped serious war damage and emerged to prosper and grow with new branches in Bristol and Weston-super-Mare. There was also more growth at the Bath store with an extension and two new floors. Another branch opened in Taunton.

Union Street today. The Colmer's building with new occupants beneath!
Union Street today. The Colmer’s building with new occupants beneath!
The 'famous' Saturday menu from 1963.
The ‘famous’ Saturday menu from 1963.

Tucked into the anniversary brochure was a copy of a menu for a ‘Colmers popular 5 shilling luncheon’. The store was also well-known for its restaurant. Lamb and haddock amongst the delights on offer for Saturday, February 2nd, 1963.


  1. When we were first living in Bath we always looked forward to shopping in Colmers and it was there I had a suit made for the first time. Their changing cubicle had full-length mirrors on three sides and looking at myself in the round for the first time caused me to faint for only the second time in my life!

    Virtual Museum is really flying now and it is good to be posted with so many interesting updates. Great stuff!!

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