On Tuesday 10th May I visited Penguins, 87-89 High Street Chatham. Penguins happens to be the Newcomb family business specialising in formal wear and wedding suits for men. I met Gerald Newcomb – a 7th generation Newcomb, running a business stretching back over 180 years in Chatham.
‘The family has served the great and the good for almost 180 years. Figures such as Charles Dickens, Lord Kitchener, Lord Byron and Lord Tennyson have enjoyed the service we offer – our workrooms were a hive of activity as we created shirts for King Edward VII!’ ‘Gerald is the 7th generation to run the firm and has himself been in the industry for 45 years.’
This business fits into our Chatham Placemaking Project primarily because of its association with our route – Newcomb’s also had a Ladies Clothes Shop on Railway Street – but the big surprise is the Newcomb War Diary. Surely this has to be on our list of ‘10 things which made Chatham’.
The following statement comes from the Chatham Historical Society Website.
“A few years ago Chatham Historical Society was given permission to make a replica of an original diary written every day during the years of the Second World War by George West, company secretary of a navy tailors, hosiers, hatters and shirt makers in Chatham High Street called Newcomb’s. This replica of the “Newcomb War Diary” is dedicated to the memory of Mr West, the Newcomb and Paine families, and all Medway people – both service personnel and civilians – who lived through the events described in it.
Newcomb’s opened for business in 1854. After the original shop was demolished when the Sir John Hawkins flyover was built, the business moved along the High Street to the corner of Medway Street. Mr Gerald Newcomb is still trading as Penguins Dress Hire.
The replica was paid for by Chatham Historical Society and a generous donation by the late Mr and Mrs W. Paine, and has been available to view at public events and libraries in the Medway towns.
It had been in Strood Library for many months, and their website states that it is on display there, but it might have moved on to another temporary home. Check with Strood Library for the latest situation.
The Paine family ran outfitter’s shops in Chatham and Strood, and were founders of the Chatham Reliance Building Society.”
The book referred by the Chatham Historical Society is a smaller copy version of this. The actual artefact – a fantastic large folio book / ledger was originally manufactured in Chatham for Newcomb’s – is unique and I felt privileged to be shown it.