Robert William Collier set up his linen draper shop at number 21 Bath Street in late 1860. He was born in Cheltenham in about 1824, and was apprenticed to Robert Whitehouse, draper, of Lower Union Parade, Leamington where he appears on the 1841 census. He would have lived with other shop assistants, apprentices and servants on the premises. Robert Whitehouse and his wife and children also had their home in the same building as the shop. His shop later became a large department store selling all manner of drapery, fashions, hats, etc. By 1851, aged 27 and still unmarried, Robert Collier was an assistant in the shop of Frederick Withers, linen draper, of Market Place, Tetbury in Gloucestershire.

Robert William married Ellen Whereat in late 1857 at Salisbury, Wiltshire. She was born at Trowbridge, Wiltshire in 1830. Robert and Ellen had eight children, five girls and three boys, between 1859 and 1874, and they all lived at number 21. They were all born in Leamington except the second one who was born at Banbury. It is not known where Robert worked or whre he and Ellen lived until he opened the shop at number 21. The Colliers continued at the shop for the next twenty years or so. Some of their children were employed in the shop as draper’s assistants with Isabella having a brief spell as a school teacher (1881 census). They usually had one domestic servant and one or two assistants in the shop

1881 Census showing the Collier household.

1881 Census showing the Collier household.

In 1893 Ellen Collier died followed three years later by Robert William. The two eldest daughters, Mary and Isabella, did not marry and ran the shop until about 1920 when Frank Smith took it over.

Originally Published before 2013