Sunday & Monday: closed
Tuesday to Thursday: 10am-5.30pm
Friday & Saturday: 10am-6pm
Shop & Press enquiries:
The shop is spread over three stories. In the basement, the original 18th century servants’ quarters have been restored with a light touch. You can see the old wine bins, stove and copper (where a little fire beneath a copper basin would have been lit for laundry washing). Down here are examples of Berdoulat’s freestanding kitchen and dining furniture, ceramics, paint, and hardware. The vaults stretching beneath the street house a fernery (inspired by the prolific ferns growing naturally down there when Patrick and Neri took on the restoration project).
At ground floor level, the 18th century shop space was altered by three eccentric Victorians Cater, Stoffell & Fortt, who in 1890 remodelled the façade, and removed internal walls and ceilings, to form the double-height galleried space one can enjoy today. The mahogany counters and cabinetry date back to this time, and once again house many of the products described by the gold leaf lettering adorning them – High Class Provisions, teas and coffees, and over 50 herbs and spices available by the gram.
Opposite this, the wine collection is housed in the 1850 wine display unit (dating back to the Smith Brothers’ time). Another significant product that’s still available in store is the famous Bath Oliver biscuit. The shop was, between 1890 and 1980, home to this culinary delight, with owners Cater, Stoffell & Fortt setting up a factory across town that produced the biscuit for sale globally.
The shop itself occupies a fantastic building dating back to 1777, which is rich in retail history. Interestingly, all previous shop keepers have only ever sold a combination of what Berdoulat sells today - high end groceries, wine, joinery, homeware and interiors related produce:
1780 - 1800 Mr Bond, coach master
1801 - 1815 Cyrus Symes, cheese and bacon factor
1816 - 1822 William Barnard, cabinet maker
1823 - 1840 Edward Evans, china warehouse
1841 - 1852 Thomas Robert Ransom, wine merchant
1853 - 1883 The Smith Brothers wine merchant
1883 - 1884 A J Morris, wine merchant
1884 - 1889 Richard Cater, wine merchant, and grocer
1889 - 1981 A branch of Cater, Stoffell & Fortt, high class grocers, and merchants dealing in provisions, wine and spirits
1981 - 2016 Caroline Craik, antiques dealer
In contrast to the very Victorian feeling ground floor space, the balcony area (once the first floor of the Georgian house the original shop occupied) is light-filled, lined with cookery books, soft furnishings, tablewares, and a beautiful array of dried and fresh flowers and floristry tools courtesy of Nice Bunch.
The following section of this Statement is written by historian Andrew Hill, author of Biscuits, Banquets & Bollinger: The History Of Cater, Stoffell & Fortt Ltd.
A study of a number of historic maps of Bath suggests that the rank of buildings in which no 8 is included was constructed between 1777 and 1780. A map dated 1777 shows the plot of the building marked out but yet to be constructed, while a 1780 map shows the rank of buildings completed. At some point between 1800 and 1810 the premises were extended to the rear, providing access from 8 Circus Mews (now 32 Circus Place), where the Berdoulat Studios are located.
Richard Cater was a successful and ambitious grocer and wines & spirits merchant who had built up a considerable presence in the High Street and Upper Borough Walls by acquiring and expanding premises there for his Bath & County Grocery and Provision Supply Stores. The wine merchants business in Margaret’s Buildings was expanded by him to include groceries and was aimed at meeting the demand of the “carriage trade”, especially the wealthy residents of the nearby Circus and crescents. In 1889 he amalgamated his business with that of William Stoffell and Frederick Fortt to form the illustrious and highly-respected company of Cater, Stoffell & Fortt.
This company, known widely as the Fortnum & Mason Of The Provinces, flourished in Bath and Bristol for almost a century and acquired a national reputation for quality, variety and service. It also acquired a global reputation for its Original Bath Oliver Biscuits and bottled Sulis spa water. The premises at 8 Margaret’s Buildings embodied the best of the company, meeting the refined tastes of its many local and regional well-heeled customers, and providing a fast and efficient delivery service.
The shop was threatened with closure in 1972, as a result of takeovers and restructuring of the company, and a spirited protest was conducted in the local press and by many local patrons to prevent this. Their efforts prevailed and the shop continued to operate until 1981.
Following the shop’s closure, the premises at 8 Margaret’s Buildings were taken over by a Mr & Mrs Craik who ran an antiques business there until 2016. Remarkably, the interior of the shop area remained virtually untouched over this period, with the result that many of the fixtures and fittings survived - some dating from the Smith Brothers’ tenure, and others installed by Richard Cater and his partners in the late 19th century.
Turning to the exterior, the shop front was remodelled in 1890 after the amalgamation of the three companies into one, and this remains today largely unaltered, including an entrance mosaic listing the various branches of the new company. The architect responsible for the remodelling was William Wilcox (1838-1928), who was a significant person in the history of Bath. As well as County Surveyor for Somerset, he also ran a successful architect’s practice with his partner James Wilson, and was responsible for the design of the Grand Pump Room Hotel, erected in 1865 and demolished in the 1960s. A number of other buildings designed by the partnership still survive, the best known of which is the church of Holy Trinity on Monmouth Street.