A pair of bright sparks

RawlinsMost communities have their own family names that crop up over and over again – Bury St. Edmunds has its Hearns, Witney has its Rainbows and Milton has its Rawlins – lots of them. But just two Rawlins brothers in the village are the focus of this article.

In the beginning
While Peter and David Rawlins are now well known for their electrical business, that business goes back many years. It was 1911 when granddad, Wally Rawlins, started a business opposite the Green in Milton. A business that began in a little cottage three doors up the road grew as Wally built a shop for the sale of bicycles and the repair of cars. Large windows were included to display the bikes, while a pit was dug for those repairs. The chief mechanic was Reg Bradley who later went on to run Bradley’s Garage on the main road; that site is now the small housing development called Bradleys.
Wally’s son, Ted, joined the business after the Second World War where he had been awarded the Burma Star. As his training had been in radio communications, the emphasis of the business changed into this field. Radios and then televisions were sold, countless aerials were installed, but the sale of bikes continued for a while. Not content with this diversification, he also ran a taxi business and sold petrol.

The present generation
Peter and David joined the firm in the 1970s after training in TV, radio and electronics. Theirs was a difficult start with the death of Ted in 1976 but despite this setback, ten years later they extended the shop, still opposite the Green, in the building now occupied partly by the vets. Sales and repairs remained the main business but the brothers diversified, buying a local video library and moving that into the premises. This was followed by opening shops in Witney and Chipping Norton. The changing nature of the electronics industry led to a decision to convert the Milton shop in 2004, and as the lease on the Chippy shop ran out, to focus on Witney. The Milton shop was divided into five units, all serving the community, a feature that would certainly have met with Wally and Ted’s approval.
The new electronics industry, built around such giants as Comet and Currys, has certainly changed the scene for small retailers like Rawlins. There used to be eight shops like theirs in Witney but they are the only survivors. David and Peter continue to relish the trade with its ever-changing technology and, when asked why he thought the business continued to thrive, Peter responded,
“I believe it’s because we provide good advice, good products and very good service.”
From bike and car repairs to high-level electronics, from Milton to Witney, Rawlins lives on to provide an excellent service for its many customers.

Bob Forster

February – March 2017