Ernest Whiteley opened the shop on Easter Sunday 1901
His first week’s taking were £7 14s 1d.
He thought that he had done very well – says granddaughter Ann Clough.
Grandad lost his sight in 1940, I became his eyes. When he lost his sight and he handed over the till keys to mother, they had a little weep.He handed over to my mother because father had died three months before.
Ann has run the shop for the last sixty years, along with Sue, a full-timer for some thirty years.
The rep isn’t coming any more, ordering is online, that’s no good to us.
This is a cash only low-tech, high stock operation.
If they don’t have it – it probably doesn’t exist.
From the outside little has changed sine the 1930s, wide glass, well arranged windows, displaying a wide array of wondrous haberdashery.
All contained within an arcade with Art Deco detailing.
There are many, many mannequins from another age.
One man from Scotland stayed for hours, he had a fetish for the mannequins, we couldn’t get rid of him.
The side of the shop is largely given over to net curtains of every size, shape and design, labelled Monica, Daisy, Andrea, Vicky or Sarah.
The names were chosen by Sue, it’s a lot easier for people to say, I want Vicky, 36 deep, than the one with the squiggly flowers, or to remember the manufacturer’s number.
Inside is a haven of domesticity, dusters abound, along with all the other attendant cloths and towels to ensure household cleanliness.
Not forgetting the correct clothing for those domestic chores.
The original display units are a delight.
Almost every surface is awash with lady’s unmentionables – winter draws on, wrap up.
There are covers and doilies of every description.
And the finest display of sensibly priced handkerchiefs, fancy and plain.
Every sign and tag hand written with pride.
It was, as ever a privilege and a joy to spend a short time in another world, thanks ever so to Ann and Sue for their time and patience.
If your passing pop in spend a pound or two – I bought three dish cloths.
One customer told me he was going to a party dressed in a white mini-dress, purple wig, thigh boots and black tights, he came to look at nighties and tried one on in the changing cubicle. You’ve got to be broad-minded. It can be very disconcerting when you hear a man zipping up a corset.
I do have a particular penchant for pâtisserie – though close in spirit to their Euro equivalents, the vernacular bakers of the North are by comparison, sadly now a seldom seen, rare and precious breed.
My dad’s three sisters Alice, Jenny and Lydia all trained as confectioners, and he himself was a van man for Mother’s Pride. In my turn I worked as a van lad at their Old Trafford base.
Flour, eggs, sugar and fat are in my blood.
In their way the growth of the mass-market bakers, along with the motor car and supermarket hegemony sealed the fate of the local bread, cake and pie shop, along with the demise of the associated skills and attendant early morning work patterns. When I visited Cochrane’s in Audenshaw, it was clear that their youngsters no longer wished to take on the family baking business. So the once unremarkable sight of remarkable rows of fancies, growlers and tarts, is now a thing of familiar folk memory, rather than a sweet and savoury reality.
On both of my visits to Leigh I have passed Parker’s – the windows warm from the freshly baked confectionery – including the almost unique Singing Lily – sweet double crust pies, a large circle of shortcrust pastry folded over dried fruit and rolled until the fruit is visible, sugared and baked.
Next time I’ll go in and try one or two treats – get it while you can.