S. Hannington & Sons

S. Hannington & Sons

S. Hannington & Sons was a department store (more commonly known as Hanningtons) in Brighton, East Sussex, from 1808 until 2001. It was the town’s oldest, largest and most diverse department store and was known locally as the “Harrods of Brighton”.

Hanningtons began in 1808 when Smith Hannington purchased a small drapery shop at 3 North Street in central Brighton. In the early 19th century Brighton was growing rapidly and was a favourite destination of wealthy visitors from London. The shop’s central position enabled it to thrive immediately.

In 1816 Smith Hannington began to purchase nearby properties, beginning the expansion that would see his shop become the largest department store in Brighton.

Smith Hannington died in 1855 and his son Charles took over the company. Charles continued to expand the store and diversified the business; new departments included a furnishing and curtain-making service, a carpet-cleaning service and a furniture storage and removals service.

Charles Hannington died in 1883 and his son took control of the business. A large purpose-built furniture depository was built in Hove in 1904.

Later in the 20th century such diverse new departments as bespoke school uniforms, specialist costumery, fur coats and gramophones were introduced. Hanningtons were a pioneer in the concept of in-store concessions, where companies providing certain specialist products were given space in the store in exchange for a commission on every sale. Another innovation was the layout adopted in the furniture department, where items were placed in realistic settings imitating the rooms of a house, which was a rare concept outside of high-end stores in London.

In the 1960s, the store passed out of the Hannington family’s control when its last member, Dorothy Hannington, died in 1966.

A trust operated the store for three years before it was sold to South Bank Estates for £1 million in 1969. In 2001 the store was closed down and the premises were sold to a property investment company called Regina Estates. In 2014 Regina Estates received planning permission to divide the building into smaller shop units, and as of October 2014 various tenants now occupy the individual units.