Harriet Samuel was born Harriet Wolf in London on 8th March 1836, the daughter of Schreiner Wolf of Great Yarmouth and his wife Matilda. The family moved to Liverpool and she and her two sisters married three brothers, the sons of Moses Samuel, a noted Hebrew scholar who had a jewellery and clockmaking business in Liverpool.
When her husband, Walter Samuel, died in 1863 she was left a widowed mother of four young children, a fifth being born soon after her husband’s death. Notwithstanding the hammer-blow of her loss, she took over her father-in-law’s business in Paradise Street and proceeded to forge a major concern in the almost exclusively male world of jewellery.
Soon after taking the reins she moved the business to Manchester, her son Edgar managing the retail side while she developed the mail order operation. Trading now as H. Samuel, their first shop was opened in Preston in 1890 and the company went from strength to strength. Harriet died on February 6th 1908, aged 71, her achievement in establishing such a thriving enterprise at a time when women were almost unknown in business circles was exceptional. She was buried at Willesden Jewish Cemetery.
After her death her son continued to grow the business. By 1914 it boasted 50 shops and it eventually came to dominate the UK’s high street jewellery trade. The company was bought by Ratner’s in 1976 and when it was rebranded as the Signet Group existing Ratner’s stores were rebranded with the H. Samuel name.
While in Liverpool Harriet Samuel lived at 20 Paradise Street L1 (1861 census) and 93 Church Street L1 (1871 census). Neither house remains.
One of the early H Samuel shops
Harriet Samuel's grave, which dominates the Willesden Jewish Cemetery.
© Liverpool Footprints