Oldest business in Hemel Hempstead closes after 92 years

Just two years after celebrating its 90th birthday, the business is closing for good

By James Lowson
Friday, 11th March 2022, 3:29 pm

The oldest business in Hemel Hempstead is closing its doors after 92 years.

Anderson P W & Woodman Bros Ltd started up back in 1930 but has now had to call it a day and will officially close later this month on Friday March 25.

Three generations of the Anderson and Woodman family oversaw matters at the building supply store.

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An old photo of the business

Over the years the business had to adapt and diversify to survive.

It was a go to place in the local area for building materials, gardening tools and must-have objects for home extensions.

Initially, the business operated in the coal trade, but it had to change when that resource became less desirable.

Phillip Anderson started the business in 1929 and at the time the would-be entrepreneur had only £17.50 to his name and worked out of a shed.

A look at the business in its current form

Unfortunately the business, which has continued his legacy for decades, is closing later this month.

Philip's daughter, Pauline, who is now in her 80s and has worked in the business since she finished school, told The Hemel Hempstead Gazette: "It's diversified so much over the years, I can hardly recognise the business anymore.

"It's changed so much. It was purely coal and animal feed. Now, we don't have any animal feed and coal is almost on its way out. It's mainly building supplies now."

Pauline and her husband handed over management duties to her son Andrew White, who will be in charge of the operation until its closure.

Dan Smith, Andy White, and Rob Clark

Now based on The Denes, the business first gained popularity when it was situated by the Marlowes under the railway bridge.

It has enjoyed a long and winding journey.

A family-friend and long-term customer at the company's various stores, Nancy Newberry, told The Gazette: "It had such a sad beginning, I wanted to cry.

"The mother was widowed and lived in St Albans and she walked with her three young sons from St Albans to Hemel Hempstead and put herself in the workhouse.

Pauline, Andrew and the late Dick White

"One of them went on to form Anderson and Woodman. Hemel Hempstead has more closed shops than open on the high street now, I thought a company like Anderson and Woodman, that's been here for 92 years should be acknowledged."

It was in 1950 when the business truly expanded as Philip had the finances to buy out the Albion Mills owned by the Woodman brothers.

In 1951 P.W.Anderson and Woodman Bros became the official name of the business.

From there the business expanded further with three retail shops being launched under the P.W.Anderson and Woodman Bros umbrella.

Pauline says the rise of supermarkets and DIY stores hurt growth and popularity over the 1960s and beyond.

Unfortunately, the family recently decided keeping the business afloat was no longer feasible.

Just two years ago, friends and family congregated at Abbot's Hill School to celebrate the businesses 90th birthday.

This time there will be no great final day celebration, with that occasion remaining fresh in people's minds.