A walk through history with one of Roman Road’s oldest and loved establishments, Abbotts Interiors
Roman Road interiors institution Abbott’s has been trading from the same site in Bow for over 130 years. The family run business has operated under the ‘Abbott’s’ name since 1882 and now supplies flooring, window dressings and interior design to the East End and further afield.
Over the years the business has adapted with the times, responding to changing trends in interiors and retail as a whole – all against the backdrop of a continuously evolving East End.
Queen Victoria was on the throne when Charles Abbott took over a small flooring company inherited from his wife’s parents. The Married Women’s Property Act had just been passed, which enabled wives to buy, own and sell property and to keep their own earnings. And, a little-known outfit named Tottenham Hotspur FC had just been founded.
Charles – at the time living above his newly acquired shop, situated in a row of terraced houses – was about to add his contribution to the story of the local area.
There’s little information regarding the early years after Charles registered the company under the family name in 1929. However, we know he must’ve made a success of it, otherwise it wouldn’t still occupy the same spot on Roman Road today. Expansion came a little under half a century later, when Charles’ great nephew George purchased the entire row of terraced houses and demolished them.
This paved the way for the construction of the new premises, which opened three years later, in 1979. This brand-new shop now occupied the entire plot on the corner of Roman Road and Dane Place – as it does to this day. The new-look Abbott’s was made possible by the ever-growing success of the business. It was also a direct response to the demands of a growing affluence within the working class in the local area. People had more money to spend.
Besides political and social unrest, the 1970s gave birth to the Space Hopper, Bagpuss and Star Wars. It was a different East End from Charles’ day. Consumer culture had been born and this changed the way people shopped. One thing that wasn’t changing, however, was the attitude of Abbott’s customers towards the business that had become such a stalwart and so emblematic of the local area and its community.
Abbott’s could always rely on a loyal local customer base. Generations of families had furnished their homes with flooring and window dressings bought in the shop, and the business had become a byword for quality, reliability and trust. Their reputation was spread by word of mouth – the 70s version of social media marketing – which has enabled them to continue to thrive despite many changes to the retail landscape in the decades since.
Abbott’s remains as relevant to the local community today as ever before in its long history, and it now includes customers from Ibiza, Monaco and France on their burgeoning client list. The shop also remains a family affair: one of the keys to its success. Speak to anyone in the local area and they’ll know at least one member of the family that still runs the business: brothers George and Phil, their sisters Lynette and Daphne, Phil’s sons Ben and Josh & Daphne’s son Mark.
There’s bound to be many changes to the East End and the way business is done over the coming decades. But there’s certainly no reason to believe that in another 130 years Abbott’s won’t still be as much a part of the community as it is now – adding a new chapter to the story.
470 – 480 Roman Road, E3 5LU
T: 020 8980 4158
Images courtesy of Abbotts Interiors