Medieval Bridge over Exe
Medieval Bridge over Exe


Talk by Richard Holladay on

Thursday, 18 November 2021


            Richard started his talk with a picture of an Eland on the screen, an African Antelope but said that it was not an introduction to a nature programme but he would show how the image was used by the firm in its advertisements later in his talk.


            Henry Septimus Eland (a seventh son of a seventh son – hence Septimus) was Richard’s great grandfather who took over the established firm of William Clifford based at 23 High Street, Exeter in 1869.  Richard showed various advertisements for Clifford’s – one of them specifying a variety of paper sizes (foolscap, quarto, octavo and several others) which were in use before being refashioned in more recent years as A4, A5 etc.


            By 17 March 1856 Elands were occupying 23 & 24 High Street and besides being booksellers (including for bibles and prayer books), newsagents, and stationers operated a lending library and art gallery and sold artists’ materials and advertised themselves as “Licensed Valuers and Appraisers, Valuation for Probate, etc.”  Elands were also at The Strand in Exmouth and later in Axminster.


            Henry Septimus Eland, a keen supporter of St David’s Church, married Emma Jane Pearce and they lived at Honiton and Exminster.  At the time of Henry’s death his widow was living at 58 St David’s Hill and later moved to Edgerton House.  Henry and Emma Jane had three sons and two daughters.  The firm moved to 236 High Street – on one side was King’s Alley, and on the other was the Commercial Union.  Richard showed examples of various artists’ works which were displayed in the store and the interesting labels on their reverse showing Elands’ details.  An advert for Elands’ Art Gallery appeared in the 1923 Exeter Official Guide.  Exhibitions were held in April and August and the shop and art gallery was the fashionable place for ladies to meet up.   Henry also promoted musical concerts in Exeter.


            Henry died in 1901 and a window in St David’s Church is dedicated to him.  After his death the firm passed to his two sons – Frank and Fowler (known as Peter) and became known as Eland Brothers.  They became agents for OS maps.  Richard showed an interesting image of the interior of the shop with staircase up to the first floor gallery.  There were images of postcards, and books published for a Miss Maria Gibbons who wrote up her travels around Devon in a donkey cart in three different books entitled: “We Donkeys in Devon”, “We Donkeys on Dartmoor”,  and “We Donkeys on the Coast of Devon”.  Miss Gibbons died aged 58 in 1900 and was buried with her mother in East Budleigh.


            Richard drew interesting parallels with both sides of his family history in that Elands in High Street was next to Commercial Union and the railings outside the Commercial Union building had been manufactured by Garton & King (owned by his Holladay ancestors), and in a leaflet adverts for Elands and Garton & King were placed next to each other.


            Another image dated 1912 showed an Elands Staff Outing.  There was also another image (location unknown) which looked as though it might have been a wedding group – everyone very smartly dressed and the ladies sporting very large hats.


            The building in High Street existed until being obliterated by bombing in World War Two and in March 1948 opened up in the temporary line of shops at 29 Eastgate.  Between 1961 and 1997 it operated at 22 Bedford Street and then moved to Cathedral Close (the building originally known as Mols Coffee House).  Richard showed a photograph of the interior of the shop dated 30 November 2006 showing products for sale including maps, globes, fountain pens etc.  In another room there was a printer which was used for large reproduction of plans.  Elands closed for good on 15 January 2007, thus ending well over a century of trading for this family firm which had been much loved and appreciated by Exeter’s residents.


Thanks to Sue Jackson for this summary of Richard's talk.



Most talks are now on the second Thursday of a month. All meetings start at 7 pm and are held at LEONARDO Hotel Exeter, Western Way, Exeter EX1 2DB.                                              The nearest car parks are the Triangle Car Park (at the rear of Leonardo Hotel) and the Summerland Gate Car Park (next to Vue Cinema). Parking at the Triangle Car Park is, unfortunately, no longer free in the evenings.

Print | Sitemap
© exeter local history society