STRIDE and Son has changed a lot in its 125 years.
But it still remains very much a Chichester family firm, with a fourth generation of the family in Nick Stride a key part of the business.
Sitting in an office at the firm’s distinctive Southdown House, in St John’s Street, he laughs with fellow director Derek Bowerman as they reminisce on years gone by.
“It’s amazing how it creeps up on you,” said Nick of the 125th anniversary. “What’s surprising is that we’ve been here about 40 years. When we came it had done 85 which seemed quite a long time then.”
The company was founded in 1890, around the time Chichester’s cattle market began thriving in what is now the cattle market car park.
“I think the survival of the company is down to its wide scope,” Nick went on. “We don’t just sell houses and we don’t just auction. Derek does planning and surveying.
“We’ve built up a huge property management side of the company.”
Walking around the building, it is a treasure trove of history, but at the same time working with a clear eye on the future.
Photographs of its past show a reverence for what has gone before, but as Nick says: “What we want to stress is that we’re bang up to date.”
Originally entitled Stride Waddington and Rusbridger Ltd, the company began trading from East Street in 1890, later changing the name to Chichester Auction Co Ltd.
At this point its specialism was agricultural matters, letting farms and houses. It also held weekly auctions at Barnham and Chichester.
Nick’s great-grandfather Charles Stride was one of the founders and the name changed to Stride and Son in 1901. He later emigrated to the USA in 1912 and was succeeded by his sons Fred and Walter.
Nowadays, it holds two days of auctions per month, with technology recently installed allowing people to watch online and bid from all over the world.
Hovering in the doorway to watch fellow director Peter Parker at work, it can be hypnotic to see the bidding process, which takes place among an Aladdin’s cave of items.
From planning, estate agents and auctioneers, there are many different branches to the Stride and Son firm and it is perhaps this which has allowed them to remain so successful over the decades.
“There’s quite a lot of overlap,” said Derek. “Nick will sometimes sell a house and the person buying the house will want some planning done.”
The pair have been at the firm for so long now that it is not unusual for them to find themselves working with sons and daughters of people Nick’s father Pat dealt with.
“I think there’s a trust where we’ve acted for fathers and now act for the sons. It’s like seeing a friend as well as a client,” said Derek.
That said, Nick was quick to point out it was ‘dangerous to assume’ an easy bank of clients and so they always took care to give everyone the best service.
Times have changed though and Nick reminisces on a time he once managed the sale of a house while in a pub.
Sitting with one of the parties, he spotted the other and quickly brought them together, writing down the agreement on a beer mat.
“You couldn’t do that now,” he said, adding all the paperwork had to be up to scratch.
He joined in 1975 after qualifying, working in the estate agency office alongside Ronnie Horstead.
After Charles Stride left the running of his firm to Nick’s grandfather Walter and great-uncle Fred, the pair oversaw the first furniture sale, which took place in 1920.
In 1932, Fred died and in 1936, Walter’s son Pat joined the firm.
Walter was immensely popular and was elected mayor of Chichester in 1937. To this day, he remains the city’s longest-serving mayor and oversaw the move to the firm’s current Grade-II listed base in St John’s Street.
When he passed away in 1949, Chichester Cathedral was packed with colleagues from both the agricultural and civic worlds.
His two sons Pat and Dan became directors of Stride and Son along with colleague Ronnie Horstead, who ran the estate agency side of the business.
Pat, Nick’s father, bought out his brother in 1954 and took on a new partner, John Willis.
He has been described as a larger-than-life character with a collection of hats to match, who was a renowned auctioneer and valuer in the south of England. He auctioned at the cattle market auctions and furniture auctions.
The year before Nick joined his family’s firm, then aged 25, Mark Hewitt began running the furniture auctions. He later became a director and retired in 2014.
“The saleroom has grown in those years,” said Nick, describing it as more of a ‘junk auction’ previously.
“It’s grown into a fine art auction,” he said.
Derek, a qualified chartered surveyor, also joined in 1978, He, John Willis, Pat Stride and Mark Hewitt auctioned livestock at the weekly Wednesday cattle market.
To this day, Derek runs the planning and survey department.
“We all started together and stayed together,” said Derek looking back. “It was quite a unique thing to have for that time.”
The company’s fourth director is Imogen Stewart, who returned to the firm in 2000 after leaving in 1994.
She expanded the property management department which manages 45 estates. She became a director in 2010. Peter Parker joined in 2012.
“I think we all feel a great tie to Chichester,” Nick said, “which is why we’ve not felt an urge to open offices elsewhere. We’re very connected to Chichester.”
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