ABOUT THIS PAGE
Page Last Updated: 17/11/23
This page follows the history of Pearson’s auctions and estate agents, which began in Fleet in 1900. It also documents the building known as Pinewood Hall. The original estate office for Pearson’s and Pinewood Hall still currently exist but the auction rooms were knocked down in the 1980s.
Like many other businesses in Fleet, the address of Pearson’s and Pinewood Hall changed over the years, not just because of a physical move but also due to the changing of the road numbering system. The addresses occupied by the business were as follows:
99 Fleet Road (previously known as 91 Fleet Road)
97 Fleet Road (previously known as 89 Fleet Road)
95 Fleet Road (previously known as 87 Fleet Road)
293 Fleet Road (previously known as 231 Fleet Road)
Pearson Court (previously known as 1 – 3 Kings Road)
EARLY BEGINNINGS (1900)
In 1900 Alfred Pearson opened his first office in Fleet near to Fleet Railway Station. The tiny building was made of corrugated iron and housed a single desk with a couple of chairs but it was to mark the start of an important and influential business in the town. When the company later moved, the small iron office also moved with it and it remained on their land until it eventually closed down many years later.
The very first plots of land in Fleet were sold by a man called Henry Brake, who bought a large amount of heathland in the town, clearing it and dividing the plots into a grid pattern. In those early days of development, a large majority of these land plots were sold in the small office of Mr. Pearson, cementing an important formative business relationship and one which would lead to a long-lasting trade in estate sales.
The photo below shows Roger Pearson. grandson of Alfred Pearson with the original building as he closed it for the last time.
Below: Roger Pearson, grandson of Alfred Pearson with the original building from 1900. Credit: Percy Vickery.
ESTATE OFFICE AND PINEWOOD HALL (1902 – 1910)
With the early success of his business, Alfred Pearson built a more formal estate office building in 1902/03, located on the corner of Fleet Road and Kings Road. The new offices also included a large plot of land that stretched into King’s Road and which was used for auctioning items outdoors. It was in this outdoor area that the original corrugated iron office (above) was placed.
Although known as 99 Fleet Road (previously 91 before the road numbers changed), the address of the building was later referred to as 97-99 (89-91) Fleet Road. The directory listings of the time suggest that Alfred Pearson initially occupied the entire building himself but later divided the building, letting out part of it.
Mr Brake wasn’t the only important name that Alfred Pearson was to form close business ties with and around the same year that he built his first brick office, he was joined by Richard Pool, who owned a thriving removals company in Fleet. Mr Pool built a hall that adjoined the new Pearson’s estate office to use as a furniture storage depository for his growing business. In time Mr. Pearson was to rent the hall himself, hiring the venue a few times a year to hold indoor furniture auctions. The building was named Pinewood Hall.
Below: 1904 (Right) Pearson’s Estate Office on the corner of Kings Road and Fleet Road, with (Left) Pinewood Hall next to it. A later advert shows Richard Pool Removals still at the Pinewood Hall address.
Here you can see a postcard showing the two buildings from a different angle. In later years this area would become commonly known as Pearson(s) Corner (after Pearson’s Estate Office), or Kimble(s) Corner (after an off licence which would be built on the opposite corner). Note the original position of the corner doorway, which was later removed and changed into a window.
Below: Postcard showing the two buildings.
Early adverts from 1904 and 1906 show the early joint use of Pinewood Hall by Pearson and Pool to both store and sell furniture, using the area as a furniture repository (Pool) and an auction site (Pearson). There was also the option to hire out the space for social events.
Below: Adverts showing the early use of Pinewood Hall as an auction house by Alfred Pearson (1904 – 1906).
With the venue already available for hire, the popularity of Pinewood Hall was about to grow even further when local residents became disillusioned with their local public Hall. “Weber’s Theatre” as it was known, was a local hall and entertainment venue but with the conditions of the property said to resemble a “flea pit” there were pleas to use Pinewood Hall instead. The people’s voices were heard and by 1907 Pinewood Hall was regularly used for concerts, local talks and social gatherings, borrowing chairs from local churches when an event was on and returning them the next day. When Weber’s Theatre burnt down (in 1914), Pinewood Hall became the new public hall of Fleet, adding to its many uses.
Below: A selection of Pinewood Hall advertised events (1907 – 1909).
PEARSON’S ESTATE OFFICE AND AUCTIONS (1910 – 1970s)
By 1910 increased popularity and demand for more auctions meant Mr. Pearson had outgrown Pinewood Hall, which was often in use by Mr. Pool for his flourishing storage and removals business as well as a public venue for hire. This led to the building of the first Pearson’s auction hall, allowing larger and more frequent sales on the land adjoining Pearson’s office in King’s Road. It also doubled as a dry and safe location to house the goods for more professional indoor auctions. In the 1930s a second hall was also built, matching the first with an identical appearance. These were known as the Pinewood Auction rooms.
Below: Pearson’s newly built auction rooms, first there was one…then two. Credits: Percy Vickery
The images below show the steady growth of Pearson’s business. From a 1920s advert by Mr. Alfred Pearson at the “Auction Rooms Fleet” advertising household goods and furniture, to a 1934 Catalogue of Sale offering higher classed items at the “Pinewood Auction Rooms”. There is also a 1953 auction invoice for Fleet Hockey Club which shows the additional branches of the business, which by this time had extended to Farnborough, Aldershot and Winchester.
Below: Pearson’s auction adverts and paperwork from 1920 – 1953.
Here we can see one of the original auction catalogues from the Pinewood auction rooms from 1935. Click the pages to view:
This advert shows the two businesses side by side, just as they were in real life with their adjoining buildings.
During this time, the unused section of the Pearson’s Estate Office (number 89 – later 97) started to gain its own identity and by the late 1920s was known as York House. Initially occupied by a Colonel E. N. Obbard, it became a dentist surgery by the 1950s with the dental surgeon J. C. Coe.
1926 – Directory entry without road numbers listing only two addresses: R. Pool’s Furniture Repository and A. Pearson House and Estate Agent.
1936 – Directory entry with earlier versions of the road numbers. By now the corner office had been divided into two addresses, with the second section named York House and occupied by Colonel Obbard.
1950 – Still showing the original road numbers (these would change to 95, 97 and 99 in later years), it lists a dentist surgery which now occupied York House.
The auctions showed no sign of fading in popularity over the years and soon became a regular feature of Fleet life with families enjoying day trips out to the many furniture and household goods sales that were held. The winning combination of land, property and goods auctions along with estate sales was enough to keep the Pearson’s name going from strength to strength.
Below: Pearson’s Estate Agent business flourished along with the auctions. Credit: Percy Vickery.
By 1962 Pearson’s had been appointed agents for the Cheltenham and Gloucester Building Society and had taken on a second office in the centre of the town (next to where the Fleet Cinema had once existed) and had started to use it in their advertisements. The building was then numbered 231 Fleet Road but would be renumbered by 1971 to 293.
Below you can see a variety of newspaper clippings and paperwork showing the different addresses of the company:
1 – 1962 advert showing the collaboration between Pearsons and C&G Building Society, listing the new address of 231 Fleet Road.
2 – 1968 advert showing the use of both addresses – 91 and 231 Fleet Road.
3 – 1968 advert also showing the use of both addresses.
4 – 1971 letterhead showing the same two buildings but by now they have been renumbered to 99 and 293.
5 – 1979 advert showing Pearson’s still at the two addresses.
No space was wasted inside the auction halls, with furniture stacked on top of other furniture and cabinets full of glass and ornaments as can be seen in the photo below. The auctioneer at the time, Peter Raw, was seated at a raised desk at the back of the room, The main doors led directly out onto Kings Road.
Below: Inside the auction room (1970s). Credit: Percy Vickery.
PEARSON’S AND THE PRUDENTIAL TAKEOVER (1980s)
ESTATE OFFICE CLOSURE (1984)
In 1982 Pearson’s were still using the two addresses (99 and 293 Fleet Road) together in their estate agent adverts but by 1983 things had changed and the business began to use the two different buildings to separate auctions from estate sales.
The original corner estate office (number 99) was now listed as “Pearson’s Fine Arts” and the office at 293 Fleet Road was the only listed office address for house/estate sales.
By 1984 the original estate corner office at 99 Fleet Road had closed for good.
Below: 1983 advert shows the different use of the two addresses.
BUSINESS TAKEOVER (1986-87)
By 1986 it wasn’t just the original estate office that Pearson’s had given up, as they had by now agreed a deal with The Prudential for them to take over the business. The transition was a gentle one, with the first signs being a simple joint change of identity in adverts but gradually the Prudential name was the only one left. They did however retain the name of the “Pinewood Auction Rooms”.
Below: The transition from 1986 – 1987 as The Prudential takes over Pearson’s.
Below: The back of Pearsons auction house in the 1980s. Credit: Wyndham Boulter/Ian Boulter.
THE LAST AUCTION?
The Prudential took over both the auction rooms and the main office address at 293 Fleet Road. They continued to run auctions for a short time and on the 9th December 1987 they held what is thought to be the last ever auction at the original Pinewood Hall auction rooms.
One of the visitors at the auction that day was Mr. Bruce Bovill who had come back to Fleet for the auction despite having moved to another area the year before, proving that the popular events were still a crowd pleaser.
Here we see the final photos from the auction that day, including Bruce’s bargain gong for £35. The Prudential name can be seen above the doors of the building and an eager crowd search for bargains for the last time.
We would go to the auctions on a monthly basis in King’s Road, and I spent the best part of a couple of years some time later, divesting myself of all the good stuff we bought there (downsizing).
We would take sandwiches and camp in the auction room for the full day each month. Brilliant place.
I bought a gong for £35. Our home was flooded with auction buys at one stage – so good was the event.
– Bruce Bovill
Below: Believed to be the last ever auction held in Fleet – 9th December 1987. Credit: Bruce Bovill.
THE END OF THE AUCTION ROOMS (1988-89)
In 1988 The Prudential submitted plans to to replace the auction rooms with a 500 sq. metre office building.
The photo below was taken at the 1988 Fleet Carnival and is one of the very last photos taken of the auction rooms, showing them with their signs removed.
In 1989 planning permission was granted and the auction rooms were demolished.
Below: Fleet Carnival procession 1988, driving past the auction rooms. Credit: Lillian Elwyn Bull.
THE RETURN OF PEARSONS (1993)
In 1993 the current generations of the Pearson family including Roger Pearson (Alfred’s grandson) decided to buy back the old family firm and so the familiar “Pearsons” name was revived. Today the business now has 13 branches in the south as well as running the time honoured land sales that heralded the start of the Pearson name back in Fleet in 1900. Sadly there is no branch in Fleet, the town where it all began.
Below: Pearson’s Estate Agent today.
BEFORE AND AFTER
The auction rooms may not exist in Fleet anymore but the original Pearson’s Estate Agent office and the adjoining Pinewood Hall are still standing…but maybe not for long. Here is a rundown of all the old locations…and what they look like today.
95 FLEET ROAD (PINEWOOD HALL)
Since 2013 the old Pinewood Hall has been a car dealership (Charvil Car Centre) and remains as such today. Sadly though, plans have been submitted to demolish the building and replace it with flats and townhouses. The decision on this is still pending.
Below: Pinewood Hall in 1904 and 2021.
99 FLEET ROAD (ORIGINAL ESTATE OFFICE)
Over the years the original estate office has been subject to many internal and external alterations and additions including an extension to the car park, a couple of two storey office extensions and the replacement of the corner front door with a window but the main front structure appears much the same.
The address of the building today is 97 – 99 Fleet Road with the building being divided up into different units. The occupants of the building include a metal fabricator business (Demand Technology) and a dental practice (King’s Corner Dental Practice), which took over the floor of the building in February 2023.
Below: Pearson’s Estate Office (early 1900s) and Kings Corner Dental Practice (2023). Credit for 2023 photo: Kings Corner Dental Practice.
1 – 3 KINGS ROAD (AUCTION ROOMS)
Today there isn’t a “1 – 3 Kings Road” in existence. Instead a car park and a modern office building sits on the auction site. The address of the building adds a touch of nostalgia to the road though…it’s called Pearson Court.
Below: Kings Road pictured in 1981 while the auction rooms still stood and in 2021. Credit 1981 photo: Peter Franklin.
Below: Kings Road reverse view, pictured c1935 and 2021.
293 FLEET ROAD (SECOND PEARSONS OFFICE)
Number 293 Fleet Road, the second office that Pearson’s used in Fleet still remains an estate agent today. The Prudential took over the building in 1986 along with the rest of the business, which was followed by the Woolwich in the early 1990s. Today it is Haart Estate and Letting Agents.
The building can be seen on the far left of the photos below. The sign protruding from the wall in the first photo reads “Estate Agent”, with the Alfred Pearson name in the centre. The modern Haart Estate agents features the purple signs.
Below: (Far Left) Pearson’s Estate Agents (1963) and Haart Estate Agents (2021). Credit 1963 photo: Stephen Mears.
All information and articles on our website which feature this business, or the address(es) it occupied are listed below:
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