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History of Miles Market

Miles Market Rose Logo

In a great many ways a human lifetime is a very perceptive measure of the quality and the meaning of history. The founder of the business was born eight years before the Battle of Waterloo was fought. It was this great victory that was celebrated when the house was built and named Waterloo. So in the first generation the “Waterloo” property began to be bought by investment in shares, and that was back in 1842 when William John Cox established himself in a general provisions business in Hamilton.

William J. Cox entered into one of the most lucrative businesses of the day – contracting the meat supply for the British Army and the Royal Navy in Bermuda. Mr. Somers Tucker, a competitor in the business operating his share of the meat business at “Waterloo”, eventually partnered. William J. Cox became the active partner and “Waterloo” property became the site of the cattle pen and abattoir. The Queen Street site was used to market the products.

In 1867 William J. Cox died, leaving Harley Trott, the first employee and equal partner of Cox & Trott, and Mr. Cox’s eldest son, William, the business; consequently the firm’s name changed to Trott & Cox. With the advent of steamships in the 1880’s, the partners secured several steamers providing regular and reliable service; however they could not retain the steamship agency and continue to be competitors of other importers. They disposed of their commodity business interests to their three senior clerks, J.S. Pearman, J.C. Watlington, and H.J. Cox, the younger son of the founder. Pearman Watlington & Co, the “x” intentionally left off, was born. The partnership managed the meat contracting business as well as a steamship ferry service between Hamilton and Dockyard. They built an ice manufacturing plant and provided refrigeration, known as Hygeia Ice Company making a tremendous difference in handling.

Thomas Miles and his wife Sarah came to Bermuda from England in the mid 1800’s. Miles was actually her maiden name, which her husband adopted when they married, not unheard of in England in those days. Whatever the reason, both parties seemed quite happy with the arrangement and Bermuda would not have a market named Miles if they had decided otherwise. Mr. Miles opened a meat market in the old City Hall, which he later moved to Burnaby and Front Streets. The livestock stalls and slaughterhouse were on his property in Spanish Point. In 1879 he erected the building opposite No. 1 Shed, which to this day, displays “Thomas Miles” on its gable. Thomas Miles died at 87 leaving his business to his partner and son in law, Mr. G. A. Newton Spurling who successfully operated it until 1929 when he negotiated the sale of the market and premises to the present owners Pearman Watlington and Co.

In 1917, John William Cox, the son of Henry J. Cox and third generation, began working in the business and took over the firm’s management in 1924. After acquiring Bermuda Green Vegetables Growers Association’s stock of groceries, the meat and grocery business was consolidated in the Miles Market building on Front Street. Miles moved to Pitts Bay Road in 1958 after 90 years on Front Street. Henry C.D. Cox and Michael J. Cox, sons of Sir John, began working at Pearman Watlington and Company when there were only horses and wagons, delivery bikes (the spitfires of Hamilton business) and ice boxes in the home. The old Miles housed six wagons and stabled eight to ten horses; next-door Bermuda’s very first 100 lb blocks of ice were manufactured in the island’s revolutionary ammonia plant. At five o’clock in the morning the wagons embarked on their journey, delivering block ice to customers’ homes, this early start was especially important in the hot summers. On Valentine’s Day, almost a hundred years ago, the first delivery of ice went out. When they reached the customer the block was cut to fit in the top compartment of the icebox; however, on that day the ice wasn’t just ice, each block had two red roses, one in each half. Even then Miles had a way of saying they really cared about their customers and that rose is reflected in the company logo today.

The fifth generation continued the service excellence. In 1991, the sons of Henry C.D. Cox, William J. Cox and Richard C.D. Cox became the Chief Executive Officer and President and Vice President respectively. Under Will’s leadership, a new era has been created on The Waterfront at Pitts Bay. Miles Market, Bermuda’s leading, purpose built specialty store was completed in 1998 incorporated into the new Waterfront complex. There is one indisputable fact that ought to be set down – it has taken five generations to create what is Miles Market.

Click here to read a selection of The Pipe and Pen journal articles written by Harry Cox.

Old Miles Market Photograph

"And that, of course, is the secret of why so many people go to Miles every day. Miles makes shopping the greatest reward." - Harry C. D. Cox

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