There’s been a clothing retailer on our site for over 160 years. We know that Daniel and Hannah Clarabut were operating as a draper and milliner in 1843 and the business passed to William “Billy” Clarabut in about 1880.
The business is named after Charles Mortimer Allen who took over in about 1910, who adding tailoring. At that time there were a number of live-in staff including a dressmaker and an assistant. There was also a tailor and his family who lived in a one-up, one-down building behind the shop. The family lived on the ground floor with the tailor’s workshop upstairs.
In addition to the drapery and tailoring, there was also a funeral business. Large trunks stored an array of mourning clothes for supply as necessary.
There was also a number of “rounds” throughout the area with customers selecting their items one week and having them delivered on the following. They would then pay for them as they could afford it. We were one of the first properties in the town to have gas lighting and the new-fangled telephone (the number was Olney 2!)
After WW2, Leslie Ernest Fairey, who had been apprenticed to the business in 1928 at the tender age of 14, re-joined the company and CM Allen & Co (Olney) Ltd was established. He eventually purchased the business on 1st February 1954 and would later recall not having a penny in his pocket, even raiding his daughter’s money-box, in order to buy the business.
Heating, even at this time, was by way of 2 blue enamel coke stoves. The opportunity to purchase 3 derelict cottages came in the mid 1960’s. These were later transformed into the original “Janey’s Fashions” in 1970, with Jane Cox, Leslie Fairey’s daughter, leaving teaching to run that part of the business.
The wheel turned full circle in 2009 when Janey’s (as it had become) moved to occupy part of the main building on the Market Place. The former cottages were returned to their original function as a house. The main building was refurbished throughout and became purely retail, with stockrooms and showrooms replacing bedrooms and the original living quarters.
To say that we are steeped in history is an understatement. Allen's of Olney is here to stay... our regular clients wouldn't have it any other way!