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The Vokins Store logoVokins Family History

The Vokins family started trading in Brighton in 1882, the business being founded by the current Managing Directors Great Grandfather.

In later years the department store in North Street, Brighton was re-branded and became known as The Vokins Store. Big Brand Beds was the name given to the e-commerce division of vokins@home, which had previously traded at several locations in Sussex as Vokins Linens & Beds Superstores.

William Henry Vokins

Vokins family started trading in Brighton in 1882

Born in Leafield, Oxfordshire in 1861, William Henry Vokins left the family home of 200 years for the bright lights of London.

After working as a shop assistant in Peter Robinsons, the famous London store, William Henry Vokins and his friend William Tobit Leeson moved to Brighton in 1882 and opened a drapery shop at 33 North Street. Trading as Leeson & Vokins.

The move to Brighton came as a result of advice given by his physician that the sea air would be beneficial to his health.

Initially he travelled from Brighton to London several times a week to buy stock from the wholesalers. So impressed was the wholesaler with William that he offered him a line credit which enabled him to buy more stock whilst having to visit London less frequently.



William Henry Vokins continued to trade in Brighton until 1997

The business prospered and expanded, but, in 1925 the partnership was dissolved. William Henry Vokins retained the original premises, which continued to trade in Brighton until 1997. He was still active in the business well into his 80's, working alongside his 2 sons, Howard and Gerald.

Howards two sons, John and Trevor joined the business. John was a merchant specialising in silks and dress fabrics. He went on to open specialist fabric shops in Burgess Hill, Seaford and Worthing. Trevor joined the family having qualified as an accountant.

Geralds son Anthony was yet another merchant and became the Joint Managing Director with Trevor and ultimately the Chief Executive. During there time at the helm, Vokins opened linen and bed specialist branches in Blatchington Road, Hove and Ash Lane, Rustington and a 24,000sq ft bed and furniture store in Sackville Road, Hove. They both worked in the North Street store until its closure in 1997.


vokins@home now trade from Ash Lane, Rustington which opened in 1994.

The branches in Hove and Rustington changed name to vokins@home. Vokins remains independently owned and is an active member of AIS (Associated Independent Stores), the largest independent, non food-buying organisation in the UK. Membership ensures that we can compete with the big high street names, by offering a wide selection of merchandise at the most competitive prices.

Our continued combination of great value and first class service has brought us resounding success along the South Coast.

Through our website we aim to extend our level of service and customer loyalty by offering guidance for new purchases, improved product selection, together with advice on caring for your investment.

Vokins now trade from their showroom at 24 The Martlets, Burgess Hill, West Sussex, RH15 9NN under the name of Big Brand Beds. But don't worry, we still offer the same great service and value.


A little bit more about the business and the Vokins family

Vokins Delivery Service Started with a Horse & Cart

It's must be comforting for our customers to know that we continue to offer the same great service and values that the Vokins business was built on.

I'm not sure what William Henry Vokins would make of Big Brand Beds, but I know he would love the fact the business continues.

Digging through the archives we came across this picture of our delivery service offered in the early 20th century. The picture is pre 1920. We might have struggled to deliver beds, but didn't the driver and mate look smart!

It reminds me of the time the late Anita Roddick (founder of the Body Shop Empire) visited our store in North Street, Brighton. She said that if she had inherited our business she would have turned the clock back and offered the services as we did back in the day. I sometimes wonder whether we missed a trick not taking her advice. 


Fast forward to 1970 and we had ceased using horses! Pictured is one of the Vokins Commer delivery vans parked outside the loading bay in Clarence Yard. It's hard to believe but these vans weren't just used to deliver beds, mattresses and furniture. They were often used to deliver goods on appro to our account customers and even parcels as small as a box of handerchiefs. Dispatch was down in the basement and everything was wrapped in brown paper and tied with string. No tape used. When I first started working in the family busines I was sent to dispatch to be taught to wrap a parcel properly, with no sharp edges!

Vokins Van 1970

Things are very different these days. We deliver to most parts of the UK and in some cases offer a next day service, even up to Scotland. Not bad for a business in Sussex that started with a horse and cart.


Vokins celebrate 125 years trading

The Vokins family have been trading successfully in Sussex since 1882, when my Great Grandfather opened the first shop in Brighton.

Vokins 125 AnniversaryIt is incredible to think that 125 years later, the business and in particular, the Vokins name is still on the high streets of Sussex. For this, we have to thank all of our customers, past and present.

For 15 days we will be promoting a 125 Year Anniversary Sale. Our Design and Marketing team have reworked an original logo and image from 1920, when the store was trading in North Street, Brighton under the name of Leeson & Vokins.

As the promotion of beds, bed frames, folding beds, mattresses, quilts, duvets, pillows and bedding progresses, we will add copies of any advertisements we run to this article. 

We are very proud of our heritage and continue to trade with the same high standards and values that my Great Grandfather, William Henry Vokins demanded during his time at the helm.

Vokins 125 AnniversaryOur suppliers have been extremely good to us and we have some amazing offers on Silentnight beds, Silentnight mattresses, Sleepeezee mattresses, Fogarty hollowfibre quilts and

pillows, Die Zudecke goose down duvets, Dorma quilt covers, Beldorm bedding and much more.

All of the offers are backed with stock, so there is no waiting for your bed or mattress to be ordered. We can deliver your goods locally almost within the week.

All of the offers are available at all of the vokins@home stores, with the exception of cushions, whcih we do not stock in Newhaven.

We look forward to welcoming you to one of our stores soon.

125th Anniversary Sale

Vokins 125 AnniversaryTo celebrate this anniversary we are having a very special 125th Birthday Sale of beds, mattresses, bed linens, quilts, pillows etc, starting on Saturday 10 March for 15 days only.

We have been very fortunate that several of our main suppliers have supported this event with outstanding offers, some of which are listed below.

These will only be available from stock for immediate delivery until SATURDAY 24TH MARCH.


To quote the founder, my Great Grandfather, these not to be repeated offers: 

“……will make this sale the most talked of event in Sussex.” Stephen Vokins

All items are available at all 3 branches except cushions which are not available at Newhaven.

W. H. Vokins Sale 1932

Vokins Sale Letter 1932This is a letter that my Great Grandfather sent out to Vokins customers in October 1932 to promote the 50th anniversary of the business.

We tend to think of direct mail as a relatively new advertising medium, but clearly it was alive and well at Vokins 75 years ago.

However today when vokins@home and Big Brand Beds advertise our beds, mattresses, goose down duvets, pillows and bedding we have full colour printed brochures, which we send to our customers, not beautifully written letters.

October 1932


It is my privilege and pleasure to announce that 1932 marks the 50th anniversary of the foundation of this establishment.

The task of helping to build up this business from one small shop to its present size has been a happy and agreeable one.

I want, personally, to thank customers (old and new) for their support in this enterprise, and for the pleasant business relationship which continues to exist.

To commemorate the “JUBILEE” we are having a very special 50th Birthday Sale commencing Oct 31st, and continuing until November 12th, during which period the bargains offered will include New Seasons & Xmas Goods at reduced prices, together with many exceptional offers which will make this Sale the most talked of event in Sussex .

Yours faithfully

W H Vokins


History of the Vokins Stores Advertising 1880's - 1890's

Over the coming months we’ll be putting together a timeline of adverts used by Vokins.

Originally founded in 1882, the Leeson & Vokins partnership traded from a shop in North Street Brighton, just down from Ship Street. Over the coming years further freehold properties were purchased in Brighton.

The Leeson & Vokins partnership was dissolved in 1924. By the mid 1930’s several of the properties had been knocked together to form one large department store. The trading name W H Vokins Limited was first used in 1937. It remained in use until Vokins Limited as a company became available in 1983.

The North Street store closed in January 1997. David Vokins went on to run the successful furniture centre that the family had opened in 1985 and closed in February 2015. Stephen Vokins took over running the linens and beds stores in Hove and Rustington, which continue to trade today.

We still pride ourselves on our independence, service and expertise. After all, we have a fine tradition to follow.


The first advert / advertorial that we still have record of was one placed in Progress, a monthly magazine announcing the annexation of premises, 32-33 North Street, Brighton opening of new departments and showrooms on the ground floor. This dates back to 1886.

Vokins advert 1886

The first Sale Advert we have dates from May 1894. The strap line is ‘Sale of an Entire Stock of Drapery’. My Great Grandfather William Henry Vokins had purchased the entire stock from the trustees of Henry Sturt to be offered at exceedingly low prices to affect a speedy clearance. The sale started on Wednesday 16th May 1894. The advert states ‘All parcels delivered Free by our new Vans’. I particularly like the line ‘A VISIT OF INSPECTION is most Respectfully Solicited’

Vokins advert 1894

28th June 1895 sees the ‘Great Clearance Sale’ previous to extensive alterations. Once again a polite call to action strap line is included. An Early Call is most Respectfully Solicited

Vokins advert 1895


William Henry Vokins 1882William Henry Vokins honoured with a bus named after him

William Henry Vokins, the founder of our business in 1882 has been recognised for his major contribution to life in Brighton & Hove by having a bus named after him. Brighton & Hove Bus & Coach Company name every new bus they have after a deceased person that has had a significant influence on the local area.

Vokins busHis name appears alongside such greats as Sir Winston Churchill who went to school in Hove, Isambard Kingdom Brunel who also went to school in Hove between 1816 – 1820 and Rudyard Kipling who came to live in Rottingdean in 1897.

The accolade came in December 2016 when the bus company took delivery of a new 808 Mercedes Wright Streetdeck with the registration SK16 GWM.

At just 21 years old, William Henry Vokins moved to Brighton to start a drapery business in North Street. The business thrived and over the years grew to became a much-loved department store, employing 4 generations of the Vokins family.

Retailing has changed dramatically since William Henry Vokins last stepped foot into his store in Brighton in the 1950’s. He set a wonderful foundation for the business, which continues today, trading under the name of Big Brand Beds (From the Vokins Family. Trusted since 1882).

We still offer the great service that Vokins was famous for from our showroom at 24 The Martlets, Burgess Hill, West Sussex, RH15 9NN.