Martin Rees, Jeweller and Pawnbroker

The Shop's History

The shop was erected during the reign of Charles II (1660-85) as a timber-framed building - made from oak which hardens with time, the building will last for many more years.
None of the shops in our block have a chimney, so they were probably built as workshops, however until the 19th century some Welsh houses lacked chimneys, so we can't be certain.
During the 19th Century, all 5 workshops were converted into shops. I suspect staircases were added to both end properties at this time, so they could use the loft space, also dormer windows were installed. Our shop uses its own 1st floor space. The other end shop accessed all the other lofts. It was a tearoom and I believe used all the loft space for its business. The 1865 Ordnance Survey map clearly shows the buildings have the same general floorplan as today, although there were more workshops behind them. The family which then owned the whole block are still our landlords.
The conversion into shops was rather whimsical.  Dormer windows were installed, then guttering was placed in front of them, so they couldn't be opened!  Also enough nooks and crannies were provided to encourage a population explosion in the town's pigeons.
About 1910 our shop was altered and became a jewellers (alterations were mainly to install a safe, and shopfittings). It was originally owned by Mr Francis, who passed it over to Mr Mawdsley around 1940, who remained the tenant until 1985, when he finally decided to retire at the ripe old age of 82. After enjoying some years of healthy retirement, his health finally failed him, and he died in January 1997.
By the time the shop was ours, the whole block was very dilapidated, as none of the tenants had maintained the property. I still remember the day a slate fell off the roof straight onto a passing police car!
Eventually the shops were renovated. Ours posed an interesting problem, because the safe had been installed and the building's brickwork altered afterwards - so it was impossible to move the safe, and all the work had to done around it. Our shop still has plenty of character, which means walls and ceilings are uneven! We have an oak beam across the ceiling, and exposed beams in our workshop.

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Chester St, with our shop in the foreground

Chester Street, our shop in the foreground. Built in the 17th Century, converted into shops in the 19th and modernised in the 20th Century. They still look similar to the original workshops, and are small compared to the later buildings around them.

Inside our shop, 300 years old oak beam and 21st Century shopfittings

Inside our shop, a 300 year old beam shows the building's age, while 21st Century shopfittings demonstrate our commitment to the future.

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Why we run this business

First and foremost to earn a living!
We were fortunate to get this shop. We learnt that Mr Mawdsley was retiring, We could see the shop's potential, and agreed to buy the remnants of his stock, along with the fixtures.
We do love jewellery and gemstones, as you'll see from the pictures I've included in these webpages. So we get a lot of pleasure out of running the business.
I've always found computers fascinating, and this interest has proved useful in the shop. I have written software (based on Microsoft Access) to run the shop.  The original application was for stock control, but I have since extended the system to handle both repairs and pawbroking, as well as the accounts.
Unlike many self-employed people, we do believe in enjoying life and taking time off. Our main interest is traveling. We have visited Brazil, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Thailand, Malaysia, Zimbabwe, USA as well as other places.
Being self-employed makes it easier to take long holidays. I don't have to ask the boss's permission before I go. Actually I do have to make sure it's OK with the staff, but you can't have everything. To get a decent holiday we like to take 5 weeks or more at a time, plus a couple of days to allow for the flight, and not all employers are that understanding. Also if we get back exhausted, well nobody can tell us off.
I can even find excuses for my travels. Travel keeps us alert to new ideas, and gives us plenty to discuss with our customers.  Finally it ensures the staff can run the shop in our absence, and as there's always the risk we could be ill, or involved in an accident, I think that's important. I hope it also makes us more considerate as employers, because we understand staff (like us) do consider their personal life more important than their work.

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The Future, and the Internet

Our business is growing steadily. Yes the Internet is affecting all of us. We use it as a great source of knowledge, and for buying and selling, as well as personal purchases. It's going to affect retail trade, so we're aiming in our real shop to target areas which will be least affected, where personal service is a must.
Pawnbroking must remain a personal service, and that's a good area for growth.
In the past, most shops were really workshops, where goods were prepared for sale.  Jewellers maintain that tradition.  Many repairs are sent to contractors, but some are still done on our premises.
We opened our online store in 2014 to enable us to sell all over the country.  Local customers enjoy browsing online, and can come into the shop to see the jewellery, and make a final decision.  So we offer our customers the best of both worlds!
Our second-hand sales are growing fast and most of that stock is reconditioned in our workshop. While the Internet competes, we find many want to see and try on jewellery (especially if it's second-hand) before buying. So traditional shops have an advantage here. Finally as more people make routine purchases on the Internet, their reason for visiting towns is changing. They come for a pleasant experience, and buying jewellery is part of the pleasure. We expect to continue to grow.
Like many in our trade, buying old jewellery has become very important, and again an area where customers want personal service.  But as we love jewellery we do try to resell as much as possible; more of our profits come from selling jewellery than scrap.

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