E J Whitaker and sons

One of the familiar and longstanding firms which disappeared with the redevelopment of central Chatham in the 1970s was EJ Whitaker and sons, the naval, military and civilian tailors and outfitters.

Founded in 1904 by EJ “Ted” Whitaker, its first premises were in Watts Place off the High Street. It moved to a site on the corner of
Military Road and George Street during the First World War.

Whitaker's white painted corner shop is on the extreme right of this picture,
a location now occupied by the Pentagon's entrance on Military Road.

The writing on the photograph is misleading; Chatham High Street is
some distance behind the photographer.

Favoured by soldiers and sailors for its smart “walking out” uniforms, the firm flourished. A Portsmouth branch was opened in 1948.

The Chatham shop became a landmark after its extensive rebuilding during
the 1930s. An additional floor and an art deco facade were added, helping it to dominate the lower and duller buildings around it.

However, with the coming of the Pentagon shopping centre in the early 1970s, Whitaker’s, along with most of the rest of Military Road, had to go. The firm moved to premises in the east end of Chatham High Street in 1972, but did not survive the move for very long.

Whitaker’s shop was no longer in the central position necessary to attract servicemen, whose numbers were in steep decline anyway.

These factors, accentuated by health problems suffered by Gordon Whitaker, led to the firm finally winding up in the summer of 1973.