Shops and Shopping
“Throughout the 19th century, almost without exception, Worksop’s shops were privately owned, the majority by people living within the town itself. In the early years they catered for the basic needs of their local customers, though as the century progressed, an occasional shop offering non-essential wares made its appearance. Shops varied in size from the commodious to the tiny, from those with extensive premises on the main thoroughfares to those that were no more than a room in a back street cottage. Apart from providing the towns necessities, the shops were also a valuable source of employment. In 1841 over two hundred and fifty people either owned or worked in them, the unmarried staff of some of the larger establishments living in with the proprietors. Thus at the end of a long day making up orders or serving behind the counter, the two apprentices of Mr Francis Hooson, grocer on the corner of Bridge Street with Potter Street, simply climbed the stairs to their attic bedroom above the shop.
Known throughout the 19th century as Hoosons corner, the junction of Potter street with Bridge street was named after the shop that stood there. For the best part of a hundred years it was owned by successive members of the Hooson family, beginning with Francis Hooson in the early years of the century. Though primarily a grocers, the range of goods on sale was much wider than such shops usually offered. When this photograph was taken around 1906, the shop had been taken over by Mr A.H. James.
(Photograph by permission of Bassetlaw Museum).
Not surprisingly grocers and butchers formed the majority of the food shops, though the numbers of each might seem rather excessive for the population of the time. In 1832 there were fourteen of the former and eighteen of the latter while by the end of the century the numbers had risen to thirty four and thirty seven respectively. As with the clothes shops, many of these were small, of limited stock, perhaps of dubious quality and standards of hygiene. Very few of the early grocers’ shops compared with that of Mr John Eddison who, when his stock of fine tea, spices and similar special items was becoming depleted, mounted his horse and rode to London to order the necessary replenishments. Likewise few in any of the butchers’ shops at the end of the century could rival that of Mr David Winks that stood on the Market Place and where only meat of prime quality was offered for sale. Few of the smaller shops could make such a boast. This was particularly so when anmals were slaughtered in the shop itself. When in 1858, the inspector of Nuisances checked all the slaughtered in the shop itself, he was especially concerned with the conditions of Mr Footit’s where the work was carried out in the shop, blood seeping through the doorway and onto the pavement.
Unable to sleep, Mrs W Hayes looked out of her bedroom window at ten past three on the morning of 18th July 1911. She noticed that a fire had broken out in Eyres furniture shop which stood on Newcastle Street, just about opposite the Weslyan Chapel. The alarm was raised and the Worksop fire engine was soon on the scene. It was later joined by the engine from Welbeck Abbey. Together they fought the flames and it was not until ten o’clock in the afternoon that the fire was completely extinguished. The damage was total. All that remained was an empty shell. Apart from a few pieces of furniture that had been removed before the fire was at its fiercest, the rest of the stock, valued at £4000 was destroyed.
With the coming of the Co-operative Society, a new idea of business was introduced to the town. In every other shop the profits were retained by the owner: at the Co-op, they were shared between the members in proportion to the amount that they had spent. This was the dividend, or the divi, as it was generally known, a painless way of saving, and a boon to many families where every penny counted. Some still alive will remember the crowd that gathered outside the Co-op offices early on “divi day,” people eager to receive their share of the society profits, however small it might be. Few details have survived of early trading but it is known that in the second half of 1869, sales totalled £720 which, with all expenses paid, left a balance of £36 – 2 – 1d. (£36-10.5p}. Other grocers in the town would ruefully shake their heads when they learnt of these figures, regretting the loss of such amounts from their tills. Whatever animosity might have existed between local shopkeepers and the new movement, for many people it was a blessing, and after early teething problems, it became firmly established in the town.”
Burnt out of their Newcastle Street shop on the 18th July 1911, Eyres were back in business by the 22nd of the same month. Standing empty at the top of Bridge Street in a prime position, were the premises shown on this picture. They had recently been vacated by D.J Smith, draper, who had moved to a shop already completed in the arcade buildings.
With a speed that almost defies belief, the premises were acquired by Eyres, cleaned, stocked and were open for business within four days. As they boast on this picture, they were long regarded as the premier house furnishers in town. As he writes these words, the author is sitting on a chair bought from Eyres over sixty years ago. The firm is still in business though, while retaining the original name, is under different ownership.