Shropshire Star

Shropshire estate agent celebrates 175 years as it reveals incredible archive

An estate agent is celebrating an incredible 175 years in business and has opened up a fascinating archive to showcase its rich history.

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The office is showcasing a whole host of historical posters, ledgers and equipment

Bosses at Barbers Estate Agents have revealed some of the items it has collected since the business started.

Director Richard Heath said the invaluable resources, held at the company's Market Drayton office, provide a real snapshot of both Barbers' past and that of the property market in Shropshire.

Richard Heath at the Market Drayton Office with memorabilia

Barbers was started by John Barber when he began his business as a surveyor, valuer, estate agent and auctioneer in 1848.

He was just 23 when, operating from Eversleigh, he arranged the sale of several properties and land in the parishes of Wellington and Wombourne.

In his book, the Story of Barbers, Allan Frost described how an auction was held at the Black Horse Inn at Oakengates and 'the proceedings were a success'.

John Barber

His next sale followed at the Bull's Head Inn, New Street, Wellington, which also proved successful and John went on to extend his services to include the sale of household goods.

"John's reputation as an honest, discreet, reliable and principled professional developed during the ensuing years," Allan writes in his book.

After his death in 1881, the business passed into his sons' hands and remained in the family until 1938, since when a series of partners have continued to maintain the company's traditional values.

For sale: The Lilleshall Estate

Those values are something which Richard, who has been with Barbers for 33 years, says have remained with the company since the very beginning.

"The ethics of the company haven't changed a great deal over all of that time," he said.

"There has always been a family feel about the business."

The archive room

"The majority of staff we have in all of our branches have been here a very long time.

"I think that, in itself, speaks volumes of the company.

"From my point of view, it's a great place to work and I have been here for more than 30 years because I really believe that."

As the company has such depth of history, Richard believes it brings trust and understanding – but that's not something the team take for granted.

"As the firm has been around so long it means that, going back over the generations, people today, their parents and their family before them will have used Barbers. It can go down the line with three, four, five generations having used us and that carries on."

Richard with a poster

"That's nice but I think it is about far more than Barbers as an historic business.

"The name is recognisable but when it comes down to it, you are buying into our employees.

"It is all about the individuals going out and about, working, rather than just the business. It is about the staff we have got in all aspects of lettings and sales and the reputation they develop as individuals.

"Our team are very good at what they do and that's where, the name, to a point, goes out of the window. It's the brilliant staff we have that continue to enhance the business."

The Market Drayton office

And it's such a team, Richard adds, which means that, after 175 years, the company can continue to thrive.

"There have been ups and downs, certainly over the last 20 years," he said. "But we have 50-plus staff working in four key offices now.

"The current market is challenging both on sales and lettings with fewer properties available for sale and more tenants looking to rent."

Barbers is so rich in history

"We move with the times. I believe there's a bright future for the industry as whole and for us as a company too."

Barbers will be holding a black tie event for staff at Christmas, to acknowledge the 175th anniversary.

In the meantime, the team are celebrating the milestone by delving into their archive at the Market Drayton office.

"We have a lot of material," said Richard. "We have created a museum and we have things which go right back to the very beginning.

"There were a lot of auctions in those days and we have so many details with the auctioneer's name and banding, personal sales and house particulars."

Some of the properties previously up for auction

"We have all the originals still in archives and on display here, plus ledgers that go back to the First World War."

Richard with a poster

"It's interesting to see things that were written down, all in the most amazing handwriting as well.

"It's a true snapshot of property history and also things more recent, going back over the last 30 years. The sets of details of properties are really interesting and people can come and have a look if they so wish."

Reading one of the sales books

"The information is there and visitors might find their own property on the walls of the offices here.

"I am massive fan of this kind of thing. It needed to be aired rather than be locked away because it is so interesting. You are in awe of it when you see it – it's great to look at."