Beds, Herts & Bucks

WJ Jago jewellers in St Albans closes after hundreds of years

Crowd outside W J Jago Image copyright Contributed
Image caption Keith Chard said he had been at the St Albans shop for 43 years

A jewellery shop in Hertfordshire has closed its doors after hundreds of years in business.

It is uncertain exactly when WJ Jago opened in St Albans, but it sold a mourning ring to Captain James Cook's widow after his death in 1779.

Current owner Keith Chard, 67, retired after 43 years at the shop on Market Place.

"I think it's time I had a rest or they'll carry me out of here in a box," Mr Chard said.

Image caption W. J. Jago has closed its doors after hundreds of years in business
Image copyright Contributed
Image caption The jewellers sold a mourning ring to Captain Cook's widow following his death in 1779

The shop had been in the Jago family until 1971 when it was sold to Mr Chard. Its history includes the sale of a mourning ring to the widow of explorer Captain Cook.

"The business goes back 300 years. Fortunately, I wasn't here that long ago," Mr Chard said.

He said a customer had sent him a postcard containing information about the mourning ring, which is currently in the state library of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.

It is contained in a box marked, "WJ Jago, Silversmith, Holywell Hill, St Albans".

It had been purchased by Captain Cook's widow, Elizabeth, following his death in 1779 in Hawaii in a fight with natives during his third exploratory voyage in the Pacific.

Image copyright Contributed
Image caption Keith Chard bought W. J. Jago in 1971

Mr Chard said: "Nothing is documented about Jago's before that, but it may be even older."

The shop had previously been located in Holywell Hill prior to moving to Market Place.

"I thoroughly enjoyed my time here," said Mr Chard. "I have enjoyed meeting the customers and building up friendships."

Update August 2016: WJ Jago reopened with new owners in July 2015, trading under the same name.