Scope and Content

Historic background

The exact origins of F.Cape & Co., drapers of Oxford are a little uncertain. Faithful Cape started the firm, possibly in the late 1860s but due to the lack of records until 1887 it is difficult to prove this. According to Richard Foster's book, Cape moved from Bristol to Oxford in the 1860's.The first shop premises was at 26 St. Ebbes but over time others were developed at;11 & 12 Little Clarendon St., 29 St.Ebbes, 30-31 St.Ebbes, 47 Church St., 28 St.Ebbes, 32 & 9 St. Ebbes. In 1900 86-90 Cowley Rd. was purchased. Capes also traded at 71-72 Walton St. and 7-8 St. Ebbes. There was also an outlet in Headington. Henry Lewis was mainly responsible for the expansion of the company from a drapers to a department store. He took over in 1893 and was considered a strict but reasonable employer maintaining good working conditions for the time. Lewis was a Methodist and interested in progressive policies. He served on the City Council from 1907-1921.

Capes seems always to have been a store selling inexpensive products to working people and as such did not compete with Elliston & Cavell, a grander and larger Oxford business. Capes closed on 4 January 1972 as a result of competition with large multiples.

The records

These records of F.Cape & Co. were transferred from Oxford City Council in January and November 1990 and June 1992. They were allocated the accession numbers 3027, 3156 and 3479. The records cover the period 1884-1972. Further Capes material is held at The Centre for Oxfordshire Studies and the Museum of Oxford. The collection is very incomplete being made up mainly of financial, staff and advertising material. Also included are deeds relating to the St. Ebbes premises. Because of the lack of documents, it has not been possible to find out much about the administration of the business and base the catalogue on this. The records have therefore been arranged according to class rather than department.

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