Our History

Humble Beginnings

Wippells was founded in 1789 by Joseph Wippell – the seventh son of a farming family in Devon. It began as a grocers and tea dealer, growing to include funeral services, fabrics trade, and tailoring under the guidance of his eldest son, Joseph Wippell Jr. He took the company to the Great Exhibition in 1851, and it was in this period that the business began decorating churches, forming a link with the Royal Worcester Company. Jospeh Wippell Jr. retired in 1879, handing the business to one of his nine sons, Henry Hugh Wippell.

The Twentieth Century

At the end of the 19th Century, Henry Hugh oversaw the opening of a London showroom following a considerable expansion of real estate in Exeter. Later, with the advent of the First World War, Wippells manufactured military uniforms; two of Henry Hugh's sons enlisted, along with many of the workroom staff. The company continued to expand following the war, forming trade links with the US and Canada, and survived the difficult economic period of the 1930s. During the Second World War, Wippells was contracted to make parachutes, as well as signal equipment and torpedo parts. Bombing destroyed the premises in Exeter High Street as well as other stores in Devon and Somerset; Wippells also survived years of fabric rationing, only resuming clerical and church outfitting in the late 40s.

A Household Name

In the latter half of the 20th Century, Wippells capitalised on a growing academic market, producing robes for universities across the UK. Successes continued in the Clerical community, with a reputation for reliable craftsmanship and quality tailoring.

Wippells Today

Fortunes, however, were not everlasting, as the 2020 pandemic considerably impacted the company, halting graduation ceremonies completely. Two years later, Wippells announced its closure, seeing the end of their physical premises in Exeter, London, Manchester, and New Jersey USA.

Amongst those dismayed by the loss of Wippells was clerical wear rival and Westminster neighbour Watts & Co., who, in the summer of 2024, acquired the brand in a bid to revive the brand's name and centuries of tailoring expertise, utilising its thousands of trusted patterns. Wippells, thenceforth, lived on to continue producing dependable tailoring and church accessories – operating as its own brand, with support from Watts & Co. Now, 235 years after the company's founding, Wippells begins a new chapter, building on its foundations and knowledge as a clerical wear brand for the 21st Century.

  • Joseph Wippell Jr.

    1810 – 1894

    Born in 1810 and possibly passing away in 1884, Joseph was a British grocer and a member of the Medical Committee of the Exeter Homeopathic Dispensary. He was the seventh child of a well-established farming family from Thorverton, north of Exeter. In 1802, he married his cousin Jane, and the couple moved to Exeter for Joseph to pursue a career as owner of Wippell.

  • Henry Hugh Wippell

    1842 – 1912

    Born in All Hallows, Exeter, Devon, Henry was a significant figure in the history of J.Wippell & Co. He became the owner and first chairman of the company, and later became Mayor of Exeter in 1909. He passed away on June 22, 1912, in Exeter, Devonshire, leaving a solid foundation for the company's future success.

  • Arthur Bromley Sanders

    1866 – 1921

    Born on July 30, 1866, in Clerkenwell, Middlesex, England. His father, William Alfred Sanders, was 31, and his mother, Janet Kelday, was 29. In July 1898, he married Kate Elizabeth Wippell in Exeter, Devon, England. They had at least two sons and three daughters. He passed away on May 23, 1921, in Exeter, Devon, at the age of 54 and was buried in Higher Cemetery, Exeter.

  • Ernest Henry Wippell

    1879 – 1957

    Director & Second Chairman (1902-54)

  • Joseph Charles Wippell

    1869 – 1929

    Director (1902-29)

  • Donald Hugh Wippell

    1887 – 1969

    Director & Third Chairman (1916-61)

  • Ashley Gordon Wippell

    1894 – 1941

    Director (1916-41)

  • Joseph Howard Wippell

    1903 – 1988

    Director & Fourth Chairman (1931-61)

  • Herbert Francis Ford

    1886 – 1962

    Director (1940-52)

  • Harold Alfred Lewis

    1903 – 1977

    Director (1944-68)

  • Michael Dean Wippell

    1915 –

    Director (1961-80)