1944 – 2014
It was a sad day for many people in Warrington when second-generation owner of The Waysiders on Horsemarket Street, Martin Hales, announced his retirement. The business had been part of the Warrington shopping scene for 70 years.
“It was a tough decision and I am sure I will shed a few tears when we close for the last time,” said Martin.
“There have been a lot of changes in Warrington and a lot not for the better. People no longer want quality goods as we now live in a throwaway culture – and I am not prepared to go down that route.”
Martin joined the family business in his late teens, at a time when he excelled at tennis, turning down the chance of a professional career after competing at Junior Wimbledon. But I have many happy memories and wouldn’t change anything,” he says.
The Waysiders original locations on Market Place in Golden Square. The Co-op bank and travel shop now occupies the site on the corner of Lyme Street shown in the photo above. The second photo (below) shows a close-up of the bottom end of the street in the first photo.
The Waysiders began in 1944 when John Hales came out of the army and set up the business on 30 shillings a week, assisted by his mother, Mrs M. W Hales.
John travelled down to The Potteries to purchase stock, which, in the early days, he displayed on orange boxes. As he sold the stock he went back to The Potteries to buy more and slowly built up the business.
At the end of World War II in 1945, the town, like the rest of the country, settled down to a new era of peace, but that did not bring an end to all the problems.
There were still GIs stationed at Burtonwood and occasionally there were incidents in hostelries in the town centre, resulting in the white-capped Military Police being active to keep the peace.
The company specialised in china and glassware, fancy goods, wall ornaments, figurines etc, all of which found a ready market among the gift buyers both locally (who had been starved of these luxuries during the war years) and the Americans who wanted something to send home to “Maw”.
By 1956 the business had become so successful that further developments were planned and younger brother, Anthony, entered the scene to take charge of another branch in Market Place specialising in wool, woollies and knitting patterns, etc.
Later on John Hales started to deal with some of the bigger manufacturers like Wedgwood, Doulton, Aynsley, Paragon, quite a lot of which have now ceased trading.
Above and below: views of the Horsemarket Street shop from the 1970s
On the Move
In 1969 the original Waysiders took over the premises next door which had been occupied by a chicken barbecue and in July 1970, the wool shop added the Readicut Wool shop, opposite the Barley Mow at the entrance to the Market, to its list of assets.
The growth of the business, together with the cramped conditions in this old part of town, parts of which go back centuries, and the uncertainty of the future in light of the development of Warrington New Town, made Waysiders’ owners uneasy and, being progressive if nothing else, when the Timothy White shop at 34 Horsemarket Street came on the market, they quickly began negotiations.
The result of this forward thinking was the opening on Tuesday 18 May 1971 of the new Waysiders where, under one roof, (or two floors) are combined the gifts, fancy goods and wool trade.
At their best The Waysiders employed nearly 20 people over the three shops in Golden Square and when they moved to Horsemarket Street there were about the same number of people working for the company.
The Timothy Whites nameplate, still in situ on the building
The move to the new premises on Horsemarket Street in 1971 meant that the Waysiders would be able to carry even bigger stocks (and they have always carried a comprehensive range) and so provided an even greater service to the people of Warrington and district.
The wholesale and contract side of the Waysiders was carried out in the new premises in Horsemarket Street.
The company used to supply all the schools in Cheshire, Merseyside, Lancashire and on The Wirral with all their home economic equipment, working alongside Harts in the market (who have also gone now, of course), who did the fabric side of the contract, which both companies had for quite some time.
On the ground floor of the new shop were knitting and rug wools by such well-known makers as Patons and Baldwins, Wendy Wools, Sirdar, Emu, Listers, Penelope, etc, latest knitting patterns, embroidery, tapestries and handicraft materials for lamp-shade making, basketry and marquetry.
The Waysiders were the sole local distributor for many leading manufacturers of wools, pottery and woollens. The wool section closed in 1987.
There was also a unique selection of fancy goods, giftware, light fittings, shades and table lamps. On the upper floor was a wide choice of dinner, tea and glassware, cutlery, oven-to-table ware and continental cookware. Chinaware on sale included pieces and sets by Wedgwood, Royal Doulton, Minton, Denby, Hornsea, Webb Corbett, Hummell Spode, Whitefriars and Ringway.
The Final Word
In an interview with Gary Skentlebery at Warrington-Worldwide, Martin expressed his concerns about the modern culture and attitudes to trading in the town.
As well as a change in people’s shopping habits, Martin said that out of town shopping areas like Gemini had impacted heavily on town centre trade.
“If the council looked at cheaper rent and rates there would still be the opportunity for private individuals to give it a go,” he added.
Many customers expressed sadness at the closure of the business – one customer originally came in as a baby with her mother and revisited 30 years later with her own family.
So where did the name of The Waysiders come from? Martin tells me his father was looking for a name and his grandfather said, “Well, you’re a bit by the wayside”, so The Waysiders became the name. A name that now becomes part of Warrington’s history.
The shop closed on Wednesday, 30 April 2014. The premises on Horsemarket Street are set to become the new home for town centre Italian Restaurant Café Caruso, which is relocating from Time Square in the summer of 2014.
See the video interview at Warrington-Worldwide.
The shop in the final month of trading, April 2014
A big thank you to Martin Hales for his assistance and permission to include the company history on the mywarrington website.
I wish you a long and happy retirement.
- If you have memories of either working or shopping at any of the stores, then get in touch and I will be delighted to add your stories to the Memories section of the mywarrington website.