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Our Heritage

A history of progress

William Henry Bale was born in Barnstaple, Devon in 1883. He came to Reading in 1903 with the London and South Western Railway Company. In 1919, he set up his own business, using his wife’s savings, as a newsagent and tobacconist at 53 Wokingham Road, Reading (a property still in the our ownership today). He expanded the business throughout Southern England, retailing and wholesaling tobacco and confectionery products.

Shirwell Limited was formed from W H Bale & Sons Ltd in 1961 when it acquired the warehouses, shops and other properties owned by the wholesale businesses. Shirwell has refurbished and redeveloped much of the property estate, including a number of listed buildings, through the subsequent years. In 2004, Shirwell has completed the redevelopment of Home Court, the former Reading head quarters of the old tobacco company at London Street, Reading.

William Henry Bale became Mayor of Reading in 1936 and was, for many years, very active in civic responsibilities. In 1953, William Henry presented the official chain worn by the Mayor today. He was also given the Freedom of the Borough of Reading.

Shirwell remains a local private business now run by William Henry’s eldest great grandson.