A Walk Around Market Place in 1848

The following account is taken from the Heywood Advertiser, 21 December 1888. The writer, Sam Heywood, recalls the scenes around Market Place as it used to be back in the 1840s, and his splendid description of the shops and the personalities of the various shopkeepers gives a great insight into the young town, as it was then. Most of these shops and people are long forgotten, but some places remain familiar, such as the Queen Anne, the Masons Arms, and the King's Arms (then known as the 'New Inn' and used mainly by the Orangemen). No doubt some of the surnames will be quite familiar too.

This piece begins after an account of a visit to the Central Baths (then kept by a Ms E. Brierley) on a Sunday morning:


‘Upon leaving the Central Baths, I received a terrible shock on discovering that another old landmark had been removed from the Market Place. It may be a very small trifle to some people the simple emptying of a shop, but to me, being of a conservative turn of mind, it was a staggerer. Higson's saddler's shop empty! More than forty years ago, going and returning from school (where I was under the fostering care-and cane-of our present parish clerk - he is quite a patriarch though his looks do not, say so; may he soon recover his wonted strength!) I used to halt and watch the men make horse collars in the cellar, and thought in my childish wonder how clever they were at their handicraft.

At that time, next shop but two, there was a cordwainer [1] in business, a jolly kind-hearted soul, the beloved of all the children in the town, who, when we called at his place to have our clogs ironed, beguiled the time by telling us ghost and other stories and who had an invariable practice of giving us children a halfpenny for ourselves when we paid him for the repairs to our pedal requisites. The generous old bachelor is still living in the same old shop and continuing the same business, the sole remnant, bar one, of Market Place trades men of forty years ago. May he live long and die happy!

Forty years ago, what a vista! and what a change! Then, where the drinking fountain is now fixed in the church wall, were a pair of iron gates, the main entrance to the churchyard. In line with the gates, upon the church-street side, there stood the Star Inn, at the end of which was a narrow street, across which we boys of ten used to leap at one stand jump. It was so narrow that I once saw a rush cart scotched there, and an opposing faction tried to upset it, which was only prevented by the narrowness of the street. What characters lived in the neighbourhood!

Where the Manchester and Liverpool District Bank now stands was a butcher's shop, kept by a rubicund couple named Tom and Peggy Perry, each of whom could turn the scales at twenty stone. Next was a, small shop, kept by a teetotaller named John Lee, the father of the present relieving officer, adjoining to which was an entry, known by the, name of "Jim Bow Entry," which led to China Alley, where dwelt "Old Jenny Green Teeth," the, terror of all us boys, to pass whose domicile in the day, was considered a brave and courageous deed.

Heywood centre, circa 1848.

After the entry was old Jonathan Barber's, a short-tempered, cantankerous knight of the razor, whom we small boys used to plague to our hearts' content. Where Mrs. Taylor's bonnet shop now is was then a famed pie shop, kept by old Mrs. Wild, where penny meat pies were sold, and the old lady used to press the customers to "have gravy twice," herself perambulating the shop with a vessel in her hand much like an old-fashioned coffee pot, which was filled with a warm and savoury liquid called gravy. It was considered quite the proper thing to call and have a pie, and the local swells of today would be much shocked were their progenitors to fully explain to them how they used to enjoy eating their penny pies without either knife, fork, or spoon, as is now the fashion.

The next building was a barber's shop, then kept by the present occupier and owner, and still continued in the same business. May he, long retain his health and vigour, and for many year yet to come be able to shave the chins of the multitude. By-the-bye, he once had a "rummy" customer to operate upon. When the railway was being made one of the gangers called to be shaved, and before Teddy began to lather him he pulled a short pipe out of his mouth and put it in his pocket. Just as the razor was going to be applied the ganger remarked "Stop. barber, I have something in my pocket with my lighted pipe, and at once pulled out a bag containing two pounds of blasting powder. Had the navvy not remembered this the Market Place would now have had only one tradesman of 40 years ago.

19th-century barber's shop.

The "King's Arms" came next, then better known by the name of the "New Inn" famed chiefly as being the home of the "Orange Lodge," where yet once a month still meet the Orangemen, and, I suppose, drink in silence, to the glorious memory of William, the Prince of Orange, and still have a "dinnering day," which is not now so popular as in past times, because formerly they met on the Sunday after the dinnering day to have an "eating up."

Continuing, we next come to Jack Berry's, a greengrocer's shop, and then to a pork shop, which had fixed in the window an announcement that they kept the best black puddings under the sun. These two shops, like the pie shop and "Teddy Barber's," were low buildings with whitewashed fronts, and it is remarkable that upon the ground where stood 40 years ago the lowest built shops in the Market Place there now stands the highest. Tom Warhurst's, the present "Masons' Arms," was the next. Here I oftimes loitered to watch the omnibus return from Manchester, the then popular mode of doing the journey. Where Gee's model butcher's shop now is being then a dwelling-house occupied by the owner, known by the name of "Gentleman Taylor," whose chief claim to fame was that he had never been known to do a day's work in his life. What is now Knight's grocer's shop was then kept by Peter Dewsbury, a draper, who afterwards built the draper's shop now owned by the Cooperative Society, upon land which was then a green field. Schlack’s, draper's, was at that Mime kept by quite a character named Thomas Rayner, who once appealed against his income tax. The Commissioners asked him if he was married. He answered "No, can't afford to keep a wife." "Have you a servant?" asked they. "No, can't afford a servant." "Have you a shopman or Shop woman?" was the next question. "No," answered he, "can't afford any." "Then," said the Commissioner, "if you have, neither wife, maid-servant, nor manservant, you can afford to pay income tax." Appeal disallowed!

The next was Fielden's, the chief grocer's shop in the town, at which 35 years ago a most sensible purchase was effected. A gentleman now holding a high position in the town sent one of the boys working under him to buy a publication called the "Reasoner," with instructions to go to Adam Whitworth's book shop, a wooden building where Greenwood's greengrocer's shop now is. The boy being, perhaps, somewhat careless, or his instructions not being sufficiently clear, went to Fielden's and bought twopennyworth of raisins. I well remember the boy, whose name was Hiram Spencer, handing the raisins to "the boss," and I also have in my mind's eye the look of the boy when the master told him that, be, had brought back a better twopennyworth than he was sent for. "The boss," never a hard taskmaster, divided the raisins amongst us boys. It is not upon record that he afterwards bought a "Reasoner."

Next shop across Taylors street was Seager's, the druggist, which business is still successfully continued by Mr. W.H. Mills. Seager made candles near the old pump at Longfield, from which pump they present chairman of the Water Committee then received his daily domestic supply. This old pump also served as a source of supply of ammunition to the local Chartists who, if tradition is to be believed, periodically - cut off the pump leaden spout and melted it, into bullets.
But to the Market Place. Councillor Taylor's hat shop was then kept by Mr. Siddall who, like the present occupant, devoted much time to public affairs. Mr. Taylor, like his next door neighbour, may truthfully advertise his business as the eldest of the kind in the town. Across the way, where Alderman Chadwick now lives, was an ironmonger's shop kept by Mr. Rawson, and fixed against the wall was a milestone, from which we boys often ran to the Summit, and more frequently to the Ryecroft toll-bar. We had some famous runners in the town then. We considered Heywood lads could do anything that lads in other towns could do.

The present Star Inn was then a badger's shop, where groceries, drapery, and earthenware were sold. In the corner was a flight of stone steps about four feet, high, which was once used as a platform by John Bright when he advocated Free Trade in corn or, in other words, the Repeal of the Corn Laws. His chief opponent was Mr William Bell. Although they then, as now, were wide apart in matters of high State policy, how much they are alike in strength and force of language. Adjoining these historical steps was a butcher's shop kept by Mrs. Pickup, who had a son whom she used to address as "Psalm Well." We boys called him Sam.

We next come to the Queen Anne Inn, the most noted hostelry in the town, kept by the Battersbys. It was a most famous place. Greaves's confectioner's shop, was then the hotel stables. One of Heaton's shop windows (then a part of the inn) was the post office. The local justices held the police court there. Folks never said "they would law their neighbours" or have them locked up. No; they said they would take them to the Queen Anne. When Heywood Fair was held the inn yard was filled with the best cattle at the, fair. It was a common saying that a cow would fetch a sovereign more money in the inn yard than in the fair proper, held in the Market Place. The Fair is now gone, and the boys of today are denied the pleasure we used to have of seeing the horses galloped down York street and Church-street as far as the Coach Turning[2]. The Fair is still published in "Old Moore's Almanack," but never found in the Market Place now.

J. Rothwell's shop was then a tailor's shop, kept by a man named Taylor, which was quite a large establishment. The clothes he made seemed to wear twice as long as clothing wears now. He drove such a roaring trade that to have a suit for Whit-Friday we had to be measured not later than Good Friday. In those days clothes were made, not woven.

Where Mr. Jones lives, 40 years ago a tailor's shop, kept by a talkative Scotsman named Boswell Reid, who was never so happy as when having a "fratch" with his neighbours. He would, I believe, as soon have a row as book an order. During the cotton famine he was acting secretary to the relief committee. His writing was somewhat scrawly, and one time a clergyman, who was a member of the committee, was looking over his shoulder, and made the innocent remark that it was very bad writing. Reid, lifting his head, said "Yes, and there's a lot of bad preaching." Tradition says that in checking off the loads of potatoes delivered at the relief store he did not count the loads of potatoes taken into the, cellar, but the empty sacks brought out, and that some of the dealers supplying the potatoes had a handy knack of occasionally tumbling down a sack filled with empties, and, of course, charged for all empties which came out of the cellar, in accordance with the secretary's rule and practice.

Councillor Butterworth’s shop was then kept by a family named Birch, who also had a bobbin shop in Queen-street. Flewker's refreshment house was at that time a druggist's shop, kept by the present owner and occupier of Heywood Hall. Here I had my first tooth drawn, and I must say that he was a skilful dentist. He was then a gruff spoken man, but as tender as a child when handling the forceps.

The hosier's shop, known as the "Temperance Hotel." Here at that time the Rechabite Sick Club was held, and it sometimes fell to my lot to go there with the club money. Where the post office now is was then known by the name of "Cock Clod ." Having now circumnavigated the Market Place I will perhaps some day soon have a chat about the Market Place, proper, and tell what I have seen from the big lamp.
SAM HEYWOOD. Heywood Hall Road.’

Postscript: The Penny Pie Shop

In 1905 two pieces in the Heywood Advertiser provided further recollections of the pie shop mentioned above:
'For a few years before the business was discontinued, I was a regular small customer at the shop. I particularly remember the famous Friday nights when everybody in Heywood seemed to find time to have a look in at Mary Wild's, and there partake of one of her delicious pies, with the added delight of "-more Gravy." The sales were considerable, and Mary Wild and her mother were kept very busy in supplying the eager demands of customers. Mrs. Wild was a charming old lady, and it was interesting to the young ones to hear her little stories of bygone times. Then there were the meetings and recognitions which took place; how the older visitors delighted to find out that a little boy was the son of John So-and-So, and a little girl was the daughter of Mary So-and-So! Miss Mary Wild was very good-natured, and I remember many an act of kindness rendered at her cheerful ingle nook. J. A. GREEN.'

'The shop, in which it is said that perhaps "some millions of pies have been eaten," disappeared in 1875 in order to enable improvements to be made in the neighbourhood. At the time it was stated in the Advertiser that the "old penny pie shop" had been "well-known as such for perhaps seventy years," during which time there had been "little, if any, variation either in the size or the quality of the pies," which had served for dinners, suppers, lunches, etc., for generations, and would have most likely continued to do so for generations to come had it not turned out in the course of things that the buildings must come down.

About fifty-four years before this - in 1821 - the penny pie shop was "used as a newsroom," 'where Village statesmen talked with looks profound, And news, much older than their ale, went round.'
Our old villagers used to meet at this place on a Sunday morning as regularly and as punctually as though it was a matter settled by law; in fact, it was our village House of Commons, where our worthy honest rustics talked over the affairs of State, but discussed political questions in their relation to social well-being. The men who met at this place about the time we refer to were known as Jacobins, a political faction who were not generally considered, at least by Orangemen, to be as loyal as they ought to be, and were, therefore, not reckoned much of by the latter, whatever that may mean. We incline rather to think that these men were no more Radical then than our Conservative friends are now. We are unable to state at what time these villagers of ours ceased to meet at the penny pie shop on a Sunday morning; but we should not think they have met there for the last forty years. It has seemed to us to have gradually died out as the old stagers fell victims to death one by one, their places not meeting with successors.'
[1] Cordwainer = shoemaker
[2]‘Coach Turning’ was an area near the top of Bamford Road where horse-drawn coaches could be turned around.