Above Demon Dave's barber in Bishop Street, Portsmouth are the faded remnants of a ghost sign. Having been painted over, it's difficult to decipher. However, there are some important clues:
It's tempting to take that first word and assume that this sign advertised a general stores. However, a search for the most likely proper name revealed a rather different business
- and one with a long history.
W Treadgold and Co Ltd of Bishop Street were iron merchants, in business from the nineteenth century until 1988
. In 1816, William Treadgold had been left the property by his uncle, blacksmith John Jones. Three years later he died and his brother John had taken over the ironmongery business. John's son William was responsible for much of the business's development from the 1860s. It expanded from a general inronmongers' store to include forges and a warehouse along with the shop, stables, and house. By the end of the nineteenth century, the Treadgolds described themselves as 'iron and steel merchants' as well as ironmongers.
Although they were not a naval business, the Treadgolds were affected by the Navy's presence in the city. The population grew significantly during the nineteenth century - there were five times as many residents in 1901 as in 1801 - increasing demand for their products. Located in Portsea, near the naval dockyard, the Treadgolds were at the heart of the city's economy. Many of their customers were businesses including the main local builders. They also supplied government contractors and sold agricultural equipment. By the 1870s, they were supplying pipework and steam fittings to major buildings including the Royal Naval Club and the Royal Portsmouth, Portsea and Gosport Hospital.
From the 1920s, declines in naval dockyard employment saw corresponding decline in the local eonomy, which also affected the Treadgolds. There was also increasing competition from other areas of the city, such as Southsea and Landport. After the Second World War, new housing was also located further out from Portsea. The Treadgold family ceased to own the business after the death of Miss Beatrice Treadgold in 1947, and it declined as it became increasingly old-fashioned. Nonetheless, it contined for another forty years until it was sold to Portsmouth County Council in 1988. The sign - battered, faded, and obscured - has endured longer still.