When long-time residents of Andover speak wistfully of the departments stores the town used to enjoy, it is often this one that they remember best. Parsons and Hart occupied a large site on the west side of the High Street where Poundland and Superdrug are located today, but closed in 1967 when Woolworth’s bought the buildings, demolished and rebuilt them, and then moved from their old 1930s premises across the road.

Part of the old Bell Inn and then still owned by Magdalen College, Cambridge, the origin of Parsons and Hart goes back to 1842, when William Parsons, a native of Somerset, but having spent his apprenticeship at a drapery in London, opened his first shop at 13 High Street. In this picture, it was the right-hand side of the taller building. Predominantly this was a draper’s shop but increasingly he became known for tailoring and outfitting as well. Success followed and in 1858 he bought the other half, created a new frontage, and made one set of premises that included millinery, the whole named Waterloo House.

The same year however, disaster struck on a late November evening when he was mysteriously and savagely murdered in a field off Salisbury Road, having told his wife he was going to post a letter at the Post Office, then opposite. Rumours and accusations abounded but there was never any satisfactory answer to what happened, despite an accused man and his wife spending three months in Winchester prison on remand, only for the case against them to be immediately thrown out by the presiding judge at the outset of their trial.

However, William Parsons’ shop, (Hart came later) continued to thrive, first under the stewardship of Parsons’ widow and then under his son William Henry Parsons, who extended the shop to the third (1875) and finally the fourth building by 1893, thus becoming the impressive set of premises shown above. Footwear and then house furnishings were part of the new stock-in-trade.

Tom Hart joined the firm as a 16-year-old apprentice in 1866, became a partner in the early 1870s and eventually married Parsons’ youngest daughter Kate in 1877. They lived above the shop for many years but eventually moved to Mayfield in Weyhill Road. Strangely, his fate was also to be a tragic one; he committed suicide in Mead Hedges in 1915, not far from where his father-in-law had been murdered over 60 years before.

The shop remained in family ownership until 1937 when the two partners of the third generation of the Parsons family retired. Harold Summersby bought the business and his grandchildren sold it to the Army and Navy Stores in the 1960s, still retaining it as Parsons and Hart. They in turn sold it to Woolworth’s; and the old name that had been part of Andover’s High Street for so long disappearing into history.