Shops and Trade

by Ann Sandell

high street

Before the Railway

In pre-railway Kirkby Stephen of 1858, as evidenced by the Post Office Directory listings, there were all the usual trades that you would expect in a traditional country market town of the day. It was perhaps a little well served for a town of only 1,339 population (1851 census Kirkby Stephen township) but like today, the trades also catered for the hinterland of 2,553 population including nearby villages and hamlets (1851 Kirkby Stephen Parish). Nateby, Warcop, Ravenstonedale, Newbiggin, Winton and Mallerstang also had their own general stores and Brough its own small street of shops.
As the nursery rhyme suggests, there was the obligatory Butcher, Baker and Candlestick Maker. There were in fact nine butchers, several of them also farmers and one who was a cattle dealer. There were five bakers and a confectioner. Three tallow chandlers including the famous Fawcett family, at this time Mrs. Ann Fawcett and Richard Fawcett.
There was clearly a high demand for footwear as there were twelve clog, shoe and boot makers; it is unlikely that any children went without clogs here. There were seven tailors and six dressmakers. Many women would also have dabbled in some sewing and they were supplied by two general drapers and general stores with a drapery section. One combined drapery with providing a service as an undertaker, providing satins for the coffin linings perhaps. What must have been an absolute delight to the ladies of the neighbourhood was John Lord’s store in the Market Place offering hats, caps and shoe dealer, linen and woollen draper, silk mercer, haberdasher, hosier, jeweller and general fancy repository. The demand for headwear was met by various makers including straw hats and bonnets. William Dickinson combined being a hatter whilst running the Temperance Hotel; obviously he had less demanding guests. There is only one official stocking knitter listed, Mrs. Isabella Metcalfe and a watchmaker, Richard Iveson.
Though we do not possess a variety of manufacturies, yet we have brewers, spirit-merchants, drapers, grocers, butchers, bakers, tailors, farmers, and so on to infinity, we can compete with any town of the same size in England, as a proof, nearly all the above are rich, wealthy, respectable influential men, able conjointly to buy have the county. Poet John Close 1842
There were about a dozen grocers, including a Thomas Robinson. They sold varying additional items such as tea, coffee, earthenware, oil, provisions, corn and the collection of wool staples, drapery, British wine, patent medicines and stationery. Stephen Jorden combined service as a tea dealer, hatter, draper and meal and flower (flour?) dealer in his store. Nicholas Gregson in the Market Place was a grocer, tea and provisions dealer. Joseph Blacklin was the corn miller at High Mill.
There were six outlets mentioned for ironmongery including John Dean who was a plumber, glazier, tin plate worker, ironmonger and toy dealer. presumably lead soldiers. It was common to combine painting, gilding, glazing, brazing and plumbing in a man’s trade. This is, of course, is quite early for the plumbing trade. There are two nail makers and one ironmonger includes a Birmingham and Sheffield warehouse. At this time the blacksmiths also manufactured items to order and there are five black and/or shoeing smiths. There were four wheelwrights. On to building and there are eight stonemasons, being the builders of their day, you may have noted that there are no early brick buildings in Kirkby Stephen. There was however, only one slater in the town. Four cabinet makers and joiners and a stone carter and breaker complete the building trade but perhaps worth noting in this section is that there are two gardeners and an architect.
Coal was the fuel of choice with eight coal carriers and dealers in the town. There were coal mines on Stainmore and in Mallerstang. The owner of the Mallerstang coal mine at this time was Mr. Daniel Horn to be found at Town Head. Thomas Bell owned lead and iron mines with mines mentioned on Hartley and Nateby Fells. There were also Lime and Brockram quarries.
There was a fair selection of inns - the Fountain (new), Sun, White Lion, White Swan, Three Tuns, Greyhound, Pack Horse, Red Lion, Blue Bell, Golden Fleece, Jolly Farmer, Old Fountain. Black Bull and the Kings Arms. Mrs. Esther Robinson at the Old Fountain also sold wholesale wines and spirits. Thomas Mason was still brewing in the Market Place with Harker and Rowlands at Low Brewery. There was one local cooper.
Healthcare was provided by surgeons William Dawson Blades and John Warren Edger. As well as patent medicines available in general stores there was a chemist and druggist, Miles Taylor.
There were solicitors; John Flower, Henry Jackson and Thomas Robinson with an attorney Robert Irvine. Thomas Bewley ran the post office and also offered iron mongery, stationery and a subscription library. John Close was printer, stationer and ironmonger at Poet’s Hall, Town Head. The grammar school head master was George Rowland and there were an additional three private schools in the town catering for day pupils and boarding. There was the Kendal Branch Bank and a Savings Bank and a surprising nine insurance agents. Rev. Henry King B.A. was the Parish Church Vicar remembered for the first phase of the Victorian refurbishment of the church. Additionally there was an Independent Chapel in Birkbeck Square (possibly Arcade Royal) and the Wesleyan Centenary Chapel with their own burial ground. Additional rather dour entertainment was available at the Temperance Hotel built 1854, the Total Abstinence Society, Odd Fellows Hall or the Literary Institute.
Carriers went at regular intervals from the Market Place outside the Sun to Barnard Castle, Kendal, Penrith, Ravenstonedale, Sedbergh, Swaledale and Tebay Station (The Lancaster and Carlisle Railway Tebay station opened 1852). The Lord Exmouth stagecoach stopped daily at the Kings Arms Hotel, on route from Lancaster via Sedbergh to Newcastle, other coaches were available from Brough.
Finally, there was another wool stapler together with a dyer and scourer, two saddlers and harness makers and a selection of farmers some with additional employment. Mrs. Mary Horn is listed as ‘shopkeeper’. Mr. Edward Fawcett was toll keeper of the market and toll taker and John Dickinson an auctioneer when not carrying coal.

Later Victorian Kirkby Stephen

By the issue of the 1894 Kelly’s Directory for Westmorland, thirty-six years later, an additional three railways had been built nearby; the Stainmore, Eden Valley and Settle to Carlisle lines. The population in 1891 was 1,713 (374 increase) in Kirkby Stephen Township and 3,124 (575 increase) for Kirkby Stephen Parish. These figures are considerable increases in the stable population, there having been larger surges during the railway building period.
The Victorian age had reached Kirkby Stephen with easier transportation of people and goods which meant fewer items were made locally. The tailors and dressmakers stocked ready made goods and became ladies and gents outfitters. There were now only seven cloggers, boot and shoe makers but there are eight milliners, hatters and dressmakers, as the fashion for hats was still popular. Drapers seem to have become a whole shop rather than a department as women had a larger wardrobe, there were now six and there was a drapery exchange within one. There are now two watchmakers and jewellers and Richard Iveson is now interestingly also an optician and umbrella maker. Hairdressers have increased to four. For ladies with time to spare the craze of Berlin wool work was satisfied by Mrs. Ellen Close’s shop.
Manufactured town gas has arrived in Kirkby Stephen with the Kirkby Stephen Gas Company made possible with large amounts of suitable fuel arriving by rail. There are gas street lights by 1895 and homes are being converted. Richard Fawcett is still a tallow chandler but is also making fishing tackle. You can still buy oil for lamps but there is now a mantle maker. East Station will have an electricity generating plant powered by water at Stenkrith. George Carrodus is the coal merchant at Midland Railway Station and Main Street and the coal carriers have disappeared, the goods yard has its own drayman living on the edge of the yard. There are still a few other carriers to destinations that you could not reach from Kirkby Stephen stations such as Sedbergh, Kendal, Brough and Stainmore plus market day transport to Hawes and Appleby.
Grocers have increased to about fourteen but we have little insight into the changes within their stores. However, there is now a greengrocer and a fishmonger. The railway has enabled fresh produce to arrive quickly to our shops before spoiling. There is also a local market gardener, James Savage and Joseph Sayer is a grocer and nurseryman. John W Gregson is a butter factor whereas butter was traditionally sold in the cloisters on market day. No bakers are listed but four confectioners so presumably the bakers are producing bread and the now popular cakes. There are now only six butchers. What must have been a noticeable introduction is the formation of the Kirkby Stephen Co-operative Industrial Society which has been taken over and evolved to the Hobson’s Lane Co-operative store today. Joseph Blacklin still has High Mill.
There are now builders rather than stonemasons plus plumbers, painters, plasters and Thomas Savage and Sons are Timber Merchants as well as wheelwrights. Many new terraced have been built along Town Head Lane and Station Road as well as some grander houses. There are blacksmiths and the shoeing smiths have become farriers. There are now only two exclusive iron mongers but still some departments in other shops as well as a separate earthenware dealers. There is still one wool stapler, four saddlers and harness makers. Two auctioneers serve the new auction mart next to the east station.
From the list of fifteen inns or public houses listed in 1858, the Three Tuns, Greyhound, Red Lion, Blue Bell and the Old Fountain have gone reflecting the loss of passing trade and abstinence although some were used as lodging houses in the railway building period. The White Swan was renamed the Green Tree in view of confusion with the White Lion. The Pack Horse has become a Temperance Hotel along with two others now offered in the town reflecting the increasing popularity of the movement. The Arnison’s Croglin Castle has been built next to the east station and along with Tyson’s Black Bull and the Margaret Dixon’s King’s Arms they offer ‘every accommodation for families, commercials and tourists’ and collect visitors from either station. A new introduction is the two refreshment rooms run by Mrs. Agnes Bonson and William Clayton who no doubt catered for ladies with time to indulge in afternoon tea.
There are now the London & Midland Bank Limited and the Bank of Liverpool Limited. Solicitors Richard Thomas Hallam, William Hewitson and Edward Chas Robinson. There are now only two insurance agents listed but a new introduction is an accountant. Joseph Parkinson's premises acted as printers, stationers and bill posters on Silver Street.
There are now surgeons Benjamin Walker, Matthew Robinson Fairer and Thomas Horatio Gibson plus chemist James Armstrong. Thomas Brown sold drugs along with wines and spirits, an interesting mix.
The well remembered Jonathan Nicolson was now headmaster at the Grammar School and the Board School had been built on Nateby Road taking mixed and infants. Rev. Henry Arbuthnot Feilden M.A. was now Vicar at the Parish Church with a new cemetery with double chapel on Brough Road complete with a seedsman and sexton. There is a new influx of Independent religion with Baptist, Congregational Chapel, Primitive Methodist, Plymouth Brethren added to the earlier Wesleyan Chapel. Odd Fellows Hall also includes a Young Men’s Club.
A couple of other items worth noting are that there are more female shopkeepers Miss Nancy Whitehead, Mrs. Sarah Atkinson and Miss Eleanor Mickle. Whilst in the past it was common for widows to run a business it was becoming more widespread for unmarried women. An interesting addition is John Bainbridge, a taxidermist in Victoria Square. Mr. Andrew Mackreth, master of the workhouse, laid out the gardens and trees at Jubilee Park opened in 1887 to mark Queen Victoria’s celebration.
To summarise, because of the railways Kirkby Stephen has advanced into a consumer society of manufactured goods in line with the industrial revolution with a very busy town of shops and businesses, some of which may not be included here. The railway provided not only transport for goods but broadened horizons of what was available in larger towns and cities. There is an influx of off comers both in the building of the railways and the new professional railway workers. Many people are experiencing improved housing conditions in new houses with water and gas now readily available. There is more leisure time for hobbies and there is a new zeal for Independent religions and social improvements. Kirkby Stephen has taken its place in the late Victorian age because of the railway.