Rose, Morris and Co

Published by Graces Guide

Rose, Morris & Co of 74-76 Ironmonger Row, London, EC1.

In March 1919, when it seemed likely that their brother Leslie would soon be discharged from military service, Stanley Rose and Charles Rose formed a partnership which they called Rose Brothers. Later that year, Leslie Rose joined them, and a small establishment was set up in tiny premises at 16 Rosoman Street, in London’s Clerkenwell district. The brothers began to trade as merchants, mainly dealing in toys and similar merchandise. Their sister, Clara, opened the partnership’s first set of books, though at the time she was employed elsewhere. She then became the first office staff of Rose Brothers. Progress was slow – too slow for Charles, who left the partnership and went abroad.

Prior to the war, the mouth-organ had been popular, particularly with London Cockneys: being made exclusively in Germany, mouth-organs had all be disappeared. Their appearance after the war was an opportunity for the Rose Brothers. Severely hampered by lack of funds, the company nevertheless went on to become on of the largest stockists of mouth-organs by the 1930s.

1920 Progress was slow as it was hard to obtain supplies of merchandise and there was strong opposition from many established manufacturers and suppliers. Years before, Stanley Rose had worked for a wholesalers of musical small-goods, where he met Alfred Victor Morris. Both had acquired an excellent knowledge of the small goods trade, and had remained in touch. In October, A.V. Morris joined the Rose Brothers and the name of the company was changed to Rose, Morris and Co. Adjoining premises were taken and a travelling representative was employed. Leslie Rose and Victor Morris also travelled while Stanley Rose organised the operation of the warehouse.

There was at the time an active importer specialising in toys called Adolf A. Juviler. With him, the directors of Rose, Morris and Co formed a separate company nearby, calling it Sellinghouse Ltd.

1922 Selllinghouse was absorbed by Rose Morris and Co (RM)

By 1923, better premises were needed. The range of merchandise continued to expand and embraced the whole scope of the ‘small goods’ field together with some smaller instruments.

1926 There was a small producer of drums who manufactured for the Trade on a small scale. Known as Furzer and Cutts, it was absorbed by RM and set up in Torrens Street, Islington, under the name of British Music Smiths to manufacture solely for the company.

1928 A disastrous fire gutted the premises: Cutts went his separate way, and William Henry Furzer came to join the RM staff.

By 1929, larger premises were needed, and they were found at 58 City Road, EC1, where the company obtained the lease of a good warehouse with an imposing shopfront, a huge basement for storage, ample space for offices and showroom and a hydraulic lift serving a loading bank capable of accepting a (horse-drawn) railway van.

There was an enormous demand for portable gramophones: Decca portable had been used widely by the troops during the war, Rose and Morris set up a gramophone factory at the City Road premises. ‘Portable’ were produced in their thousands, under the company’s trade marks Savana, Diana and Broadway.

1932 Rose, Morris acquired the stock and business of John Grey and Sons, established in Westminster in 1832, renowned for its fine banjos and an offshoot of Barrett Samuel and Sons. As a direct result, came the wholesale agency for Decca records which raised the status of the record department considerably. With John Grey came its factory.

A small building, at 14 Sun Street, Finsbury Square, was thought suitable. Here, on five small floor, with a twisted wooden staircase and a hand-operated life, the Rose, Morris factory was born. Absorbed into it were the Cowlins, father and son, who had been making drums for RM. 

1933 The outbreak of war saw the gradual whittling away of staff as they took their posts in the services. Even so, the volume of trade was insufficient to enable those left to be retained by the company and it was necessary to dispense with the services or some. The Sun Street factory was an early casualty, the top floor falling victim to an incendiary bomb. 

1940 The great fire raid on the City of London in December was the finish of the City Road building, which was destroyed completely. Premises were then found at Ironmonger Row. In association with Boosey and Hawkes, the company engaged in war work and produced pull switches for explosive devices and limpet mines. 

1945 The Company had two factories – the original, at Sun Street and the top two floors at Ironmonger Row, now freed from wartime manufacture. Sun Street resumed manufacture of most of its pre-war products. 

In 1947, Victor Morris’ younger son, Derek joined Rose, Morris as a member of the sales staff. Meantime, the potential growth of the Australian market became interesting to the directors. 

1948 Leslie Rose travelled to Australia in February, to set up a new company – Rose, Morris and Co. (Australia) Pty. Ltd, afterwards returning to London.  The Australian company, now under the title Rose Morris Ltd, eventually went its separate way. 

1953 Larger premises were needed where all departments might be together under one roof. Eventually a building of some 11,000 square feet was found at 83-85 Paul Street, EC2, and for the first time in nearly 20 years, Rose, Morris and Co operated from a single address.

1957 Victor Morris died. 

1960 In August, the shares of Rose, Morris and Co were aquired by Grampian Holdings Limited, a Scottish based holdings company with interests in a wide range or commercial and industrial activities. 

1964 New premises were acquired in July, and 32-34 Gordon House Road, London, NW5, became the new home of Rose, Morris and Co., Ltd. It was decided that the full title of the company would be abbreviated for other than formal purposes to the more simple form of Rose-Morris. 

The end of 1967 brought the decision to cater for the specialised needs of military and similar bands. From early days the company had made and supplied Military drums and other instruments for service and pre-service organisations. Now it was intended to enter the field in strength including a heraldic studio, with resident artists to produce the decorative emblazonment – a feature of so much pageantry. 



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