ONE of Colchester’s oldest firms celebrating and new chapter in its lengthy history.

And the launch of Hatfield’s new look showroom after a major re-development is the perfect time to look back it a lifetime covering more than 133 years.

The company currently has the fourth generation of the family at the helm but founder John Hatfield began his life in an entirely different career.

Before starting to deal curios in the front room of his home in St John’s Street in 1886, he worked as a page boy to the Round family in Birch Hall and later became butler to Prime Minister William Gladstone’s son.

Now his great, great, great grandsons, Robert and Andrew London, both work for the company.

Robert, managing director, says John was born in 1847 and his work for the Prime Minister’s son often involved working for the man himself.

The front room of John’s home was only cleared out on a Saturday night so he and his wife could enjoy the use of a normal front room on Sundays.

John was a popular character, known for noting his customers’ requirements on his paper shirt cuffs, and the business soon needed larger premises in Sir Isaac’s Walk.

John and his wife had three sons and three daughters and it was youngest son Arthur who continued the line in 1916.

Robert says: “Gradual changes were affecting the character of St John’s Street, including the increasing amount of motor traffic along the road.

“Hatfields resumed business as usual after the war and the firm continued to flourish,”

In 1930 John was killed in a road accident and Arthur took over, moving the business to Stanwell Street five years later.

Elsie, Arthur’s sister, married John London in 1943 and he was later joined by his younger brother, Tony.

The brothers bought the business when Arthur retired in 1959 and began to make changes to improve and expand, launching a showroom from two shops in St Botolph’s Street and later the Peatree Road Building in 1975.

Robert and Andrew’s father, David, took overall responsibility for its launch while his dad, John, and uncle Tony looked after St Botolph’s.

Eventually, the St Botolph’s store closed and as a result, half of the top floor at the Peartree site was opened and additional warehousing built nearby.

The 1980s saw actor Robert Powell star in a 30 second advert for the company. and when the company marked its 100th anniversary in 1986 staff dressed up in vintage clothing with Terry Waite appearing as guest of honour at a centenary dinner.

By the early 1990s, Andrew and Robert, had joined the business despite their dad not putting pressure on them to do so

Work on the new showroom began in January.