Moving with the times after 175 years in Melton
Staff at a business which has operated in Melton for 175 years are getting used to life in a new office after the latest in a series of relocations across the town.
Shouler and Son have closed their Wilton Road site and moved the property sales and lettings side of the business to its other premises on Kings Road, where its agricultural, commercial and professional services and the company’s auction room are run from.
The move has taken place because far fewer customers were attending the estate agency office, preferring instead to receive details by email or by perusing them on the website on their laptops, tablets or mobile phones.
The company has enjoyed a remarkable history in the town since William Shouler first set up in Melton in 1846 after falling in love with, and marrying, a woman from Frisby-on-the-Wreake.
It has been based at a number of locations since the mid-19th century, including one which no longer exists, the former Norman Street offices (which were demolished to make way for the inner ring road Norman Way).
Simon Johnson, the firm’s residential partner, told the Melton Times: “We’ve seen major changes in customer habits and we are changing with the times with this move across town.
“Business increased while our doors were closed during the first coronavirus lockdown last year and lately we’ve realised people don’t visit estate agency offices like they used to.
“Most of our communications are done by phone, by email and online because people have all the information at their fingertips without having to come in and pick up the details from the office.
“Rather than spend the money on having specialised premises we thought it would be better to invest in staff and new technology and use our offices in Kings Road where there is plenty of space and parking.”
Simon, who has worked in the property business for 34 years and at Shoulers since the start of this century, says he has seen big changes in the industry over the years and a marked shift in the last 12 months alone.
“It has been a surprise to see property sales increase so dramatically in the last year and also the number of properties coming to the market, despite the pandemic,” he said.
“The stamp duty being relaxed for homes valued at up to £500,000 has certainly helped kick-start the market.
“No-one is going on holiday at the moment either and some people have become frustrated by the size of their house.
“More people are working from home so they want a place with an office or an extra bedroom now.
“And we’ve also had a lot of people moving to the Melton area from down south, from Kent, Essex and the London area.
“With the changes in the working week, more householders only need to go to their offices on one day a week or two days so they realise they don’t have to live so close to work anymore.
“And of course by selling an ordinary house in London you can afford to buy a mansion up here.”
Ben Shouler, the managing partner, is the great-great-great grandson of founder William Shouler and the sixth generation of the family to work in the business.
William, who came from a farming family, began his business, as an auctioneer and land agent, in 1843, in Woburn Sands, which is a town on the border of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire.
Everything changed within three years, however, when he met Sarah Brown, uprooted his life and relocated everything to Melton in 1846.
Ben told the Melton Times: “We wouldn’t be here in the town today if he hadn’t met farmer’s daughter, Sarah Brown and set up home here.
“William established himself quickly and within a year started auctioneering at Melton Cattle Market, when it was based in Sherrard Street, selling cattle and it is believed he was pivotal in organising the moving of the livestock market in the 1870s from Sherrard Street to where it is today.
“The business was based at 9 Burton End in the early days and William and Sarah would have lived there as well.”
William had a lucky escape in 1855 when he was shot with a pistol by a local man named Thomas Clarke, who was subsequently arrested and declared insane, which probably saved him from being hung.
Fortunately, William survived and he went on to become a prominent businessman in Melton, also owning the Harboro Hotel and serving as Senior Town Warden.
He died in 1894 and family members continued to run the firm successfully as it relocated to 9 High Street and then, in 1904, to Oxford House on Norman Street, where Norman Way has now been built.
Just before the First World War, Shouler and Son purchased a former working men’s club building adjoining Oxford House, which was used as an auction room and also to host dances for local and visiting nobility.
In the 1960s the property in Cheapside next to the market place was acquired by the Leicestershire County Council for demolition.
Subsequently William’s grandson, Arthur Shouler, funded the purchase of the site and donated it to Melton Mowbray Town Estate.
This effectively doubled the area of the market place.
The business was on the move again when the Norman Street premises was set aside for demolition with the building of the inner ring road in 1977.
It’s new home was at 43 Nottingham Street, next door to Melton Mowbray Building Society and a few doors down from the long time home of the Melton Times.
The old county primary school - where the entire company is now based - was also bought by the family as its new auction room around this time.
Shoulers merged with Walker, Walton and Hanson in 1991 and the company moved its property and sales office from Nottingham Street to Wilton Road, and then invested in the expansion of the Kings Road site to incorporate the agricultural and professional side of the business.
Ben said: “We now have 25 members of staff and we have some people working for us who first joined in the 1980s.”
He added: “It is nice to be able to play a part in continuing the family legacy all these years later.
“I’m very proud to be the sixth generation family member and my son, William is only four so we will have to wait and see if a seventh generation joins the business.”