Burton’s Moderne – Ashton and Beyond

In almost every town or city worth its salt stood a modern white tiled tailor’s shop, almost every man or boy wore a Burton’s suit.

Harry Wilson had become the company architect by the early 1920s, and was responsible for developing Burton’s house style. Montague Burton, however, maintained a close personal interest. The company’s in-house Architects Department was set up around 1932 under Wilson. He was followed as chief architect around 1937 by Nathaniel Martin, who was still in post in the early 1950s. The architects worked hand-in-hand with Burton’s Shopfitting and Building Departments, who coordinated the work of selected contractors. Throughout the late 1920s and 1930s they were kept phenomenally busy: by 1939 many of Burton’s 595 stores were purpose-built.

The very first made to measure gear I owned came from Burton’s in Ashton under Lyne – mini-mod aged fourteen in a three button, waisted, light woollen dark brown jacket, four slanted and flapped side pockets and an eighteen inch centre vent.

Just the job for a night out at the Birdcage, Moon or Bower Club

The story of the stores begins in the province of Kovno in modern Lithuania – Meshe David Osinsky (1885-1952), came to England where he initially took the name Maurice Burton. 

The distinctive architecture stood out on the high street, Art Deco motifs and details abound – elephants chevrons and fans.

Topped off with the company’s distinctive logotype.

This example in Doncaster is one of the few remaining examples many having been removed – as the stores have changed ownership and usage.

This Neo-Classical Burnley branch is a rare example of a Burton’s which hasn’t gone for a Burton.

The group maintained a distinctive graphic style in labelling signage and advertisements.

Often including ornate mosaic entrances, ventilation covers and obligatory dated foundation stones – as seen in this Ashton under Lyne branch.

Stores often housed dance halls or other social spaces.

In 1937 Burton’s architect, Nathaniel Martin, collaborated with the architects Wallis Gilbert & Partners on a subsidiary clothing works on the Great Lancashire Road at Worsley, near Manchester. Conceived as a Garden Factory and built in a modern style, this was dubbed ‘Burtonville Clothing Works’. It opened in October 1938 .

Where machinists worked on Ashton built Jones equipment.

Time changes everything and the inception of off the wall unisex disco clothing saw the made to measure suit fall into a chasm of loon pants and skinny rib grandad vests.

The Ashton branch becomes a motorcycle then fitted kitchen showroom, topped off with a succession of clubs and various other modern day leisure facilities.

Currently home to the Warsaw Delicatessen and Good News Gospel Church

Formerly Club Denial.

This is the tale of the modern high street grand ideas, architectural grandeur, entrepreneurial immigrants, style and fashion – disappearing in a cloud of vinyl signage and fly by night operations. Though if you look carefully the pale white shadows of Burton’s are still there in one form or another, however ghostly.

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