Deacon & Son (Swindon) Ltd, was founded as a jewellers, watch & clock makers by George Deacon in 1848 and remains a family run business now in its sixth generation.
The catalyst for bringing the name of Deacon to Swindon was undoubtedly the arrival of the Great Western Railway. As an ambitious 26 year old George Deacon, having moved from his home town of Westbury, realised the need for time-keeping in a fast growing town of the industrial revolution. The business was able to expand, winning one of the timing contracts for the Great Western Railway on the line between Paddington and Swansea from the early 1850s until 1893.
The Early Days
It is difficult to imagine that in 1848 the California Gold Rush was yet to happen (1849) and Cecil Rhodes had not even contemplated opening up South Africa. In these early days George Deacon was reliant on obtaining diamonds, precious and semi-precious stones from South America, in particular from Brazil where an agent was employed to bring back goods to England.
Pictured (above centre) is George Deacon on his horse, Barnam, taken in May 1907 at the regimental sports ground, Warminster. George was a Sergeant in the Wiltshire Yeomanry.
George was joined in the business by his nephews, Hubert (pictured left) and Joshua, with Hubert's entrepreneurial ability quickly becoming recognised. During the period of 1860 to 1890 the business expanded, producing a variety of time pieces, including long case clocks, trunk dial clocks, carriage clocks, pocket watches and mercurial barometers. Many of these time pieces still exist to this day and are still serviced in the company's workshops. After succeeding his uncle George, Hubert became the first President of the Swindon Chamber of Commerce in 1893 and was also responsible for supplying Swindon's first public clock on the Town Hall. Hubert also set up another branch shop solely dealing in china and glass in Fleet Street, Swindon.
Through the Generations
Hubert was succeeded by his only son, George, in the early 1900s after George had returned from service with the Wiltshire Yeomanry in South Africa. However, George died of Tuberculosis aged 37 in 1913 having had little chance to have any major impact on the business. Fortunately, George's wife, Mildred Deacon (nee Pakeman), carried on the business through the very difficult trading conditions of the First World War and the early 1920s. During this time the Fleet Street shop was sold.
Mildred then passed the running of the business to her eldest son, H. J. Deacon, known to his friends as Jack who had been trained at Butt's of Chester. Mildred's younger son, Guy, took over the china side of the business. Jack Deacon was a very successful businessman and skilfully managed the business through the difficult war years. Jack was joined in the business by his son Michael in 1958.
Michael, having succeeded his father in 1970, inherited the entrepreneurial ability of his great grand father and presided over a dramatic expansion of the business. Between 1971 and 1981 Michael opened four branch shops, Highworth in 1971, Wootton Bassett in 1974, Faringdon in 1976 and Tetbury in 1981. Michael had a passionate interest in clocks and watches and produced limited edition enamel carriage clocks for the American market during the 1970s. During the 1990s Michael also invested in the company's main Wood Street premises, completely rebuilding the company's workshops and refurbishing the clock, jewellery and china departments.
By 1998 Michael's dream of a super shop had finally been realised and he was able to join in the celebration of the company's 150th anniversary shortly before his death in September 1998. Michael's wife, Joy, continued to play an active role in the business as Director in charge of China and Crystal.
Michael and Joy have now been succeeded by their son Richard as Managing Director, and sister Sara. Richard and Sara represent the 6th generation of the Deacon family, ensuring the name continues well beyond the millennium when it is hoped more milestones may be reached.