Farewell to Agars, the Whitby shop that's been furnishing homes for more than 200 years

A part of Whitby’s history is officially, and sadly, coming to an end.

By Martina Moscariello
Friday, 5th April 2019, 5:25 pm
Updated Monday, 8th April 2019, 9:49 am
R Agar and Son is to close after 207 years.
R Agar and Son is to close after 207 years.

Agars of Whitby, on 3A Flowergate, has been furnishing homes in Whitby and beyond since 1812.

Its owners say it’s the longest-established furniture shop in the UK, having operated from the same premises for 207 years.

However, after two centuries of trade, the business has now reached the end of the road as owners Robert and Tracy Dryden have announced their plans to close.

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Michael Dryden and his daughter Sadie Hepburn in their Ercol department.

Robert’s sister, Sadie Hepburn, who worked in the business for 30 years, said: “We’re the longest established retail furnishers in the country but things change and you’ve got to think about what you’re going to do with your own future.

“I left the business 11 years ago. I’d grown up with it, I’d lived and breathed it all my life and I’d never known anything else so I just wanted to do something different and I think it’s the same for Robert and Tracy.”

Agars of Whitby was founded by W. Cavallier, a cabinet maker, chair-maker and upholsterer, who opened the store at the start of the 19th century with the intent to furnish “a variety of articles in the best London style and on lower terms”.

Shortly after setting up, Mr Cavallier went into partnership with Robert Agar and the business, which went from strength to strength, took the name of R. Agar & Son.

It was in 1965 that the Drydens stepped in. Michael and Susan bought the business from Mrs E. Agar and Mr C. Herbert and in the early 1980s they were joined by their children, Sadie and Robert, who followed in their footsteps.

Since 2008, when Sadie left, Robert has been running the shop with his wife Tracy.

Among the memories the family will always remember are the huge fire that broke out in the premises in the 1970s – which led to a total revamp – and the occasional seagull that would shoot in from the backyard to make themselves comfortable on the upholstery.

But above all, what they will always cherish is the friendships they made with customers and staff.

“We have a really loyal customer base,” said Tracy, “they couldn’t believe it when we told them we were closing.

“Some came in to shake our hands, we’ve had kisses and cuddles. It’s just unbelievable the support that we received so we want to thank everyone.

“We also want to thank our lovely staff. They were a real asset to our business and Agars wouldn’t have been the same without them.”

The Flowergate shop will officially close once all the stock has sold which owners expect will be some time next week.