Littlehampton’s forgotten gentleman businessman

Littlehampton has been home to some fascinating characters over the past 150 years, from pioneering businessmen to family friendly entertainers, and all have helped make the town what it is today.

Howard Ockenden
Howard Ockenden

Born in 1880, Howard Ockenden was part of the well known local family who, in the early 19th century, founded the beginnings of a business which would make them a memorable Littlehampton name for the next 200 years.

It was a William Ockenden who came to Littlehampton in 1802 and set up as a blacksmith in the High Street, and from there the business grew so much that by the time Howard was born, Ockenden Bros had two stores in the High Street, and premises at Ferry Wharf, from which the world-renowned firm of Duke and Ockenden (DANDO) was born.

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After leaving school at 15, Howard Ockenden went to work with his father, Sargent Ockenden, in one of the High Street stores. He worked from 7.15am until 8pm and earned 2/6d a week. He later recalled that ‘in those days the juniors swept out the shop, cleaned the windows, shared the delivery and assisted in the office’. At this time, the company were also cycle agents and Howard was responsible for giving bicycle riding lessons to their customers.

Upon reaching the age of 18, Howard left Littlehampton and went to gain experience from a firm of ironmongers in London. However, he soon returned and by 1900 he was managing the company.

Howard was known as a gentleman businessman and, like his father and other leading businessmen of the time, he was heavily involved in the civic life of Littlehampton. In 1946 he was elected to Littlehampton Urban District Council, where he served for nine years before becoming chairman of the council in 1952.

He was also attached to the Harbour Board, the Hospital Management Committee, was chairman of the ‘Rustington Old People’s Home’ and a director of the Steyning and Littlehampton Building Society. Howard also took a keen interest in sailing and was the director of the Littlehampton Sailing and Motor Club for many years. He was still taking an active part in the club’s activities well into his seventies, even being capsized in a boat when he was 76!

Howard Ockenden passed away in 1965.

For more information please contact Littlehampton Museum on 01903 738100 or at [email protected]