Memories of Calderdale

The Crowthers of Commercial Street, Brighouse


David Shaw

My family members – Stansfield, Crowther & Turner – have had shops in Commercial Street since the early 1800s.

In 1825, John Stansfield is registered as a cordwainer. His business lasted in the street until about 1938.

His son Edwin Stansfield was a leather currier in the property which was later the bakehouse (Number 62). He set up about 1848 in Macclesfield. After about 4 years, he moved to a very good site at the bottom of the A6 in Salford, finally returning to Brighouse in the mid 1850s. In his final years he was a green grocer about 1870.

Joe Crowther, my great-grandfather, had the cabbie business and, in the 1880s, a pottery shop. The Crowther cab can be seen outside the Turner confectioners shop (Number 62) & the Crowther stables, in the centre of the above photograph, taken in 1905. The cabbie could have been my uncle Arthur Crowther, who was a professional driver all his life.

I am also related to Arthur Hill, the furnisher.

I am connected with many local pubs: The Armytage Arms, Clifton, the Black Swan, Brighouse & the Sun Inn, Rastrick. Also Rastrick Post Office & a shop on Waterloo Road.

The Turner property, in my time was Number 62 Commercial Street. You can see the range of windows above the shop. At that time, this was probably Turner's bakers shop, founded by the mother of my uncle Joe Turner. About this time, he had the second motor car in Brighouse.

The two connected families, Crowther & Turner were either side of the arch, which you can still see opposite Park Street. It was said uncle James was brought home by the horses, drunk & asleep, through the arch.

I will explain the internal layout of the building, as I knew it. The arch lead to a yard, with the Turner back door on the right then the oven behind & finally a sack store open to the elements. At the bottom, a garage, with an old Austin 10 and the stables on the left. I never went in.

In my day (about 1950), the Turners may have owned both shops, but the windows above reveal the connecting rooms in number 62. Big enough for funeral teas & a sitting room. One way in was by a spiral staircase from the shop. Joe & Edith Turner, née Stansfield, were great followers of the horses & were visited daily by my grandad Ramsden Shaw. I found out later he was the bookie's runner. This was illegal at that time & he was hidden by them, when chased by the law.

It was said that the main opposition in Brighouse to the small bakers was one J.P, the great provider, Mr Joe Pearson, who managed to get the lease & was in a position to buy the property. Edith had apparently enough money to buy the lease, and save the business so it may have been soon after they were married 1920. The family often told many tales of funerals, often clearly of people from the more unsophisticated areas. One man was said to ask for more yellow bread, clearly eating cake as bread.

I had a personal experience in the 60s of a troll-like man from Queensbury, who scared me to death & signed his cheques with a X Funerals seemed to produce better stories than weddings. Finally, inside Number 62, was the shop often run by my aunt Marion Stansfield & by my family – the Shaws – in summer for 2 weeks when the Turners headed for Europe. Even bringing back a zither and Lederhosen for me, which was unappreciated. It was a bread shop & caterers, I have the recipe books. Margaret Turner did a Swiss Icing course & icing as required.

Inside the property: Behind the shop was the living room, hot from the room behind, which was the Bakehouse. Saturday night was, before my time, a busy family time where Aunt Lucy, her husband Walter Briggs, my dad Jack Shaw & I suspect Edith or Joe played cards. Aunt Lucy memorably threw the cards in the fire & the visiting Undertaker, reputedly, was hoping for more business. Life in the town was on the doorstep & the roughest part, Zingo Nick, was over the road. Saturday nights had been fun. In 1950s, on summer nights, I slept in the rooms above & listened to the town hall clock striking the hours, waking to the memorable smell of bread. The streets behind were slums & the family learned to treat the affluent & the less fortunate all the same. They often did catering for events like the Police ball at the Assembly Rooms and joined in the dancing, as well as catering. Above the bedrooms were the attics which I gather may still have the nails used by Edwin Stansfield, Edith's relative, from the 1850s for leather tanning. Finally a lifelong memory of Edith's ability to cook in the oven, like a huge tandoor. I still like my meat very brown.

Christmas was of Edwardian proportions & the meat was cooked in the bread oven, with room to cook turkey, leg of pork, sausages & the full trimmings. Preceded by the little known Yorkshire dish Seasoned Pudding, with the old mantra

them as eats most pudding, gets most meat

Harking back to the less fortunate days of the first course filler, delivered in quantity with onion gravy – large pieces like savoury ducks. There was still room to cook the Christmas pudding & even, being a confectioners, to finish with cakes. Finishing with Black Russian cigarettes, provide by Mr Denham the tobacconist, who made the numbers anything but 13. Then they started again to fill the cracks about 11 pm. Various types of potatoes & onions, some meat & cakes.

Finally, I recall the contents of the cellar, a very rare crumpet-making machine, an iron frame, sold to a man from the Roberttown area about 1955 called Lambert Leek.

A picture really can produce a thousand memories

© Malcolm Bull 2023
Revised 13:56 / 5th December 2023 / 8433

Page Ref: M_42

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