130 High Street Cowes - a little Cowes history

This main part of this building was originally known as Wilton House, number 130 Cowes High Street.

This is how Sainsbury in Cowes used to look. This main part of this building was originally known as Wilton House, number 130 Cowes High Street.

In 1852 a surgeon Dr William Hoffmeister lived there. Hoffmeister was the surgeon-apothecary-physician to Her Majesty (Queen Victoria) at Osborne and was knighted there. He later lived at Clifton House, Bath Road and died in 1890.

By 1865, John G Wheeler a photographer from Camberly lived there with his wife and family and ran his photography business Brown and Wheeler. Brown and Wheeler started the idea of the ‘Cowes Embankment Scheme’ – a proposed embankment and esplanade extending from the ferry to the RYS Castle, ‘to place Cowes at the head of all the watering-places in England’. However it was reported in the newspaper in 1869 that the proposed capital of 40,000+ would be too much to raise.

Around 1890 Charles Brown took over Wilton House and established a famous grocery, wine and spirit merchant business (see photo). Brown’s Stores had a royal warrant to Her Majesty the Queen and also had premises in Southampton. Advertisements from newspapers of the time mention their famous ‘Real Turtle Soup prepared from the genuine West Indian Green Turtle’, ‘gorgonzola, gruyere, camembert, stilton, parmesan and other cheese as supplied regularly to the Ocean Liners’ and claimed that they were, ‘purveyors to the Navies of the world, Ocean Liners, the Finest Yachts in the World, and the Mercantile Marine’. In 1898 Brown was taken to court by J and J Colman Ltd for selling ‘any mustard’ as Colman’s mustard, although it does not appear to have affected his reputation.

Brown Stores remained for many years until 1967 when International Food Store took over the premises followed by Gateways, Somerfield and finally Sainsbury.

Please read more about the history of Cowes buildings with more illustrations on our page Cowes History.

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