Author Archives: buildingourpast

Irwin’s ‘Ruby Red Stores’

Irwin’s was a popular regional grocery chain from the 1880s until 1960, when it was taken over by Tesco and phased out. The shops spread from the company’s Liverpool heartland, along the North Wales coast. The founder, John Irwin (1839-1920), … Continue reading

Posted in Grocers, Provision Dealers and Dairies | 6 Comments

McColl’s: A Scottish Confectionery Chain

McColl’s made headlines in May 2022 when it entered voluntary administration, seemingly the latest retail casualty of the Covid pandemic. It was swiftly rescued, however, by Morrisons and its 1100 shops continue to trade. R. S. McColl’s was founded in … Continue reading

Posted in CTN (Confectioners, Newsagents, Tobacconists) | Leave a comment

Kays Modern Food Stores

Kays’ shop at 3 High Street, Ely, is a surviving remnant of a grocery chain that had over 100 small branches throughout much of South-East England and the Midlands in the middle of the 20th century, before the age of … Continue reading

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Introducing Charles Morrison, A Stornoway Shopkeeper

The Stornoway shopkeeper Charles Morrison (1838-1920) came from a family of farmers and meal dealers living at Cyderhall near Dornoch, on the east coast of Scotland. Around 1855, aged 16, he set off for Stornoway, a fishing town on the … Continue reading

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The Fifty Shilling Tailors and John Collier

The Fifty Shilling Tailors was one of the most successful ‘wholesale bespoke tailors’ on the British high street through the 1920s, 30s and 40s. In later years, when it became impossible to sell a made-to-measure suit of clothes for a … Continue reading

Posted in Fashion and Clothing, Spotter's Guides | 1 Comment

Queens and GEM: Building Asda, 1965-1970

When Asda (capitalised as ASDA from 1985) came into being in 1965 the grocery and provisions trade was undergoing a radical transformation throughout the British Isles. Small counter-service shops were gradually being superseded by self-service ‘supermarkets’, defined as having a … Continue reading

Posted in ASDA, Grocers, Provision Dealers and Dairies | 2 Comments

Grouts of Palmers Green

Grouts, one of the last old-fashioned drapery shops in England, shut its doors for the last time on 20 April 2002. The photographs published here were snapped on the previous day, Friday 19 April 2002. Little stock remained but customers … Continue reading

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Foster Brothers

Circumstances surrounding the founding and naming of Foster Brothers, the men’s clothing retailer, are rather mysterious. When the founder, William Foster (1852-1914) died, his obituaries noted that he had opened his first shop with his brother in Pontefract in 1876. … Continue reading

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The Coliseum in Stockton-on-Tees: Unpicking W. Basil Scott’s ‘First English Steel-Framed Building’

Today it is generally accepted that James Frank Doyle’s Royal Insurance Building in Liverpool was the first significant steel-framed building to be erected in the UK. Although it was designed around 1895-96, it was not erected until 1900-03. The Scottish … Continue reading

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Buttercup Dairy Company

A Potted History of the Buttercup Dairy Co. Ltd. The Buttercup Dairy Co. devised one of the most artistic and coherent retail house styles to be found on Scottish high streets in the 20th century. The shops of few other … Continue reading

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