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The Corner Shop

How the corner shop became the hub of life

It was service with a smile

Burnley Express and News


Today in the sixth article of our fascinating series on life in Harle Syke, Mr Rowland Kippax, known to many as "Th' Owd Syker", looks at some of the small businesses in the village and the people who ran them.
For the benefit of anyone wishing to write to Mr Kippax his address is 476 Colne Road, Burnley.

These last few weeks have been very enjoyable looking back on my boyhood years in Harle Syke and some of the characters who immediately spring to mind.

This is my final article in this series and my thoughts turn to some of the small shops and businesses which were very much a part of community life.

In my young days there used to be at least four confectioners who baked bread and cakes and sold them on the premises.

There were Billy Eastwood on Co-op Row, Thornton and Graves on Burnley Road; and Hindles on Queen Street. All these premises are no longer bakeries. Storey's on Burnley Road is now the only one.


The Co-op had three grocery shops, Haggate, Burnley and Gorple Street. They also had a butchers, a shoe and clog repairers and a drapers. Only the butchers is now left.
Let me go back now to where I started, before motors came up Syke. All the weft, beams, etc., came into the mills from Oldham district and all cloth went out to Manchester district by horse and cart to and from the station, and by rail from the station was done by a local firm, M. A. Hargreaves and Sons, who had the stables which is now Briercliffe Working Men's Club. I am told that originally cloth was delivered direct to Manchester by horse and lorry at one time, but this was before my time at the mill.

Hargreaves had several sons, but the main ones in the carrying business were John Tommy, Wright and Levi. They also had their own blacksmith's business, and wheelwrights' business on the premises. The wheelwright was a Mr Knapton. They had a steam wagon at one time and then a motor lorry.

The carrying of goods in this fashion was carried on until 1915, when a firm called Brierley and Crowther's commenced business with two steam wagons, one a Sentinel and the other an Atkinson. Their charge was 11 shillings per ton for cloth delivered straight from the merchants in Manchester and the same price for yarn collected and brought from mills in Oldham and district to the mill at Harle Syke. Unfortunately the Government commandeered these two vehicles in 1916 or 1917 and they were taken on war service to Wales for the remainder of the war.


In a previous article, I told about the large number of fish in the mill lodges at Harle Syke. The lads of my generation must have caught hundreds and all used the same tackle, a line made with cotton thread and a bent pin. Anything would do for bait so long as it was white. We never carried a tin or a jar to put our catches in. If we were going to keep them we would put them in our caps, put our caps on our heads and run home with them. I don't know who started this habit but it worked for at least ten minutes.

I was once on holiday at Bournemouth and there were a lot of fish in a pond in the hotel grounds. I told some men how we used to catch them with our own made lines, and they didn't believe me so I made a line and baited it with orange peel. I caught one with my first attempt. I wasn't very popular with the management after that, because some of the boys in the hotel began fishing like I had shown them. In a couple of days a notice was put up stating that fishing was prohibited in the pond.


John Tommy Latham who lived at 88 Burnley Road was originally dispenser for Dr Callum and Dr Munro when they came to Burnley, and he also acted as their collector from patients who paid their doctor's bills by installments weekly. Remember there was no sick pay or medical health service in those days. He also opened the shop at that address as a kind of druggists, but did not make up prescriptions at that time. His son Tom qualified as a chemist, married, and opened the shop in Burnley Road at the top of Talbot Street in 1921.

Mr Latham senior, because he had been operating a druggist's shop for so long, was made a member of the Pharmaceutical Society and allowed to make up prescriptions from 1933.

I am grateful for this story to Mr Latham's granddaughter, Mrs Hickman, who lives in "Staring Row" at Holt Hill.


The last shall be first. If I had to name the best known man in the village apart from the headmaster, Mr Leaver, it would have to be Mr Dan Halstead, better known as "Ginger Dan," the proprieter of a grocers and sweet shop at the corner of Burnley Road and Queen Street.

Every child who attended Haggate School from the Harle Syke area, at one time or another, spent their halfpennies and pennies at Dan's shop. He was there from 1907 for close on 40 years and when I was a boy of five or six years of age, he served me for the first time and for scores of times afterwards. In the little booklet which the late Mr Abraham Leaver wrote, he said that at one time there were more than 500 children being educated at Haggate. I reckon that at least 50 per cent of these spent their halfpennies and pennies at "Ginger Dan's." What is more those children were just as welcome to Dan as were the other customers who spent much more, but just try and calculate how many halfpennies and pennies he handled from those children over 40 years.

Another item which his daughter, Mrs E. M. Redman, told me, was that every Wednesday he would make 200 lucky bags, every one had a small toy in it and was made up with sweets. And she added, everyone of those lucky bags was sold by Thursday night. Children bought them but there were many mams and dad who had a nibble at them also.


Dan at one time, even before my time, was the comedian in a local Nigger Minstrel Concert Troupe and he was still a comedian to all the children who went into his shop. Mrs Redman told me another story about her dad. A man was coming from Wakefield to see him on business, and he inquired from a shopkeeper in Burnley as to how to find Dan's shop, the Burnley shopkeeper told him "When tha gets ter them shades up Syke thar mon ax onny o't childer were Ginger Dan's shop is, they'll tell thee," and he was right.

I am thankful to my friend Willis Thornton for the following two items.

He remembers a soldier named Sam Heys returning from the Boer War and part of the Haggate Band played him home from the station to Harle Syke.

The other item is a notice he remembered appearing in the window of Harry Marsden's "chip hoil" which said: "Owing to the increase in price of fish we are compelled to increase the price of our fish to one penny." This he dates to around 1910.


Passing certain places always brings back memories to me of events that I remember as a young boy. Three of us, all lads, were sat on the "flag edge" on a certain back street in Harle Syke, suddenly we were startled by a girl's frightened scream: "Mother, taypots fallen dairn petty." We did laugh. I still do when I think of it.

My story about the Harle Syke Co-op and my query: "Do you know what a 'flair poork' was?" brought an answer to our front door. It was a man named Alwin Jones, who said that he used to be the flour lad at Harle Syke Co-op and that all lads starting off in the Co-op began by serving flour and potatoes. He is now a director in the Local East Lancs parcels delivery services. His wife was a weaver at Stuttards and worked next to my wife's sister.

There is an addition to the list of winners of the Dr Muir Medal that I mentioned in my first article. Harold Leaver and Arthur Leaver, brothers, Tom Starkie and Osmond Bythell were also winners. In the list of girl winners Edna Lee should have read Elsie Lee, my apologies.

Last week I mentioned Mrs Holmes, one of the midwives in the village and her family of 14. The names of two daughters still alive should have read Alice and Doris, the youngest daughter.

The time has come to complete my reminiscences of Harle Syke.

These articles are not history, as I am not an historian. There are several men who could have done that job better than I could. I have never kept a diary and everything that I have written has been from memory. I have had the help of friends in finding the photographs for the series, I am thankful to "mi owd mates and friends" for one or two corrections where I have gone wrong especially to Miss Laura Burrows for telling me that I had married the Rev. Stevens to the wrong daughter of Mrs Pape that was to Vena when it should have been Gladys.

I have enjoyed writing, it has bought back many memories, and I am sure that the articles will have done the same to many more "Owd Sykers."

The Greenwood family of Duke Street, Harle Syke, taken around 1902. Mr Roger Greenwood was a six-loom weaver at different mills up Harle Syke.
The granddaughter of the family, Mrs Edna Melileu (nee Nuttall), who loaned me the photograph, said that at the time it was taken all twelve children were living at home. The only survivor is Harold, now aged 80. With the exception of Ethel, all the children lived to good ages. James Henry was over 90 when he died.
They are left to right: (back row) Margaret Ann, Fred, Jane, James Henry, Alice. Front row: Mary, Harold, Mr Greenwood, Mena, Ethel, Hilda, Mrs Greenwood, Tom and Edith.

Greenwood Family >>

Haggate School taken in approximately 1923, when the teacher on the photograph was Edna May Sutcliffe.
In one of my earlier articles, I said the number of pupils in my class was around 50. This picture shows how the size of the class had considerably depreciated.

Haggate School >>

With kind permission of The Burnley Express.

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