PEEK INTO THE PAST: When Padiham Road was a major shopping centre

Peek Into Past 660
Peek Into Past 660
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I know a number of readers like to see photos of old shops. This week we have a treat for those of you who have Padiham Road associations and we have to thank Christine Baldwin for the picture today.

The photo is about 100 years old for, according to the Commercial Directory of 1914, the shop depicted, which was at 133 Padiham Road was in the occupation of Herbert Heys tobacconist, newsagent and stationer. You can see confirmation of this at the top of the picture but you will notice the name above the window is James Heys, his father.

A great deal of Padiham Road no longer exists. It was demolished when the M65 was built. However, we tend to forget just how important this road was as a shopping centre. However, this is not surprising when one considers the number of side streets off Padiham Road leading in the direction of Whittlefield, once not only a major residential area but home to some of the largest mills in Burnley.

We are going to concentrate on one terraced row between Bivell Street and Redruth Street on which, as we shall see, there were numerous businesses. Even I remember three of them though, when younger, I was not a frequent visitor to this part of town. I refer to the pubs on this longish row which was the second row after the Derby Hotel which has recently been demolished.

At 109, there was the Peel’s Arms, which in 1914 was kept by Alice A. Crowther. Higher up, at 127, there was the Clifton Hotel, a beer house in the hands of Crossley Pollard and, just below the Redruth Street junction with Padiham Road, there was the Union Inn. This pub, if I am not mistaken, was a very distinctive building, the exterior walls covered with bright tiling. The name had nothing to do with trade unionism or the Poor Law Union. According to Jack Nadin, in his “Burnley Inns & Taverns”, it derived from the fact the turnpike road outside the pub was once known as the Union Turnpike Trust.

Every other property was a business of some kind. These included a branch of Abraham Altham Ltd, tea dealers, at number 123, though that firm had a rival in Edward Rigby, also tea dealers, at 111. There were two butchers, Nelson’s at 139 and Wood’s number 121. Similarly, there were two confectioners, Watson’s at 137 and Nutter’s at 119. This last name must have been a shop for Thomas Nutter Ltd, who were wholesale and retail manufacturing confectioners of the Steam Confectionery Works in Bread Street. Part of this street still survives so, from it, you can work out exactly where today’s picture was taken from. Bread Street was parallel to Padiham Road and 119 and the Confectionery Works were within yards of each other.

Thomas Nutter’s is a firm I would like to know more about. I have an excellent photo of a lorry belonging to Nutter’s standing outside the Bread Street works when that firm was in business. Nutter’s were makers of toffee rather than cakes (or bread!) and if anyone has anything about the firm – photos, business records, what it made etc. – I would love to hear from them.

I went into the building on several occasions when Nutter’s had left and Turner & Earnshaw, the printers, were there. That firm printed a couple of my early books but my interest, here, is not in the printing trade but in the fact Nutter’s made something to eat. Very few Burnley firms were in the food business though there have been a number of firms worthy of further study and Nutter’s is one of them. Incidentally, Burnley (despite having a large Warburton’s factory) is still not so hot in the production of food, something which should, for all sorts of reasons, be rectified.

Getting back to the Padiham Road shops there were two fish and fruit dealers, two draper’s, a grocer’s and a herbalist together with the businesses shown in the picture. An examination of the image is quite revealing. On the right you can see part of Priscilla Newell’s eating house (or eating and refreshment rooms as she would have had them known) at 131 Padiham Road. We are fortunate it is possible to read at least one of her adverts. It is for beef steak puddings at 3d and 4d each. I bought a couple of these, in the Market Hall, a few weeks ago and there was no change out of £2!

It appears Mrs Newell also sold liver and onions, which at 2d and 3d, was a little cheaper than a steak pudding, but what I would like to know is what is written on the little black board to the left of the two small boys who are very conscious Mr and Mrs Heys are having their photo taken. The boys, one of whom is wearing a cap typical of the times, are carrying things, a ball, I think, in the case of the boy nearest the counter and perhaps a newspaper for the other young man. I wonder what happened to these little characters? Would they have been old enough to have fought in the First World War?

My informant on this image tells me the third small boy in the picture, the lad with Mr and Mrs Heys, is something of a mystery. It is not known who he was but there is something else on the photo which interested me when I first noticed it and that is the advert at the top of the window. It reads: “Pictorial Post Cards. Latest and Choicest Designs. See Our Grand New Stock”. I wonder if today’s image was destined to join Mr Heys’ stock?

When this picture was taken the postcard boom, if that is the right word, was at its peak. It could be that the pictorial cards were what we would call topographical images – picture of street scenes, buildings, country views, parks etc. – but if you look at the shop window it is clear it is filled with dozens of small photos and these are likely to have been postcards.

The posters, below, to the side of the window, and also to the side of the shop door, are worthy of comment. It is likely this picture was taken before the opening of Burnley’s first library. That was in 1914, the building being in Trafalgar Street, but what you see here is how reading material was introduced to the ordinary reader. It was, as you can see, through cheap fiction in the form of 3d and 6d books and magazines and, here, the firm making its presence felt was “Smart Fiction”.

The titles advertised say much about what was read in at this time. The one which caught my eye is advertised on a poster below the shop window. It reads: “A Great Drama of Mill Life: Her Honour at Stake” and you can image what that story was about. Another was a short story, “The Soul of an Outcast”, and a third was entitled “The World of Sin”.

It is amazing what one photo of a single property in a part of Burnley that has almost disappeared can reveal and lead to. Thanks, once again, to Mrs Baldwin, of Burnley.