Whites Sports Shop

1901 – 1914

After 113 years of trading in Warrington town centre, both from Sankey Street and Warrington Market, Whites Sports is blowing the full-time whistle. They closed the shop on Warrington Market, but will continue trading online.

Mr J. E. White in 1900

Mr J.E. White established the shop at 22 Sankey Street in April 1901, and it was officially opened by Warrington Rugby League Football Club’s top try-scorer of the time, Jack Fish.

For the past 113 years, four generations of the White family have owned and run the shop along with sponsoring many local cricket, snooker, darts, football and rugby competitions and community events.

Susan White, the owner in 2014, said: “It’s now time for me to retire and spend more quality time with my family and friends.

“I’m looking forward to getting out in my garden this summer and being able to have time off to hopefully watch Warrington Wolves win the Challenge Cup and Grand Final.”

The promo for the Heritage Wall during the final weeks of the shop in the market.

Susan said it hadn’t been an easy decision to call it a day, but it has become increasingly difficult to compete with website-based shops and the out-of-town multiples.

“One hundred and thirteen years is quite an achievement to sustain any family business and on behalf of all the White family I’d like to say a huge thank you to all our past and present customers, staff and fellow traders that have been loyal and good friends to Whites Sports Shop over the years.”

Adam White, Susan’s youngest son added: “We may be leaving the town centre, but will still be trading and sharing our 113-year heritage online at www.whitessports.com“.

The website will allow customers to continue to purchase their favourite flags, darts, bowls and snooker accessories from Whites Sports.

A poster with a play on words about Jack’s place in the Warrington rugby league team. Read his profile in Warrington Wolves

Here are some of the company records.

Left to Right: Tenancy Agreement £65 per annum (1904), original telephone agreement (1908), a receipt from 1945 and a certificate of Incorporation (1955).

Left to Right: company vehicle insurance for 1960 Ford Thames £19 .3. 6d. (1961), company vehicle insurance for 1965 Morris £27 .13. 9d. (1966), letter from the bank (1967) and document for the Knutsford branch (1977).

Here we see a share certificate surrendered in 1965 (first image). The owner lived in Scarborough at the time. The dreaded health and safety pops up again in the second image, in the form of the accident book, although to be fair, the accident book is one none of

us mind – we just don’t want to see our names in it!. The third photo shows a stock book and the fourth is a certificate in recognition of the shop being smoke-free in the days before it was illegal to smoke inside a public building.

Mr J.E. White handed the business on to his eldest son, Norman White in 1940, who then passed it on to his two sons John and Paul White in 1969.

Over the years the Wire used the Whites Sports shop window to display their silverware to the people of Warrington. This included the Challenge Cup in 1905, 1907, 1950, 1954 and 1974. The cup made its long-awaited return to Whites Sports Shop in 2009, 2010 and 2012. It is seen here on the right on display in 2013 as it toured the town to promote the game.

< A young John White with his Grandad Mr J. E. White and Grandma at Grappenhall in 1939

Sporting achievements and memorabilia in the town from over the years.

Top left: A profile on footballer George Warren from 1920. Bottom left: Warrington Rugby League season ticket 1925-6. Centre: Document on Warrington RLFC Championship win 1947-8. Right: Victory for Warrington RLFC in the 1950 Challenge Cup at Wembley.

First photo: Warrington’s win against Halifax in the 1954 Challenge Cup. Second photo: Programme for the 1954 Challenge Cup Final. Third Photo: Warrington’s win in the 1974 Challenge Cup against Featherstone Rovers. Fourth photo: An undated document on J.E. White’s 50th wicket playing for Warrington Thursday Club.

Over the years, Whites Sports sponsored many local sporting events. Here is a selection of presentations from days gone by.

Left to right: Rylands cricket trophy (1950); Cricket Knock-out  Cup (1953); J.E. White Sport Cup (1954); J.E. White Darts Trophy (1959).

Left to right: Cricket Knock-out Cup (1964); J.E. White South Warrington Cup (1965); J.E. White Football Trophy (1966); Knutsford Sports Club (1970).

Left to right: Warrington Squash Championship (1977); Warrington & District Bowls League (1981); Cricket Knock-out Cup (1964); J. E. White Darts Shield (1988).

We now turn our attention to the demolition of Sankey Street ready for Golden Square shopping centre.

The dates of the photos, reading from top left to right and down, are 1952, 1968, 1974, 1974 and 1976.

There now follows three newspaper cuttings concerning the shop on Sankey Street.

From the late 1960s to the mid 1980s they also had shops in Stockton Heath, opened by Liverpool and England 1966 World Cup winner Roger Hunt and rugby league legend Alex Murphy, and in Knutsford. Roger and Alex visited in 1974, the year we beat Featherstone Rovers in the Challenge Cup at Wembley.

Here is a selection of photos from the Stockton Heath shop over the years.

Since losing John and Paul in 2007 and 2009, Paul’s widow Susan has successfully run the business in Warrington Market.

If you can make out the text below, this is the report of the third image.

Susan White was a keen badminton player in the 1960s and after marrying Paul in 1969 became a big Wires fan and took up competitive fencing during the 1970s.

She was then an aerobics instructor across the town during the 1980s and in more recent years she has taken up yoga, Pilates and aqua aerobics, and was joined by several Samoan Rugby World Cup players in 2013.

A brick from the Warrington Wolves Brian
Bevan wall at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.

A bit of light relief now. Do you recognise any of the items in this selection below?

1. Fishing items

2 Dart points

3 Snooker/pool table iron

4 Football lacing tools

5 Folding ruler

6 Lace-up football

7 Cribbage board and pins

8 Cue tipper

9 Hand measure for gloves

10 Automatic darts counter

11 Dart pointer

12 Boxing bell

Left to right: Hat stretcher, Cricket bat oil, Lubricant for gut strung rackets, Advice note spike.

Left: the occasion when Whites Sports received delivery of the one millionth tie despatched by Favourite Ties. They were presented with the commemorative tie and medallion at a special dinner at the Savoy Hotel in London.

I once travelled on a bus in London and asked the driver if he stopped at The Savoy. Not on my wages, came the reply!

Right: Another tie, one sold at 1/9 (9p).

Left: a hat presented to Peter White on his 20th birthday on 6 May 1910 and a Ricola collarless shirt with personalised shop labels sewn in. These labels were in all shirt jackets and knitwear when they were manufactured. Right: a bowler hat supplied by J. E. White featuring an original label from the Sankey Street shop still inside the crown.

No matter how good a company is, it cannot survive without publicity. Here we see photos of the company’s regular visits to the various fairs around the region. They also took part in many charity events.

In celebration of their 113 years of trading as a family business in Warrington, of which 40 years have been in Warrington Market, Whites Sports resurrected the 1974 ‘Whites Sports Darts Trophy Challenge’.

On 15 March, 2014 between 12.00 noon and 3.00pm Customers young and old, past and present, were invited to come along and try and win a range of sporting prizes and trophies with a chance to play against one of the Warrington Wolves players, or even Wolfie, the club mascot.

Below we see general scenes of the photo exhibition about the shop’s history.

And just before we finish, take a look at these three photos (below) from Warrington’s past. The first, left, is Horsemarket Street in 1984 in the days when the road was open to traffic. The second is the Roller Rink on the corner of Museum Street/Winmarleigh Street in the late 1980s. The third photo shows a piece of wood found during the excavations for the Wetherspoons pub on Barbauld Street, the site of the former friary.

In 2013 Whites Sports applied to Guinness World Records for entry as the ‘World’s Oldest Family-run Sports Shop’.

The achievement was verified in 2014 in a presentation ceremony at the Halliwell Jones Stadium, home of Warrington Wolves rugby league club, on Friday 30 May 2014, the day before the shop closed for good.

Fourth generation family member Adam White, with help from brother Roger and cousin Nick White, has been busy helping Susan organise the closure of the market shop and also to take the shop online in recent months. They are really keen to capture stories, memories and pictures of Whites Sports over the years. If you would like to share a photo or story about the shop either visit their Facebook page or drop them an email at shop@whitessports.com.

My thanks to Susan White for allowing me to reproduce documents from the company archive and family history. Also thanks to Gary at Warrington-Worldwide for permission to use their news report to support some of the photos.

I wish Susan a long and happy retirement and continued success to her family.