Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Day My Mind Was Hijacked By A Fancy Draper

I was walking down Commercial Street in Brighouse last night when I got hijacked: or to be more accurate, my mind got hijacked. I suppose that my mind was susceptible to seizure as my senses had been dulled by several shops displaying "To Let" signs inter-spaced with layers of Charity Shops and pawnbrokers. Only the western end of Commercial Street is faceless concrete and further down the street I was looking at one of the older buildings with its yard passage and its leaded windows and wondering what it was like 100 years ago. And that is when my mind got hijacked; a total prisoner of this thought until I had found some form of answer. My plans to write Chapter 11 of the Great Novel of the twenty-first century (*) were put on hold and I abandoned work on my 3rd concerto. Everything else now takes second place to my exploration of the history of Commercial Street, Brighouse.

All I have managed to acquire so far is a rough picture of the street based on 1911 census returns, but even this provides a fascinating window into social history in the early twentieth century. 

Number    Head of Household and Occupation
5               James Rogers, Corporation Labourer
7               Ann Thornton, Beerhouse Keeper, Royal Oak Inn
9               David Pearson,  Shopkeeper - Wine and Spirits and Confectionery
13             James Stott Atkinson, Pork Butcher
17             Frances Furness, Shopkeeper, General and Fancy Goods
19             George Henry Threapleton, Boot and Shoe Salesman
21             David Walshaw, Butcher
47             Joseph Henry Lancaster, Fish and Game Dealer
51             William Hensworth, Harness Maker
55             Ann Jane Normanton,  Widow
57             James Pilling, Beerseller,  The Ring O' Bells
59             George Henry Beard,  Manager, Grocery and Provision Shop
63             Thomas Herrod,   Butcher
67             Victor Holland, Hotel Keeper, The Wellington Hotel

2               James Dyson, Licensed Victualler and Brewer, The George Hotel
4               George Clayton,  Butcher
6               Frederick Blackburn, Hairdresser and Fancy Dealer
24             Albert Thornton, Tailor and Outfitter
26             Eva Wright, Baker and Confectioner
44             Charles Naylor, Hairdresser
46             Caroline Sykes, Greengrocer
56             James Ball, Gentleman's Clothier
62             Annie Turner, Baker
66             James Crowther, Cab Proprietor
80             Willie Aspinall, Silk Waste Dresser
84             Herbert Pearson, Refreshment House Keeper
86             Emma Stansfield,  Boot and Shoe Dealer
90             Revis Anson,  Fancy Draper
92             Benjamin Turner, House Painter
96             Annie Lizzie Cussens,  Confectioner
102           John Hodgson,  Hardware Dealer
104           Miles Knowles, House Painter and Decorator.

I accept that the above may sound like a boring list to some people, but to me it is poetry. The names are like a list of Coronation Street characters from the 1960s, and some of the occupations fit the names like a kid glove. How could Revis Anson grow up to be anything other than a fancy draper?

Those who know me will appreciate that my eyes were immediately drawn to the four pubs on the list (one of which, The George Hotel, is still in existence). That is where my search will start and we shall see where it takes us to. That is if nothing else comes along to hijack my mind in the meantime.


  1. Fascinating list of names and shops, and pubs too.

  2. It is so easy to be thus hijacked. I wonder how you can interview descendants of any, and Revis in particular. Of course start with the George, but let us know how far the ripples from this pebble go.

  3. Definitely poetry, Alan. I wonder if anyone over here knows what a green grocer is.

  4. I have been taking the same journey in my home town here lately and I agree about the poetry.

  5. I'd like to know what a silk waste dresser is.

  6. yes what Georgina said! I would have like to walk down that street and just talk to all those people...what fun would that be! :)

  7. I've read a load online and it seems to be something to do with (a) preparing silk waste for weaving and/or (b) de gumming silk waste. Did anyone know that silk had to be de gummed?


Black Friar

For a time, during the late 1970s, I had a job leading parties of foreign visitors on tours of historic London pubs. One of my favourite sto...