The Wippell family can be traced back in a continuous line to Clayhanger in the West of England to at least 1554.They were sheep farmers and prospered in the great demand for wool.As the family of William Wippell grew, so did the flocks and the quest for what was in literal terms ‘the Golden Fleece’. His sons and grandsons moved to Uplowman, adjacent to the thriving town of Tiverton centre of the West Country wool trade and by 1676 their sons acquired farms in the Exe Valley at Bickley, Cadeleigh, Thorverton and Rewe.In 1774 Joseph Wippell was born and as the fourth son saw little prospect in ‘waiting for the land’ and on marriage in 1802 moved to Exeter to set himself up as a specialist grocer.
He quickly prospered during those years of the Napoleonic wars and scarcities of food, so much so that on his son Joseph Jnrs majority, he presented him with a long established and successful drapery business.Joseph Jnr consolidated the business and expanded into tailoring at first, then funeral direction and church decoration so that by the time that the groundswell of church building and restoration was under way, he was well placed to provide the services that were in great demand.
He was able to display goods at the Great Exhibition in 1851 and acquire Royal Letters Patent for innovative designs, as well as to begin manufacturing.By 1882 such was his success that more retail and manufacturing space became a priority and with his son Henry Hugh formed a company and built prestigious premises in Neo Gothic style opposite Exeter Cathedral.Some fifteen years later a London Shop was acquired and metal workshops, woodwork facilities, a clothing factory and stained glass studios were added to the Company’s various premises in Exeter.
During the 1900’s the company continued to expand despite interruption to its normal business by two world wars during which its abilities were harnessed into supplying military clothing and equipment, parachutes, signal devices, torpedo mechanisms and other needs for the armed forces.
There is of course much more to the history of the company than this brief snapshot suggests, the first four pages of the downloadable catalogue gives a fuller history of the last two hundred years.There have been sweeping changes particularly over the last decade or so and much development but, the basic tenet of providing a service that is widely acknowledged as the very best has not changed and we have consciously upheld and protected our reputation for quality that has been built up over some seven generations.