Bygone Businesses

As shops gear up to hopefully, re-open on the 12th April we can look back at those we remember from days gone by. With this in mind, we must all make an effort to support our local businesses.

Tameside Local Studies & Archive Centre have a huge selection of old photographs available online of shops, pubs and businesses of the area you can also find many books about the local area including shops and pubs.

Many businesses that are no longer with us include Woolworths that began in 1909 by an American Frank Winfield Woolworth, with the first shop in the UK opening in Liverpool. They began selling children’s clothes, stationery and toys. By 2008, there were 807 shops across the UK. Unfortunately, they went into administration that year and by January 2009, all the shops were closed. They have however developed an online business that includes their ‘Ladybird’ label, which has become Britain’s third largest children’s clothing brand, now owned by The Very Group. 

Fine Fare was a chain of supermarkets founded in 1951 in Welwyn Garden City. By 1962 they had 200 shops and valued at £200million in 1972. They were the first supermarket to start selling organic food in 1983. The company was sold in 1986 and became known as Gateway, then the Co-op in 2008.

Hogg Robinson began as an insurance company, by two bothers-in-law, venturing into travel after the Second World War. By 1984, the company was the fourth largest travel agency in the UK. In 1993, they sold out to Airtours, known as Going Places, before American Express bought the company for £410million in 2018.

You can find a very interesting article on the history of shopping in Ashton on the Tameside Sense of Place page 

Each town had its own bustling High Street, where many local shops were family owned. Some local names on Stamford Street, Ashton were Walton’s, which began as a paper merchant’s as far back as 1851, with William Walton taking over in 1873. He lived on the premises with his wife Sarah and seven children. Leigh and Arden’s was another early family business dating back to 1838, as a drapery shop. Across the road from them were William Gibson, glass and china dealer, Charles Donovan McCraven, dry cleaners and Stead and Simpson, boot and shoe warehouse. 

On the Tameside WordPress site, mentioned above, you can also read about Kenworthy Jewellers of Ashton and Stalybridge. I am sure you can think of many shops that you frequented in the past that bring back memories. 

Other towns also had well established businesses like George Dean in Stalybridge, Mertons Jewellers at the Market Place in Hyde and the popular Thackeray’s book shop based in Denton!

Public Houses 

With the demise of so many public houses, it is with interest that we see some of them put to new use, while others have been demolished and houses built on the land. Some of the more interesting changes to local pubs have been the Wellington in Waterloo, Ashton that is now a Tesco Express, The Hare and Hounds in Stalybridge is an art gallery, The Junction Inn, Hyde is an office and the Lamb Inn, Dukinfield is now a nursery school. 

The public house has been the centre of socialising for hundreds of years. In the early nineteenth century, people could sell ale from their own houses. By the 1860’s, the beer licensing laws were introduced to slow the speed of which public houses were springing up everywhere. 

By the time of the Second World War, women frequented the pub environment more often, with the snug a welcoming place to meet up with friends. More recently, the smoking ban and the continual tax on alcohol has led to an increase in closures.  

Some great publications can be loaned or purchased from your local library, about the history of pubs in the various towns of Tameside. They list the landlords and a brief history of each pub. 

Jill Morris