Harry Gordon Selfridge was a rich man at the age of 47. He had just sold his retail business in Chicago and could have retired. Instead he moved his family, including his mother, to London to build Selfridges Department Store in London's Oxford Street. It opened in 1909 and was an immediate success. During World War One, through fear of bombing raids by German Zeppelin airships, he rented a property in Highcliffe Dorset and evacuated his family to safety. He liked the area so much that he had planned to build his own property in the area. That plan never got past the drawing board.
In the photograph below you can see Mr Harry Gordon Selfridge's grave stone on the right. The sarcophagus at the back on the left is his mothers, Lois Selfridge. Next to that is the ornate grave stone of Harry's wife Rose Selfridge.
When I die I want it said of me, "He dignified and ennobled commerce". Harry Gordon Selfridge (1856 - 1947)
The forgotten graves of the once millionaire Mr Harry Gordon Selfridge and his family
Harry died aged 91 in bed in his small apartment in Putney in West London. He does not have an expensive gravestone like his mother and wife because he had spent all his money on women, gambling and high living by his mid 80's. He incurred lots of debts and was forced to resign from the board of Selfridges department store. His "estate" did not have enough money to pay for the gravestone. His family had to cover the cost. It is a shame he died poor. He had lived an amazing influential life that had effected millions of people, but there again he did enjoy spending his money. You cannot take your money with you when you die. He just spent it too quickly.
The grave of Harry Gordon Selfridge founder of Selfridges Department Store, London
The tombstone below reads "Sacred to the memory of ROSE. Dearly beloved wife of H Gordon Selfridge, who died May 12th 1918". Rose died too early. The "Spanish Flu" epidemic that swept Europe in 1918 killed more people than all the soldiers that died in World War one. Rose was unlucky to be one of those statistics. She was a clever business woman, dealing in property development, before she married Harry Selfridge. They both had that entrepreneurial spirit.
Rose Selfridge wife of Harry Gordon Selfridge's tombstone died 1918
Lois Selfridge's sarcophagus is next to her daughter in-law's grave in St Marks Parish Church, Highcliffe, Dorset. The photograph below is of the wording on the top of the sarcophagus lid. She was the retail tycoon Harry Gordon Selfridge's mother. After the American Civil War she believed herself a widow. Her husband Lt Col Selfridge did not return from the war. She was now a single parent mother who had to raise three boys. She became a teacher to bring in some money. Two of her boys died through sickness leaving only Harry to look after. They were always very close. She went with him to London and died 25th February 1924. Seven years after the end of the American Civil War and whilst grieving for the lost of her two sons, she received notification that her husband had just died in a train crash in St Louis not on the battlefield. Poor woman. At least Harry did not disappoint her.
Lois Frances Selfridge mother of Harry Gordon Selfridge's grave died 25th February 1924