Businesswoman who launched popular St Ives shop has died

Gilly and Mike Harford from St Ives.

Gilly and Mike Harford from St Ives. - Credit: HUNTS POST

Former St Ives businesswoman Gilly Harford - who launched the popular Jackdaw boutique in the town - has died at the age of 86.

The Jackdaw attracted customers from across the region because its range of clothing and accessories which were at the forefront of contemporary trends.

Her original shop, opposite the Bridge Street junction,  started in the 1970s but was destroyed in a major fire which wrecked buildings in the town centre. She then moved to a new outlet on nearby Market Hill.

The site of the shop was subsequently cleared, leaving a gap which was redeveloped and became a branch of Woolworths, but it retained a large cross design on the front, replicating the the original building.

Gilly was married to Mike Harford, also a St Ives businessman, who became a local county councillor and was a leading member of the local Conservative Party when former Prime Minister Sir John Major was MP.

Mr Harford said: "She had a natural talent for colour and design. Gilly was well-known to a lot of people and her customers came from far and wide.

"Gilly and I were in business together and then she started the Jackdaw which attracted a lot of people because of its then trendy clothing and gifts.

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"After the fire the whole building came down and she had to relocate to the market square."

Mr Harford, who ran Micol, a St Ives cosmetics business, said his wife had  very good eye for fashionable products which made the shop a draw and she was very well-known to her customers.

"She often used to give her customers advice on whether something suited them or not and was respected because of that," Mr Harford said.

He said that after retirement Gilly had been able to devote more time to her hobby of knitting and that some of her work had been featured in knitting magazines.

Mr Harford said his wife, who died unexpectedly, had also enjoyed dog walking.

The couple had a son, Mark, and four grandchildren.

Gilly's funeral will take place at Cambridge Crematorium on December 9, starting at 11.30am, with family flowers only, but donations in her memory can be made to the Wood Green Animal Shelter and EACH (East Anglia's Children's Hospices).