A changing of the guard at Clitheroe travel agency

Julie Ridgway and Ian Gratton.
Julie Ridgway and Ian Gratton.
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It’s time for a changing of the guard at the Clitheroe branch of Althams Travel with branch manager Ian Gratton retiring after completing close to 50 happy years in the travel industry.

Clitheroe born Julie Ridgway will replace Ian as the new manager having herself completed 41 years as a travel agent – 36 with Althams Travel.

“My career in travel started in 1970 when I joined a small company in Knaresborough, and I joined Althams in 2009,” said Ian. “I love the industry and have been fortunate to travel the world as part of my job.

"My most amazing experience was travelling across South Africa on the luxurious Rovos Rail, but my favourite holiday destination is Hawaii – I have been nine times to date and I am booked to travel there again.

"I will spend my retirement travelling, of course, having bought a motor home, but I won’t give up my skiing holidays either – I have been on 60 so far,” added Ian.

Speaking about her new role as branch manager Julie said: “Ian has been a great inspiration to the team here in King Street and he will be a difficult act to follow. However, as a Clitheroe girl born and bred, most people in the town know me and I look forward to taking care of their holiday and travel plans along with Andrew, Caroline, Sophie, Jess and Faith.

"I still get excited when sharing my holiday experiences with customers, old and new. My travel highlights include visits to Australia and Mauritius, but my personal favourite is Riviera Maya in Mexico where I love to switch off with a good book and, of course, a chilled glass of wine.”

Althams Travel managing director, Sandra McAllister, said: “Ian is a true travel professional and I think it says a lot about our company when he has worked with us for so long – we wish him a happy retirement. At the same time, I am delighted to welcome Julie to her new role. Julie is a credit to her branch and our business, and I know that with Julie at the helm our customers in and around Clitheroe are booking in safe and experienced hands.”

• Originally founded in 1874 by Abraham Altham, and trading under his name, the company had 60 shops by 1880 selling groceries and hardware.

Abraham Altham died at the age of 44 in 1886 and Abraham Altham then became a limited company in 1894.

Althams were also well known as tea merchants, having their own five brands of tea, all blended and packed under the Althams’ label. Customers buying the best brands were given tea cheques valued at 2d, 4d or 1/~. In later years, 2/6d and 5/~ tea cheques were added to the range and these could be put towards the cost of rail tickets which were sold in many branches as early as 1876. From 1876, Althams used to run their own railway excursions from Lancashire and Yorkshire towns to seaside resorts on the West Coast.

From 1944, the company’s name was changed to Althams Stores Limited and, over the years, a small number of self-contained travel offices were opened in local towns such as Accrington, Burnley, Bury, Halifax and Nelson. Although none of the Althams family has worked in the business since the death of Mr John Altham in 1966, many of the descendants of the company's founder Abraham Altham are still shareholders in the company.

Althams Travel has grown to employ more than 260 staff in Burnley head office and there are 32 shops located across Lancashire, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire plus a network of home-based travel agents and drivers.

The company is a member of the Association of British Travel Agents as well as a member of the Advantage Travel Partnership - the UK’s largest independent travel agent group.