Shopping Memories

Tom Bowes Trousers Down Again!

By Eric Caddy, USA

Warrington was always a good shopping town. Everyone, I think, will have heard of the old Warrington Market. Before it was taken over by the fabric industry and eventually transferred to new premises, it was the quintessential one-stop shopping place for crockery, shoes, candles, lamps and hosiery.

Apart from the market there were several little shops that were Warrington landmarks. White’s and Ward’s were the two main sporting goods shops and the large Ward’s store across from the old Royal Court Theatre on Rylands Street always had the finest selection of fireworks in town. Syd Ellison’s bike shop in Buttermarket Street started out just with cycling items, but became the centre of the plastic model craze.

My favourite, though, was the gentlemen’s outfitters, Tom Bowes. He had several outlets around town, selling the cheaper end suits and shirts. He was a great salesman and I always remember the sign he used when he ran his sales, “Big Sale – Tom Bowes Trousers Down Again!!!”

During the forties and fifties, the major department stores, especially in Manchester and Liverpool, were exactly like the set of Are You Being Served [a BBC sitcom which ran from 1972 to 1985]. The only one like that in Warrington was the Co-op. It was complete with liveried staff, all toting ‘order books’. The payment and change system was an overhead conglomeration of canisters hooked to wires carrying the payments and change to and fro across the ceiling like a scene from Crouching Dragon….

Currys and Halfords were always there and maybe still are today [yes they are, but on JunctionNINE Retail Park on Hawley’s Lane near Dallam]. Boots The Chemist used to be located at Market Gate, right on the old traffic roundabout [‘Skittles’ today]. It then moved onto Bridge Street [McDonald’s now, then

across the road to the Howard Building, and now in Golden Square shopping centre, where it now stands on its own corner once more].

There were very few private cars in the fifties, especially among the teenagers; everyone used the buses. Every person making a date would say the same thing, “All right then, I’ll meet you at Boots at seven o’clock’. On any given night you could see up to a dozen nervous guys, in their Sunday best outside Boots, hopping from one foot to the other, as they desperately hoped that their date would show. You could actually feel the pity flow through the group for guys who eventually, dejectedly, gave up and slunk away to catch a bus home.

Another Warrington icon was Harwood’s Fruit Market, a large store on Horsemarket Street, directly across from Scotland Road. It was double-fronted with two large plate glass windows, but from 1940 to 1950 those two windows were just two blank, vacant eyes staring out into empty space. They had nothing to sell; the rows of shelves inside the store were also barren. It was much the same with every storefront in town during those years. But from time to time, a rumour would spread like wildfire, “Harwoods have got oranges, Harwoods have got oranges….”. It took a while for the word to get out to Woolston, but as soon as it did, we were off into town. Mom and I would walk down Scotland Road and then see the long line, four deep, stretching from the orange crate on a tall stool at the front door, all the way down Horsemarket Street. Nevertheless, we would tag on the end and wait. It was a sickening feeling, when an hour later, word started filtering down the line, “They’ve all gone…” ‘They’ve all gone….” No complaints, the line just broke up with a collective shake of the head and a shrug of the shoulders. No riots, no fights, no cussin’. At least, the fish market is still there, thank god.

Tom Bowes for Walking Day

By Brian Hartley

I remember going to Tom Bowes every year for a sports jacket for casual wear at Walking Day with my mum and little brother

When you bought your jacket you were given a round metal badge with a picture of a jewel on it to clip onto your lapel.

Winwick Road Co-op

By Brian Hartley

I used to work at the Warrington Co-op offices on Winwick Road from 1964 to 1966 in the hire purchase and accounts section. One of my jobs was to pay out the dividend every quarter at the old school building in Cairo Street that was set back from the road.

I also had to sort out the returned milk tokens from the milkmen on a Monday morning in a machine that sorted them and bagged them ready for redistribution to the co-op shops in the Warrington area.

Bradley’s Outfitters Shop

By Pamela Hughes

My father Ernest Stuart Hicks was born in 1900. He told us the story of how, as a child, he attended the church school in Church Street, and one day the news was circulated that Bradley’s outfitters shop in Bridge Street was giving away rulers to any one who could recite a poem. Of course my father soon learned the lines and told them to my brother and I. They were:

Fear not, fear not, my darling wife
For Bradley’s shirts have saved my life,
It did not shrink or let me down,
Although it costs but half a crown.

He said that there was a long queue of boys waiting in the queue to recite the poem. I wonder if anyone else remembers it. I can still remember Bradley’s.

Kathy Barker’s Shopping Memories

Horsemarket Street

BARLOWS animal & pet feeds
RIDINGS was it TV’s or furniture?
LIPTONS Did you do your weekly shop here? I am informed they have also been in Bridge Street/Friars Gate and Buttermarket Street (Gordon)
HARWOODS MARKET for fruit & veg
MILLINGS bacon and cooked meats.

Bridge Street

BOOTS at Market Gate
WOODHOUSES furniture, again at Market gate
HALFORDS got my first bike from here
and opposite was a RECORD SHOP THE place to go, stand in a cubicle with headphones on and listen to your favourite record.
THE WIMPEY BAR stayed open late, great for
late night revellers.

Buttermarket Street

TESCO next to the Gas showrooms
cycle shop
art and craft 
shop (closed down 17 May 2014)

Sankey Street

TRU FORM  shoes
RATTIGANS stationers
H.SAMUELS  jewellers
LITTLE MISS (or was it JUNIOR MISS) teenage section of the CO-OP?

Actually, it was called GAY MISS, and as Derek says who gave me the info “Not a title any shop would use today (or would they!”) They probably would! It was situated on the corner of King Street.

Thanks, Derek.

Kathy Continues…

Does anyone remember the little TOY SHOP at the end of the passageway leading into the old general market? I used to buy my yo-yo’s and hula hoops from there. Also, for a time I worked in the ARMY & NAVY shop that was alongside the fish market. I remember when we were selling black and white polo neck sweaters in the 60’s and advertising them as “BEETLE” sweaters.

On the corner of Owen St and Winwick Road, was a small general shop where I first tasted KUNZEL CAKES…remember them??

Who remembers WARDS, the large sportswear shop in Rylands Street? If I remember correctly they also stocked school uniforms.

On the corner of Longford St and Winwick Road, there used to be CARNEY’S, a lovely big fruit and veg shop, and across the road was a little Post Office…both long gone. Also on Winwick Road was a shop called DOLLY BERRY’S…she sold everything from ornaments to hair ribbons etc and a couple of doors down from her was a fabulous PIE SHOP. The girls who worked in McArthur Beattie’s shirt works, used to pile in there for their dinners everyday, ME included.

Also, JOE’S CAFE in Legh Street. It was the place to pop into after having been swimming in the baths just around the corner.

Peter Spilsbury’s Shopping Memories

At the bottom end of Bridge Street  the last few shops jut out from the rest. The corner one was Crabtrees Cycles, somewhere in the middle was the Coronet Café and the Packet house on the other corner.

A little further up on the same side at No.111 was Bob Garner’s photographic shop. Bob was a true enthusiastic photographer and willingly gave advice to anyone that listened, often suggesting ways round problems without having a sale.

His shop was taken over by Wildings Photographic who later moved to Buttermarket Street before going to Golden Square. A little further up the street on the same side was Levi Richardson’s music shop. They sold sheet music, musical instruments and 78 rpm records, mainly of classical music. About the time that 45 rpm records came into popular use the shop closed.

Hill Smiths chemist was nearby. They moved to Winwick Street near the cycle shop, just past Foundry Street.

Joyce Gandy’s (my mum) Shopping Memories

Bridge Street

GREENWOODS outfitters
DONVILLE’S gun shop (where the Christian
bookshop was later)
BOARDMAN’S furniture, corner Academy Street
WOODHOUSE furniture
WATERWORTH’S clothing – POSH! Next to The Dive/The Lamb. £80 for a jacket  (1950s)
CARTER’S café, same row as McDonalds today

Market Gate

WOODHOUSE furniture
MILLINGS grocers

Horsemarket Street

TOM BOWES clothing, Cockhedge entrance section today
GRIFFIN dentist, known as ‘the Butcher’, same block also a tobacconist
RATTIGANS stationers

Friar’s Gate

BRADLEY’S tailors. mum tells the story of how dad (who is colour blind) said he had seen this brown velvet jacket in there and it would look nice on her. She went there and got the shock of her life: it was pillar box red!

Frank Craven’s Fruit & Veg Cart

I wonder how many would remember Frank Craven (now deceased) selling fruit and veg from his lovely cart round the streets of Howley, Manchester Rd, Dalton Bank, Dallam and Bewsey. I think he even went as far afield as Sankey. The horse knew each house to stop at! Frank always said it was better than a van as it walked on to command to the next house, and didn’t need starting up and stopping constantly like a van would. They had been well trained by the co-op milk men. After Bobby the oldest horse was retired he lived on a farm in Mill Lane Winwick for many years.

Following on from this, I have received this wonderful memory from John Blease.

I used to work for Frank Craven on Saturdays going round Orford/Poplars Avenue/Northway areas. Also used to “muck out” the horses (he had two, Bobby and Tommy) at Jockey Street, behind Nellie Gambols shop in Jockey Street. His brother, Albert, also had a fruit and veg round. Franks wife, Joan, is still alive. Not sure about Bobby (the horse) being retired to Mill Lane at Winwick. I do remember that the horses were turned out at Mill Lane on Summer weekends.

I Vaguely remember a lad called Georgie who helped Frank take the horses to Mill Lane. I helped Frank construct a shelter on a field just off the A57 at Hollins Green, where one of the horses was retired. The roof of the shelter was made from the roof of the cart that the horse pulled. The field was owned (I think) by an ex German prisoner of war, who Frank called Fritz. Frank used to get his potatoes from here. Cannot remember if it was Tommy or Bobby who was retired to this field. I do remember that one of the horses died in the stables in Jockey Street. I think this was Tommy.

At some point, probably about 1966, Albert retired due to ill health. Soon after this, Frank retired the remaining horse and replaced it with a Bedford panel van, with the sides of the van cut out to provide a “counter” for displaying his wares. Frank was a real character. One saying he often used to kids who hung around cart was “what do you want?” When he reply came back “nothing” His response was “well, you’re soon served then”.

Thanks, John, for your memories.

Bailey Isaac’s Pie Shop

I remember the pie shop that used to be on Lythgoes Lane near the boys club. You had to go in the kitchen itself to buy them and you could see them baking. They were very nice pies too! David.

Norman Hadland adds: It was in fact ‘BAILEY-ISAAC’S PERFECT PIES. There was no shop, just a hatch in the wall where you could by pies which were not perfect at a reduced price. The imperfections were in shape rather than substance, but they were still delicious. In 1938/39 one of my older brothers used to deliver milk, carried on his bike handle bars in cans, to the bakery.

The bakery ladies would empty the milk and return the cans to him with a free imperfect pie or two inside. My brother, Sid, had a job before going to school  in the mornings with a lady named Mrs. Wells. She ran, what was even then, an old fashioned dairy retail dairy business in Dudley Street or Forster Street.

Addition from me: I seem to remember the bakery supplying Dallam cake shop when I was a kid. Also, on an 1844 map of Warrington, Lythgoes Lane was shown as Lygoes Lane and Pinners Brow round the corner was shown as Pinners Street.

Early Closing

Norman Hadfield adds this story which inspired him to write the poem featured here.

As a fourteen year old in 1944 I witnessed an accident in Horsemarket Street, Warrington. 

A United States soldier rode a bicycle from the side street by Millings shop and was run over by a lorry. Although I was later to become familiar with road accidents through my work, this incident has remained in my mind.

I wrote the attached poem about 20 years ago when an American lady suggested I tried writing poetry.

I think this soldiers death was a result of war as he would not have been there if the war had not taken place.

Early Closing

You were drafted
Like the leaves
That autumn early closing day.
Their colour matched
Your uniform.
Whilst champions
Drove liberating tanks
You rode your bike
In unheroic Lancs.
With youthful haste
The unfamiliar sign was past.
The driver’s instant prayer.
A cry for Mom,
But soon the early closing
Calm returns.
And later,
Stinted wartime news
“U.S. Soldier’s accidental death.”
They gave no name.
Even days have names:
“Early Closing”.

Copyright ©
Norman Hadland 1992

Other Shopping Memories

LOWES bookshop/stationers (where I had my first job). next door was GLADYS BERG clothes shop between Lowes and the White Hart. There was also a DOROTHY PERKINS clothes shop, but I can’t remember where. Can you help? They ended up in Golden Square until the holding company went into liquidation in 2021.

ALSO, I had an email in March 2007 from Pat Jones who emigrated to Canada in 1981. Her first job was at LEE & CLARKE on Bridge Street, a shop similar in style to HANCOCK & WOOD, where Pat finished her working years.

Pat adds that Lee & Clarke gave her a ‘wonderful memorable part of her life’, whilst the camaraderie of the staff and support offered by the Hancock family is something she will never forget. She hopes that the girls working there now feel the same way.

Pat describes Warrington as a GEM that just needs polishing up! She has travelled to many places but still feels Warrington comes out at the top of the list of good places to live in.

Thanks for your memories, Pat; it is so nice to hear from Warrington people who have moved on but never forget their hometown.