Alnwick family firm passes into new ownership after 134 years

Guy and Sarah Filer with Peter and Ann Lewis outside the G Penrose and Sons shop in Alnwick. Picture by Jane Coltman.
Guy and Sarah Filer with Peter and Ann Lewis outside the G Penrose and Sons shop in Alnwick. Picture by Jane Coltman.

A family firm which has been passed down the generations has been sold to new owners, but the business and name are to continue.

On Monday, the Filers – Guy and his wife Sarah – took over from Peter Lewis as the new owners of G Penrose & Son, the well-known Alnwick electrical store, bringing to an end 134 years of the business being in the family.

The business will continue with its current products and services, although the Filers will look at introducing new ones as well.

“We like the Penrose name and what it offers so we will always continue that, but also try to add a few things,” Guy said, confirming that the staff will be staying on as well.

“That was vital to it, because of the experience and the fact that the customers know them,” he added, referring to their decades of experience. “Customers are familiar with them and the experience they have too is invaluable.”

Having run the business for 41 years, Peter admitted that it was ‘a strange feeling’ on Monday, but he added: “I’m leaving it in good hands, it couldn’t go to better people.”

Having reached retirement age, he didn’t want to continue into his 80s like his father did, but also didn’t want it to mean the end of the line for the Penrose business and name.

Asked if it was important to sell it as a going concern, Peter said: “That’s why it took so long (to sell the business) – I didn’t want the family legacy to die, so it was very important to me.

“Plus the fact that I value the staff, we didn’t want them to lose their jobs when I know how good they are at them.”

Peter added that there was a nice symmetry because when his great-grandfather George started the shop, it was because he had some money after his father died and he decided to invest in himself. “Basically, that’s just what Guy and Sarah are doing and I’m sure it will be successful for them.”

The Filers, who live in Seahouses, have two teenage children, one already at the Duchess’s Community High School and another starting in September, so the new base in Alnwick is handy.

Guy said he is looking forward to being his own boss, but that the main thing was staying in the industry where he’s spent most of his working life.

“The history of the shop was a major thing that dew us to the business, plus the staff,” he said.

Sarah added: “The amount of faith that Peter has in us is great too.”

It certainly seems that there will be a smooth transition from the old owners to the new.

“We might be different owners, but we still want to deliver the same service and quality as Peter and his staff have done for years,” Guy said. “They have served the community so well for years.”

Brief history of G Penrose & Sons

George Penrose, born 1863 in Alnwick, started a business in Wellwood Street, Amble, in 1883. He later moved to Queen Street and opened branches at Radcliffe, Broomhill, Red Row and finally Alnwick.

His sons William and Fred joined and expanded into selling tobacco. Meanwhile, George’s wife noticed a shilling bazaar – Woolworths – in Newcastle and opened an equivalent in Amble.

William’s hobby after the war was building radio sets, which he started selling through the shop, before heading to Alnwick, first on Bondgate Without, then 23 Bondgate Within in 1927 – its home for 90 years and counting.