Browns grocery and wine merchants in Cowes, ink sketch and history of shop

Sainsbury building in Cowes High Street as it was then, and as it is now. . . . What happened?

According to the book, ‘The History of Shops in Cowes’ produced and published by Cowes Heritage, the Sainsbury’s premises is split into numbers:

130 High Street is the main frontage,

129 is the building to the left at right angles.

They list the following occupiers of both buildings:


1866 F J Christensen Watchmaker

1888 The Anglo American bazaar – M Callanan

1904 H Knight boat Stores

1933-1951 Frederick Coughlan Chemist

1962 Hindmarch baby shop

1967 International food store

2004 Somerfield food store

2009- Sainsbury food store


1852 William Hoffmeister surgeon

1865-66 Symonds and Wheeler Photographer

1866-1867 Brown Stores

1867 International food store

1989 Gateways food stores

2004 Somerfield food store

2009- Sainsbury food store

William Hoffmeister surgeon

Cowes Heritage Society suggest that William Hoffmeister lived at number 130 around 1852. Hoffmeister was a surgeon-apothecary to Her Majesty at Osborne and was knighted for his services in 1884 (The Scotsman 27-8-1884). He later moved to Clifton House and died aged 75 in 1890 (Portsmouth Evening News 30-7-1890)

Wheelers the photographic business

In 1864 an advertisement in the Isle of Wight Times (16-11-1864) features Messrs. Symonds and Wheeler, artists and photographers, Wilton House, West Cowes and 5 Above Bar, Southampton who were selling, 'Carte De Visite Portraits: to those wishing for a charming picture, combining a striking likeness with artistic pose'.

In 1881 John G Wheeler, a photographer from Camberly was living in Shooters Hill with his wife Sophia and daughters Harriet, Matilda, Sophia, Annie and Ada together with his step mother Harriet Callingham and a servant. This address could well have been Wilton House, as there is no number 130 High Street. Wheeler was a photographer previously working with his brother in law, John Brown in the 1860s and 70s. Previously Wheeler had run the photography business with John Symonds, however Symonds committed suicide by poisoning himself at the South of England Music Hall in 1871.

According to Brown died in 1905. A record in the Northwood Cemetery states that John George Wheeler died in 1905 aged 77. His wife Sophia had died in 1894 aged 69, George was listed as a newspaper reporter.

Browns grocery and wine merchants

Between about 1895 and 1910, Charles Brown ran Wilton House as a grocery and wine merchant known as Brown's Yacht Provisions.

It is believed that he married his wife Gertrude Ellen Elizabeth White on 29 Sept 1887 at Northwood, IOW. In 1891 he lived in Bernard Road, Cowes with his wife Gertrude, sons Arthur and Herbert. It is unclear what Wilton House was used as in 1891, but a Caretaker was listed living here which is presumed to be Number 1 Shooters Hill (assuming that this building was No 1 Shooters Hill).

In 1892 the Isle of Wight County Press and South of England Reporter (5-11-1892) placed an advert in which Charles Brown Provision Merchant of Cowes was, 'in want of a good diary of butter, quality must be very first rate'.

In 1896, the Isle of Wight County Press and South of England Reporter (23-5-1896) features an advert for Brown's Stores at 130 High Street Cowes and 142 High Street Southampton, they were selling, 'Real Turtle Soup at 1/3 per pint, prepared from the genuine West Indian Green Turtle'. Other adverts of that year offer Teas and Coffees as exported to all parts of the world, gorgonzola, gruyere, camembert, stilton, parmesan and other cheeses, curious old whiskeys, choice old cognacs, crofts and other ports, Peter Demecques sherries, wines and spirits. Brown's Stores were purveyors to HM the Queen, HIM the Emperor of Germany, HRH The Crown Prince of Roumania, HRH The Crown Princess of Sweden, leading English families, various navies and the Mercantile Marine.

In 1901, Brown was living at Wilton House which was then clearly known as Number 1 Shooters Hill. The Census lists Brown as a grocer, wine and spirit merchant shopkeeper and was living with Gertrude, sons Arthur, Herbert, Donald, daughters Dorothy, Ada and Dora and two servants.

Gertrude died in 1915, aged 50 and Charles died in 1926 aged 64. Their address was listed as Brierleigh, Granville Road, Cowes.

See article below on Browns Yacht Provisions from a local trade directory.

After Browns

In 1911, it seems that Wilton House at number 130 had only two rooms, these could of course been above the shop, and was occupied by Sarah Jane Rice a widow of private means.

The rest of the house also known as 130 High Street was occupied by a baker and Confectioner Harry Wallace Dodman, his wife Maria and daughter Elizabeth Louisa, aged 10, all originally from London.

Next door at 129 lived Harry Knight, a bootmaker and his wife Ada and children William and Herbert.

In 1939, a family lived at Number 130, Herbert Lozer (an aircraft foreman in sheet metal) and his wife Elsie and son Henry (an aircraft inspector)

Charles Brown, Grocer and wine merchant, 130 High Street Cowes (no date available)

In the space of five years Mr Charles Brown has built up at the above address one of the best businesses of its kind in the Isle of Wight, and has organised an establishment which compares favourably with any in Cowes for attractive appearance and complete equipment. Bringing to bear upon his venture a thorough knowledge of the grocery, provisions, and wine and spirit trades, Mr Brown has accented his success by a conspicuous spirit of enterprise and has won support and inspired confidence by the prompt and careful attention he bestows upon his customers' varied requirements. His premises in High Street have been admirably arranged to suit the purposes of the business carried on, and comprise a fine double-fronted shop, with three large plate-glass windows which display the goods to great advantage while the interior is spacious and well appointed. The offices are at the rear of the shop, and beyond there are extensive stores and packing departments, the former containing large reserve stocks of goods, while the latter usually present a very busy scene, especially in the yachting season, when many orders are daily got ready for despatch. It should be noted that Mr Brown, besides catering to a large and growing family connection, has acquired a great amount of valuable patronage in yachting circles, and pays special attention to the provisioning of yachts for voyages to any part of the world. This latter department calls for exceptional knowledge and experience, of which Mr Brown has provided himself the assessor, to the complete satisfaction of this customers. His resources enable him to provision yachts at very short notice, but, of course, he is in a better position to guarantee satisfaction when yacht-owners give him sufficient time to allow of the meats, soups, etc, being specially preserved and tinned for the particular voyage in view. It is part of Mr Brown's business to furnish correct estimates of stores required for any voyage at a few hours' notice, on being advised of the number of person sand length of cruise. As the provisions necessary for a cruise in the Artic seas are so widely different from those required in the tropics, it is obvious that his experience is of great use to yacht-owners in assisting them to a proper organised . . . (missing text)

This illustration from the trade directory shows the shop before the additional advertising signs and balustrading was added to the top of the building. It also clearly does not have the royal warrant and coat of arms yet.

Photograph from

Brown and Wheeler's photograph of their premises at Shooters Hill, Cowes. 'Under the Immediate Patronage of The Queen, The Court at Osborne, and the members of the R.Y.S (Royal Yacht Squadron)'. (Turley, R V. (2001).

Isle of Wight Photographers 1840-1940. Southampton: University of Southampton Libraries)​