History of Chamberlains 1903-2015
Frank Fewster Chamberlain (pictured left) opens his trading store
Frank Fewster Chamberlain opened his trading store in Riviera, a village north east of Pretoria. The store (pictured right) was located on a stream where ox-wagons trekking to the Lowveld and Mozambique would stop for watering and repairs. Uncle Frank’s shop supplied produce and second-hand building materials to dairy farmers in the Moot valley.
The earliest surviving document of the family business (pictured right)– a receipt for the 1st instalment on the property in Rietfontein, now Riviera, bought by Frank Fewster Chamberlain in December 1903.
The Anglo Boer War and second-hand building materials
After the Anglo Boer War (1899 – 1902) the soldiers’ barracks were demolished and sold piece-meal from Roberts’ Heights (which became Voortrekkerhoogte, now Thaba Tshwane). Frank Fewster Chamberlain would trek up to Roberts’ Heights to bid on the materials – comprising largely nails, timber, doors and glass – and then return to Riviera to sell them. The round trip took a week by ox-wagon. In those days the premises were never locked, and trading was to suit customers.
The title deed of the Rietfontein property (pictured right), signed by the surveyor general of the Transvaal in 1905 – Mr JC Smuts.
Tennis parties at Uncle Frank’s house on Chamberlain Street
Very old residents of Riviera remembered tennis parties at Uncle Frank’s house over the road from his shop on Chamberlain Street before the First World War.
Frank Herbert Chamberlain
in 1926 Frank Fewster’s nephew Frank Herbert Chamberlain (pictured left) arrived from the family farm in England to join his uncle. His duties included cycling through the donkey camp where Pretoria Academic hospital is today to Barclays Bank and the Post Office on Church Square.
The Lean years
Frank Herbert Chamberlain inherited the business when his uncle died. He slowly built up the company during the Great Depression of the 1930’s and the tough years of World War Two.
Integrity, hard work and progress with caution
The South African building industry took off in the 1950’s. Offices and a new shop were built on the Riviera site in 1956 (pictured left), and Frank Herbert Chamberlain created a solid business based on his credo of: integrity, hard work and progress with caution.
(pictured right) - Frank Herbert Chamberlain ,with Elizabeth, Philip and David in the Riviera timber yard
Philip & Dawie Chamberlain
(pictured left) Frank Herbert’s sons, Philip Newton and. Frank David (Dawie) joined the firm after completing their studies. Philip was in charge of finance and administration and Dawie of operations.
(pictured right) The Riviera sales counter in the 1970’s – salesmen in jackets and ties.
Waltloo store opens
(pictured left) Chamberlains had to build their own rail siding at Waltloo because transporting timber from the sawmills by road was illegal
Eager to grow the business, the brothers bought sites in the industrial area of Waltloo. The property now encompasses the truss factory, joinery, hardware store and the bulk timber shed.
Chamberlain roof truss manufacture
The roof truss manufacturing plant was opened on the Waltloo property.
(pictured left) The first roof trusses supplied by Chamberlains - still standing today
Waterkloof Glen store opens
On the 50th anniversary of Frank Herbert’s arrival in South Africa, FH Chamberlain Waterkloof Glen opened in the veld to the east of Pretoria.
(pictured left) The surrounding suburbs were developed during the building boom of the early 1980’s.
(pictured right) - The Chamberlain brothers singing at the 50th anniversary party.
Randburg store opens
The Randburg store opened on 1 September 1984. Two weeks later the prime rate soared to 25% and the South African building industry entered its worst slump in history.
Ready to grow in the New South Africa
Chamberlains weathered the wild economic swings and political unrest of the 1980’s, and welcomed a democratic South Africa – ready to grow.
100 years in business
Chamberlains celebrated it's Centenary with a turn-of-the-century themed staff party and another famous Chamberlain customer braai.
(pictured left) - Philip and David Chamberlain celebrate with Emily Mametje
Centurion store opens – rise of the megastore
Chamberlains opened its first megastore in Centurion, offering an exciting shopping experience.
Chamberlains continues to contribute to the community through its involvement in local charities initiatives as well as sponsorship of events like the famous Chamberlains Capital Classic road race.
(pictured left) - Dawie Chamberlain (Managing Director of Chamberlains) reads to children from the ProLit education project.
(pictured right) - Group sales store manager Sampie Jacobs finishing in true style at the Chamberlains Capital Classic road race.
Montana store opens
Chamberlains opens a megastore to the north of Pretoria
Silver Lakes store opens
The company expanded eastwards and opened a megastore in Silver Lakes, Pretoria.
The fourth generation
The fourth generation of Chamberlains, Anne Chamberlain, Catherine Chamberlain, Gareth Chamberlain and Victoria Chamberlain continue the family traditions.