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In the early 1900s, the highly desirable 220,000 square-foot site on Station Road was home to Sopers – a department store chain founded in 1860 by Samuel Henry Soper. Sopers was a formal store in which products would be kept behind the counter to be brought out for inspection by customers. The first of its kind in Harrow, eager shoppers from around the borough would flock to the store to buy the latest fashions and cosmetics.

In the 1960s, the Sopers store became Debenhams, offering six floors of clothing, cosmetics and homewares to Harrow’s shoppers. In 2019, Debenhams went into administration, and in 2021, during the global COVID-19 pandemic, the store in Harrow shut up shop for good.


Steve Kirby
02 Dec 2023 at 03:27
Unfortunately, the first paragraph is completely wrong. This is what really happened;
William Henry Soper was born 1873 in the village of Hennock near Newton Abbott, Devonshire.
His father was Samuel Sercombe Soper, a farmer of 220 acres of land called Riley Farm.
Samuel Soper had married Lucy Langmead in 1866 and went on to have six children, William being the youngest boy. (Lewis Samuel (1868), Edward James (1869), Ellen Maria (1871), Frederick John (1872), Edith Lucy (1874)).
Samuel died in 1874 at the age of 44. Lucy re-married in 1886 and became Mrs. James Williams and continued to live at Riley Farm with her children.
William eventually moved to Bristol and worked for drapers F. J. Batchelor of 32 Wine Street in the city centre as a buyer.
A few years later he was in the employment of T J Harries & Co of Oxford Street, London and resided at Hillside, Longley Road, Harrow.
T J Harries & Co of Oxford Street was bought by the John Lewis Partnership in 1928.
On the 21st December 1907 William married Maude Ellen Harries at St Stephen’s Church, Ealing. Maude’s father was a distant relative of the proprietor Thomas Harries.
After their marriage, they moved to St Clears, Pinner View, Harrow where they had their one and only child - William John Soper born 29th March 1910 (1910 – 1965).
‘Sopers’ opened on the 26th October 1914 and traded at number 5 & 6 The Promenade (Station Road), Harrow next to the Marquis of Granby public house. The premises would continue to grow for the next 50 years and become the largest store in Harrow, selling everything from car accessories to fur coats.
William Henry Soper died on the 1st December 1918 at Ravensleigh, Northwick Park Road, Harrow and was laid to rest in Acton Cemetery in the London Borough of Ealing. It is believed that he died as a result of the ‘Spanish Flu’ pandemic which killed over 220,000 people in Britain alone.
The executors of William’s estate were; William James Soper (cousin) and James Barry (a buyer).
(William James Soper – born 1858 in Newton Abbott. His father was William Soper elder brother of Samuel Sercombe Soper and had married Elizabeth Mortimore in 1848).
The business was sold in 1921 to Green & Edwards Ltd of Finchley Road and in 1928 became part of the Debenham Group. It continued to trade as Sopers until 11.30am on Friday 8th December 1972 when it was officially renamed as Debenhams at a ceremony hosted by TV comedian Dick Emery.
For those of us of a certain age Debenhams in Harrow will always be affectionally known as ‘Sopers’.



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