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53 & 53a, High Street

The numbering needs explanation here. Going in the direction of the Tuesday Market Place, No. 52 is followed by No. 53a, then No. 53.

In earlier days, these were two narrow-fronted shops with a passage between them which led to a small yard at the rear of the properties.

The two shops were of a similar size until the passage between Nos. 53 and 53a was taken into the latter shop in fairly recent times. Today, No. 53a is larger than No. 53.

It is not always clear whether references in directories and other sources refer to No. 53 or to No. 53a.

No. 53

 c1822 – c1854 (Mary Daisley I) (Mary Daisley II) (Thomas H. Daisley)

Mary Daisley I, nèe Carse, (b. c1776 – d. 1844/5) was living here in 1841 with two of her children. She had been born in about 1776 and married Thomas Daisley at St. Nicholas chapel in Lynn on 8th September, 1791. They had several children but some died in infancy. The two who were here in 1841 were:-

1) Mary II – see below (b. c1808 – d. 1863/4, aged about 56). 2) Thomas Howe, a solicitor’s clerk and ship owner (b. c1812 – d. 15/12/1870, aged about 58). The probate entry for Thomas Daisley after his death in 1870 gives his middle name as Howard.

Mary I had been listed as a straw hat maker with premises on High Street in 1822 (Pigot). Two later entries are for Mary Daisley at No. 54 (Pigot, 1830) and M. A. Daisley at 55, High Street (White, 1836). It may be that these entries recorded the wrong numbers or that the street numbering had changed. For the purposes of this account, Mary Daisley and her daughter Mary (A) Daisley are assumed to have occupied premises at this address from at least 1822 until at least 1854.

Mary Daisley I died in 1845 and Mary II and her brother Thomas Howe stayed on at No. 53. Mary continued the straw hat making business that her mother had started, but had retired by 1861.

Thomas Daisley worked as a solicitor’s general clerk in Lynn for many years but by 1861 had become a ship owner.

Mary Daisley II died in 1863/4, aged about 56, and Thomas died in 1870, aged about 58.

c1863 (Elizabeth Hardmeat)

Elizabeth Hardmeat, a confectioner, is listed here in Harrod’s directory for 1863. However, she was only living in Lynn from about 1849 until about 1855. Whether the directory entry was ordered in advance and not cancelled, or whether she continued to run the shop after moving to Wisbech, is not known.

Born in Gransmoor, a hamlet in the East Riding of Yorkshire, in about 1820, Elizabeth Medforth worked as a domestic servant before marrying Joseph Hardmeat (b. c1824 in Wisbech) in 1846. Joseph was an ironmonger and he moved to Lynn with Elizabeth and they were living in South Street in 1851. Elizabeth and Joseph had eight children:-

1) Anne (b. c1847 in Cambridgeshire). 2) Elizabeth Adams (b. 1848/9 in Lynn). 3) John Medforth – a pottery carman in 1911 (b. 1850 in Lynn – d. 1926, aged 77). 4) Joseph (b. 1852/3 in Lynn). 5) Susannah Adams (b. 1854 in Wisbech – m. Henry Haines in 1877 – d. 1883, aged 30). 6) Robert Henry – a fishmonger’s clerk in 1911 (b. 1856 in Wisbech– m. Florence Methley in 1877). 7) Selina Maria (b. 1860 in Ipswich). 8) Christine J. (b. c1864 in Yorkshire).

Elizabeth Hardmeat died in Yorkshire in 1890, aged 70

 1863 – 1866 (Fanny Coupland Lavender)

Fanny Lavender had been working as an assistant to Joseph Kirkham at No. 82, High Street in 1861. Two years later, she opened a toy shop and fancy repository here, placing the following notice in the Lynn Advertiser on 7th November, 1863:-

‘NEW TOY and FANCY REPOSITORY, 53, High Street, Lynn.

C. LAVENDER, having taken the above premises, respectfully informs the Ladies of Lynn and surrounding neighbourhood, that she has opened them with an entire new and well assorted stock of toys, together with every leading novelty in fancy goods, which she trusts will ensure satisfaction and confidence. A call is solicited.’

Fanny was born in Spalding, Lincolnshire on 11th January, 1831. Her parents were Richard Brand Lavender, a tailor, (b. c1800 – d. 02/09/1867) and Mary Cammack (b. 1804 – d. 1839), who had seven children:-

1) Jane (b. 28/03/1829 – m. Robert Arnold White in 1863. 2) Mary (b. 28/03/1829). 3) Fanny Coupland (b. 11/01/1831 – d. 02/09/1867, aged 37). 4) Harriet (b. 07/11/1832 – m. George Francis Barrell in 1856 – d. 07/12/1864, aged 32). 5) Samuel (b. 17/12/1834). 6) Charlotte (b. 05/01/1837 – m. Henry Smith in 1870/1). 7) Richard (b. 1838).

Fanny Lavender was here for under three years, leaving before October 1866. She died on 13th October, 1867, aged 37.

1866 (Joseph Cocksedge Potter jnr.) (Catherine Potter)

Joseph Cocksedge Potter jnr, a tobacconist, was born in Halstead, Essex in 1841. His father Joseph Cocksedge Potter snr, was a draper who had a shop at No. 91, High Street for about 40 years. More details of the family will be found at that number.

Having learnt his trade in London, J. C. Potter jnr, came to Lynn and opened his first shop, advertising in the Lynn Advertiser on 25th February, 1865:-


C. POTTER, jnr., TEA DEALER and TOBACCONIST, 147, Norfolk Street, near High Street, Lynn, having taken the premises lately occupied by Mr. Kidd, is now prepared to offer to the public a large and well assorted stock of Tea, Coffee, Tobacco, Cigars, Fancy Pipes etc., etc., and hopes by strict attention and by supplying a genuine article, to merit a share of their patronage and support.’

He was at No. 147, Norfolk Street for less than two years before moving to High Street.

On 13t October, 1866, he placed the following notice in the Lynn Advertiser:-

‘Notice of Removal. J. C. POTTER jnr., Tobacconist etc., begs to inform his friends and customers that he has removed from NORFOLK STREET to more commodious premises, No. 53, HIGH STREET, where he hopes, by supplying a first-class article at a fair price, to receive a continuance of that patronage which has hitherto been so liberally bestowed upon him.

J C. P. in returning his best thanks for past favours, wishes to state that he has renewed his stock with a large assortment of Meerschaum and Briar Pipes, Cigar Tubes, Cigar Cases, and every article connected with the Fancy Tobacconist’s trade, which will be supplied at the lowest London prices.

A large stock of British and Foreign Cigars of the most appreciated brands, and in the finest condition.

Genuine Teas, guaranteed pure and unmixed, as imported.’

Joseph Potter married Catherine Codling (b. 1845/6 in Lynn) at All Saints Church, South Lynn on 30th January, 1867.

Catherine was the daughter of Charles Codling, a boot and shoe maker in All Saints Street. Joseph and Catherine had three children, all born in Lynn:-

1) Alice Kate, a drapery assistant in London in 1891 (b. 1867 – m. Henry Thomas Horncastle, a tea traveller, in 1892 – d. 1954, aged 87). 2) Caroline Edith, a milliner in London in 1891 (b. 1868 – m. Richard Charles Brown, a bank clerk, in 1897). 3) Gertrude Maude (b. 1871 – m. Henry James Murray, a bank manager, in 1900).

Joseph, his wife Catherine and their three daughters were living here at No. 53 in 1881.

Joseph Potter jnr. died fourteen years before his father, on 5th April, 1885, aged 43.

Catherine was running the tobacconist’s shop on her own in 1891, being listed here in White’s Directory for 1890 and in Kelly’s for 1892 and 1900. She seems to have moved out in 1900, and in 1901 she was staying with her married daughter, Caroline Brown, in Streatham In 1911 she was with her eldest daughter, Alice Horncastle, in Mitcham, Surrey.

c1900 – c1935 (Herbert Hudson)

Herbert Hudson, of Wisbech, had two High Street shops, Nos. 11 and 53 (see the former for more details of his family). He was born in Wisbech on 7th October, 1865. He had business interests as a coal merchant, fruiterer and tobacconist in the Market Place at Wisbech, and never moved from the town. In 1901, the living accommodation above the shop at No. 53 was let out to John William Blackster, a clerk in the Registry Office and an assistant overseer of the Poor Rate.

Born in Long Sutton, Lincolnshire in about 1877, John Blackster married Ethel May Holdcroft (see No. 45, the Queen’s Head) in 1900. They had two children, both born in Lynn:-

1) Eunice Marjorie (b. 1901). 2) Sybil Maud (b. 10/06/1901 – died in infancy).

On 21st December, 1901, Herbert Hudson placed the following advertisement in the Lynn Advertiser:-

‘The Most Suitable CHRISTMAS PRESENTS. Herbert Hudson, The Smoker’s Provider, 11 and 53, High Street, Lynn, is now showing his choice and thoroughly up-to-date stock of Briar and Meerschaum Pipes, Cigar & Cigarette Cases & Holders, Tobacco Pouches, Tobacco Jars, Match Boxes, Walking Sticks, etc. The largest stock of British & Foreign Cigars in Norfolk (All in Perfect Condition). Single Boxes at Wholesale Prices. You will save 25 per cent by purchasing your Xmas Goods from HERBERT HUDSON, Cigar Importer and Bonder, Lynn & Wisbech.’

 c1935 – 1973 (Finlay & Co. Ltd.)

From 1935 until at least 1973, Finlays the tobacconists were here. The business was started by John H. Finlay with a small tobacconist’s shop in Collingwood Street, Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1847, and traded under the name of J. H. Finlay & Company. By 1902, a chain of about 50 branches had been established and the name was changed to Finlay & Company Ltd. Over the next five years, the chain grew to 203 branches and by 1921 there were 284. The next stage of expansion saw the development of railway station kiosks and by 1928 there was a total of 328 outlets. That year marked the entry of the Imperial Tobacco Company into Finlays’ business when they acquired a financial interest. During the next three years, a number of other tobacco retail chains were taken over by Finlays, including the 77 shops of Albert Baker & Company (1898) Ltd., and the 19 shops of A. I. Drapkin Ltd., both in 1928. The expansion of the London underground system presented further opportunities for new kiosks, as did an agreement with Montague Burton Ltd., to take at least 50 sites in new Burton buildings. By 1939, the group consisted of 377 shops and 331 kiosks. By the end of the war, this had been reduced to 351 shops and 296 kiosks. In 1963, Imperial Tobacco took over Finlays as a wholly-owned subsidiary.

John H. Finlay and his wife, Mary Ellen, had three children:-

1) Emily Ellen (b. c1852). 2) Marion Ada (b. c1860 – m. 1888 to Charles James Wilson, a golf club secretary c1911 – d. 1941, aged 82). 3) Mary Louisa (b. c1871).

John H. Findlay died in 1897, aged 78.

No. 53a

c1822 – 1864 (John Laws)

John Laws, a boot and shoe maker, was listed at No. 54½ in Kelly’s Nine Counties Directory for 1846. There are no other listings for that address and it may be that he was here at No. 53½, as listed in Slater’s directory for 1850, White’s for 1854 and Harrod’s for 1863.

Born in Lynn in about 1802, John was married to Naomi, who had been born in Downham in about 1807. John and Naomi had four children:-

1) Emma (b. c1829 – m. Thomas Kemp, a mariner in 1850 – d. 1873/4, aged 45). 2) Eleanor (b. c1826 – d. 1903, aged 80). 3) Naomi (b. c1827 – m. James West Hayes in 1854 – see No. 41 – d. 1913/14, aged 86). 4) Elizabeth (b. c1833).

By 1868, the business had moved to No. 79, High Street and John, Naomi and their daughters Eleanor and Elizabeth were living there in 1871.

John Laws died in 1871/2, aged 70, and Naomi died two years later, aged 68.

1864 – c1868 (John Bowen)

John Bowen had a boot and shoe manufactory in Railway Road between 1854 (White) and 1879 (Kelly). He took the shop here when it was vacated by John Laws. The following notice appeared in the Lynn Advertiser on 5th November, 1864:

BOOT & SHOE MANUFACTORY, Railway Road and High Street, Lynn.

J. BOWEN begs respectfully to return thanks to his numerous friends and the public in general for the very liberal support conferred upon him for the ten years he has been in business, and wishes to inform them that he has taken the shop lately occupied by Mr. Laws, boot and shoe maker, High Street, which he intends opening on Saturday next, with an entire new stock of boots and shoes, which he will offer at such prices as must ensure a ready sale. J. B. having had 30 years practical experience in the above line, and having his goods manufactured under his personal instructions, can with confidence recommend every article to be of the best material and workmanship, combined with the lowest possible prices.

John Bowen called his shop the ‘GOLDEN BOOT’.

c1868 – 1871 (John Rivett)

John Rivett, a hairdresser, was at No. 53a from about 1868 until his death in early 1871. However, the only entry for his business is in Harrod’s directory for 1868, which gives the number as 53.

A John Rivett was the proprietor of a confectionery business at No. 92, High Street in 1863, and another was licensee of the Goat in Friars Street between 1861 and 1863.

There is no confirmation, but this John Rivett appears to have been the son of Charles Rivett (see No. 81, High Street). He died in 1870/1, aged 41.

1871 – 1878 James Gunton Potter)

On 6th May, 1871, the following notice appeared in the Lynn Advertiser:-

‘JAMES G. POTTER begs to inform the Gentlemen of Lynn and neighbourhood that he has taken the premises occupied by the late Mr. John Rivett, 53a, High Street, three doors from Norfolk Street, KING’S LYNN; and will open them on TUESDAY, May 9th, with a large and choice Stock of GENTLEMEN’S SHIRTS, HOSIERY, TIES, COLLARS, GLOVES, UMBRELLAS, HATS and GENTLEMEN’S UNDERCLOTHING OF EVERY KIND, also PORTMATEAUS, HAT CASES, RAILWAY RUGS, CRICKETING BELTS, CRICKETING and BOATING SHIRTS and COSTUMES, DRESSING CASES, PERFUMERY ETC. The above stock will be replete with every article in the trade, and J. G. P. respectfully solicits a share of public support. 53a, HIGH STREET, KING’S LYNN.’

James was one of the sons of Joseph Cocksedge Potter snr, a draper who had a shop at No. 91, High Street, where more details of the family will be found.

James’ brother Joseph Cocksedge Potter jnr, a tobacconist, had the next door shop, No. 53.

James was born in Lynn in 1850. In 1874 he married Mary Honoria Manning in London, and in 1881 they were living in Paddington, where James was working as a commercial traveller. James and Mary had four children, the two eldest born in King’s Lynn, the other two in London:-

1) Flora Adelaide E. (b. 1875 – m. Charles William Harris, a cheesemonger’s assistant, in 1896). 2) Muriel May (b. c1877). 3) Norah Hannah E. (b. 1879). 4) James Gunton jnr. (b. 1884).

James Gunton Potter snr died in London in 1887, aged 37, and Mary Honoria died in 1924, aged 69.

 1878 – c1890 (Edmund Dodman)

Edmund Dodman, a hatter, hosier and haberdasher opened a shop here in 1878, placing the following notice in the Lynn Advertiser on 2nd November that year:-

‘E. DODMAN, Hosier, and Haberdasher, 53a HIGH STREET, KING’S LYNN, begs most respectfully to inform his friends and the Public generally that he has taken the shop lately occupied by Mr. J. G. Potter, and trusts by keeping a selection of good and useful articles, to meet a share of their kind support and recommendation.

A Splendid assortment of Scarves, Collars, etc., etc.

Please note the address; 53a, High Street, next door to Mr. Potter, tobacconist, and 3 doors from Norfolk Street.’

He was the son of William Dodman (b. 1817 – d. 1879, aged 64) and Hannah Rye (b. c1819 – d. 1911, aged 92).

William Dodman was an agricultural labourer born in East Rudham in Norfolk. He spent most of his working life in Burnham Market. Hannah was born in Great Massingham, Norfolk, and her father Richard Rye was also an agricultural labourer. William and Hannah married at St. Margaret’s church, Lynn on 28th March, 1846, and they had five children, including twins:-

1) Anna Rye (b. c1842 – m. 1873 to John Walker, an agricultural labourer – d. 1931, aged 89). 2) John – a twin – (b. 1846 – worked as a painter for a builder in London – m. Georgiana Faulkner in 1882 – d. 1924, aged 76). 3) Elizabeth – a twin – (b. 1846). 4) James (b. c1851). 5) Edmund – see below (b. 1853 – m. Sophia Batterbee in 1881 – d. 1925, Aged 72).

After William’s death in 1879, Hannah moved to Lynn to stay with her son Edmund and they were both living here at No. 53 in 1881. Later that year, Edmund married Sophia (b. 1860), daughter of Joseph Batterbee (b. c1819 in Lynn), a milkman of All Saints Street, Lynn. Edmund and Sophia had three children:-

1) Ethel Mildred (b. 1882 – m. dairyman Ernest Arthur Wallis in 1910 – d. 1965/6, aged 83). 2) Edith Mabel (b. 1883/4 – d. 1967, aged 83). 3) Sidney Edmund (b. 1889 – d. 1902/3, aged 13).

Edmund stayed here until at least 1881 but had left before 1891, giving up the hosiery business for dairying, and he had moved to All Saints Street, Lynn, by 1891, within three doors of where his father-in-law had been living. By 1901, the family had moved out to Wisbech Road, on the outskirts of the town, and Edmund was working as a dairy farmer.

Edmund died in 1925, aged 72, and Sophia died in 1938, aged 77.

c1890 – c1892 (Amelia & Fanny Lowe) (James Lowe)

Amelia and Fanny Lowe, fancy and toy dealers, were listed here in White’s directory for 1890, and the business, recorded as a fancy repository, was under their father James’ name in Kelly’s directory for 1892. None of the family lived on the premises and there was no-one recorded here in the 1891 census.

James Lowe, born c1827 in Lynn, started out as a shoemaker but was working in a flour warehouse in 1871 and was a tea dealer and grocer, at 51, London Road, in 1881. He spent the last fifteen years or more of his life running a stationery shop and post office at No. 53, London Road.

In 1852/3, James married Selina Maria Lessons (b. c1824 –– d. 1915, aged 91), the daughter of Thomas and Rebecca Lessons of Purfleet Street They had five children:-

1) Frances / Fanny Hannah (b. 1853 – d. 1897/8, aged 44). 2) Agnes Rebecca (b. 1856 – d. 1942, aged 86). 3) Amelia Ann (b. 1857 – d. 1926, aged 69). 4) Edwin Lessons (b. 1858/9 – d. 1868, aged 9). 5) Adeline Annie – see No. 69 – (b. 1886 – m. Henry Logsdail, chemist in 1886 – d. 1950, aged 87).

Although James’ name is alongside the fancy repository entry in Kelly’s directory for 1892, it is most unlikely that he had anything to do with the running of the business, which was down to Amelia and Fanny. They were first listed in Kelly’s directory for 1879 when they had a ‘Berlin wool repository’ in Tuesday Market Street (sic). It is not clear whether this was in the Tuesday Market Place or just off it – perhaps in Market Lane – or whether it was in Market Street. There was a similar listing at that address in the directory for 1883, and it was between this latter year and 1892 that the sisters moved the business to No. 53a High Street. Apparently, they had given up the business by the mid-1890s. Fanny died in 1897/8 and Amelia went into her father’s shop as an assistant, and continued to work there for her sister Agnes.

From c1875 to c1883, their father James had been running a grocery shop at No. 51, London Road. By 1892 he had moved to No. 53, London Road, where he ran the stationery and post office business until his death in 1904/5. Agnes, who had joined her sisters in the wool and fancy goods shop for a short time around 1881, went into her father’s business as a post office clerk and took over when he died. She remained there until at least 1922.

c1896 – c1904 (Alfred Henry Pank)

By 1896 (Kelly), Alfred Henry Pank had established a printing and stationery business here.

Born in Lynn in 1845, Alfred was the son of Isaac Pank (b. c1805 in Lynn – d. 1867, aged 61) and his wife Sophia (b. c.1811 in Norfolk – d. 1863, aged about 52). Isaac was a plumber and glazier, and he and Sophia had nine children:-

1) Elizabeth Buscall (b. c1832 – d. 1870/71, aged 39). 2) Alexander Clumham – a painter & decorator – (b. c1834 – m. Anna Maria Flowerday Gribble in 1858/9 – died a pauper in 1904, aged 72). 3) Sophia (b. c1835 – died in infancy). 4) Emily – a dressmaker – (b. c1836– d. 1897/8, aged 59). 5) Isaac Buscall – a traveller for cooking equipment – (b. 1838– d. 1879/80, aged 42). 6) Sophia (b. 1839 – d. 1852). 7) Frederica (b. 1842/3 – d. 1854, aged about 12). 8) Alfred Henry – see below – (b. 1845 – m. Mary Ann Frost in 1869 – d. 1922, aged 76). 9) Anne Maria (Annie) – a dressmaker – (b. 1849 – d. 1905, aged 53).

Alfred married Mary Ann Frost at King’s Lynn in 1869. They had five children:-

1) Millie Ella S. (b. 1870 – m. William Robert Brown, an engine driver, in 1895 – d. 1939, aged 69). 2) Edith Alice (b. 1872 – m. William Kent, a blacksmith, in 1892). 3) Alfred William – a printer / compositor – (b. 1874– m. Kate Annie Brown in 1898/9 – d. 1962/3, aged 87). 4) Alexander Isaac – a bookbinder – (b. 1876/7– m. Frances Katherine Watts in 1896 – d. 1923, aged 46). 5) Harry Herbert – a bookbinder – (b. 1889– m. Dorothy Foster in 1910 – d. 1965, aged 76).

Alfred was working as a printer and stationer in 1871, when he and Mary Ann were living in Checker Street, Lynn, with their new-born daughter, Millie. In 1881, his occupation was given as a stationer’s assistant, and the family were still in Checker Street. However, in 1891, they were living in St. Anns Street and Alfred was the proprietor of the Waverly Coffee Tavern & Temperance Hotel. He was also listed as a stationers’ clerk. He established his business here at No. 53a soon after that date and was listed as a printer and stationer in 1901, when living in Tower Street.

Alfred’s business is listed here in Kelly’s directory for 1900 but the family were not living here at that date.

Alfred died in 1922, aged 76.

1904 – 1970s (Johnson Brothers) (Jas. Smith & Sons)

From 1904 until at least 1974, the dry cleaning and dyeing business of Johnson Brothers had a local branch here.

Johnson Brothers and Jas. Smith & Sons had amalgamated in 1920. This branch was listed as Johnson Brothers in 1960 (Kelly) and 1970/1 (Yates) but had changed to Jas. Smith & Sons by 1973 (Kelly). (See James Smith & Sons Ltd at No. 17a, High Street).

The business was started in about 1817 by William Johnson I (b. 1787 – m. Elizabeth Sands on 19th September, 1809 – and Alice Gresham – d. 1851, aged about 64). He placed the following advertisement in Gores Liverpool General Advertiser on 5th March, 1829:-

WILLIAM JOHNSON, Silk Dyer, No. 17, Bold Street, opposite Slater Street, Liverpool, grateful for the distinguished patronage his superior method of Dyeing and Finishing has procured, humbly solicits a continuance. Ladies’ Silk Dresses, Cloaks, Pelisses, Lace Veils, etc., in Silk, Satin, Velvet, or Canton Crape, are Dyed & Finished as in London. Cloth Pelisses, Cloaks, Shawls, Scarfs, Morines, and Damasks are Cleaned or Dyed, and Finished, as in Leeds. Chintz, Hangings, Sofa & Chair Covers Cleaned and Glazed; Calico Hangings Dyed or Glazed; large Carpets Cleaned and Finished without taking them to pieces; Marseilles Quilts, Hearth Rugs, Carriage Rugs, and Blankets Cleaned; Gentlemen’s Clothes Cleaned and Renovated; and every other Article in the line of business executed with the greatest punctuality and despatch.

William Johnson I was born in 1787, probably in Leeds, and married Elizabeth Sands in the city on 19th September, 1809. He and Elizabeth had two sons who were both born in Leeds. The elder, William appears to have died young:-

1) William (b. 19/08/1810 – baptised William Sands). 2) Thomas Sands I – see below – (b. 10/12/1811 – m. Eliza Collinson on 21/05/1833 – d. 10/06/1843, aged 31).

Thomas Sands I was apprenticed to a dyeing firm in London. He then returned to Leeds where he worked with his uncle.

Following the death of his first wife, William Johnson I married Alice Gresham and set up in business in Liverpool. They had one son:-

1) William II – see below – (b. 1819 – d. 1866, aged 47),

Back in Leeds, Thomas Sands I had set up on his own account at 27, Commercial Street.

William II took over the running of the Bold Street enterprise, moving it to No. 45, in 1832, and at about the same time Thomas Sands I sold his business in Leeds to Thomas Bennett, moved to Liverpool, and opened up as a silk dyer at 4, Ranelagh Street. The two brothers formed a partnership to run their two businesses, and ‘Johnson Brothers’ was launched. Their father William I retired in 1839 and the following announcement appeared in the Liverpool Mail on 14th March, that year:-

THOMAS SANDS JOHNSON, Silk-Dyer, 4, Ranelagh Street, and Wm. JOHNSON, Jun., Silk-Dyer, 45, Bold Street, having entered into an arrangement to carry on the businesses conjointly, take leave most respectfully to solicit from the numerous kind friends of their Father, and from the Public generally, a continuance of those favours so liberally conferred upon him during his residence in Bold Street; and, at the same time, to assure them that every exertion shall be made by them to give satisfaction to everyone who may kindly favour them with their orders. The two establishments will in future be carried on under the firm of “Johnson Brothers”.  

The brothers moved premises but stayed in the same area of the city. In 1843 they advertised from 9, Ranelagh Street and 126, Bold Street as “Johnson Brothers, London Dyeing Establishments”.

Thomas Sands Johnson I married Eliza Collinson on 21st May, 1833 and they had six children, all born in Liverpool:-

1) Thomas Sands II – see below – (b, 1835 – m. Margaret Jane Corlett on 01/06/1858 – d. 04/01/1912, aged 77). 2) Richard H. (b. c1836). 3) Frederick Charles (b. 1837 – d. 31/03/1870, aged 33). 4) Amelia Collinson (b. 1839 – d. 17/10/1839). 5) William Collinson – an accountant in Cape Colony – (b. 1841 – m. Frances Mary – d. 27/04/1919, aged 78). 6) John Labron – a Liverpool solicitor – (b. 1842 – m. Ada Gordon Hargreaves in 1870 – d. 22/12/1939, aged 97).

The partnership between the two brothers appears to have been a loose arrangement whereby each managed their own business but advertised jointly. Thomas Sands Johnson I died on 10th June, 1843, aged 31, and his widow Eliza took control of the business, initially in partnership with William II.

Eliza Johnson (1819 – 1866) was head of the firm from 1846 to 1860. She proved to be a determined and enterprising businesswoman and may be credited with expanding the business and laying the foundations of an extremely successful family-run company which eventually became the largest of its kind in the country. She came from a Merseyside family that became well known for making high class footwear. When she was widowed she was living in Bold Street above the shop where Johnson Brothers were still trading 100 years later. The Ranelagh Street premises were then “the works”. After her husband’s death she threw herself energetically into the business in partnership with her brother-in-law William II, helped by her father-in-law William I, although he had retired by that date. But in 1849 there was a disagreement and she dissolved the partnership with her brother-in-law, who set up in opposition to her further down Bold Street.

When they went their separate ways, William II placed the following notice in the Liverpool Mail on 10th November, 1849:-

LONDON DYE-HOUSE, 15, Ranelagh Street. WILLIAM JOHNSON – REQUESTS his Customers, especially his Bold Street Friends, to observe that the PARTNERSHIP carried on by himself and late Brother, and subsequently with the Executors, under the firm of “Johnson Brothers”, is DISSOLVED, and he has now no connexion with the old Establishment, (of which for the last ten years and upwards he was the acting Partner and sole practical Manager), but has REMOVED TO 15 RANELAGH STREET (Three doors from the old premises).

William II’s rival business was not a success and he died intestate in 1866, aged 47, but Eliza’s business, still trading as Johnson Brothers, thrived.

In 1849, when he was fifteen years old, Thomas Sands Johnson II was sent by his mother Eliza on a five-year apprenticeship with McGill and Eastman in London. In the event, Eliza asked McGill and Eastman to release Thomas a year early because she needed his help to expand the business. He returned to become a partner with his mother.

Thomas Sands Johnson II married Margaret Jane Corlett on 01/06/1858, and they had seven children:-

1) Elizabeth M (b. 1861). 2) Annie Josephine (b. 1863 – m. Richard Gardner Williams in 1893 – d. 1907, aged 44). 3) Benjamin Sands – director of the company – later knighted – (b. 1865 – m. Janet Steele Hutcheson on 15/02/1903 – d. 1937, aged 72). 4) Ada (b. 1867). 5) Frederick Corlett – director of the company – (b. 1870 – m. Miriam Mildred Darbyshire in 1905 – d. 05/02/1944, aged 73). 6) Ellen Louise (b. 1872 – m. Robert Crossfield – d. 06/10/1944, aged 72). 7) Thomas Sands III – director and general manager of the company – (b. 1874 – m. Edith Hannah Walker in 1901 – d. 1921, aged 47).

The partnership between Eliza Johnson and her son Thomas Sands II, was dissolved at the end of 1875 but it was not until 12th December 1876 that this formal announcement appeared in the London Gazette:-

NOTICE is hereby given, that the Partnership heretofore subsisting between us the undersigned, Eliza Johnson and Thomas Sands Johnson, carrying on business as Dyers, under the style or firm of Johnson Brothers, in the borough of Liverpool in the county of Lancaster, and elsewhere, was dissolved  on 31st December, last by mutual consent. All debts owing or due to the late firm will be discharged or received by the said Thomas Sands Johnson, who for the future will carry on the business on his own account at the places of business of the late firm under the style or firm of Johnson Brothers. – Dated this 30th November, 1876.

In 1881 Thomas Sands II was joined in the business by his eldest son Benjamin Sands (1865 – 1937) – later Sir Ben. He became partner with his father in 1889, the same year that his brother, James Corlett (1870 -1944) joined the company. Ben was made chairman and managing director when Johnson Brothers became a limited liability company in 1898.

Ben and James’ younger brother Thomas Sands III was not lined up to join the company but nonetheless he signed up as an employee in the dye house and later studied dyeing and chemistry at Leeds. He introduced one of his student colleagues, Oswald Gunnell to the business and he took charge of the laboratory at Bootle. Oswald later became managing director and chairman. Thomas Sands III became manager of the works and, in 1898, a partner in the company. Finance to expand the business was provided by Ben’s uncle John Labron Johnson, the youngest son of Thomas Sands I and Eliza. John Labron was a wealthy Liverpool solicitor and he loaned £430 to his brother and nephew.

The only son of Thomas Sands III was Thomas Benjamin Sands (b. 03/01/1910 – m. Sarah Nancy Isles – d. 1989, aged 79). He became a director in 1940 and managing director in 1952, and chairman in 1960.

Under Eliza and her son Thomas Sands II the business expanded and outgrew its premises in the centre of the city. Eliza found suitable premises in Celia Street, Bootle Lane, Kirkdale, and moved the works there in 1861. The Ranelagh Street shop remained as one of only seven receiving depots. There were 21 employees at the works, but this was soon to increase. By 1868 there were 56 receiving depots and the works had expanded enormously. In 1896 the foundation stone was laid for a new works in Mildmay Road, Bootle, and the firm became a limited company in 1898. Benjamin was chairman and managing director, Frederick was director and company secretary, and Thomas Sands III was general manager, later becoming joint managing director.

Benjamin Sands Johnson was knighted in 1910. He served as mayor of Bootle for two years before he was thirty, in 1893 and 1894. He was a JP and county magistrate. In WWI he was made director general of the Royal Army clothing department and was later director-general of National Factories.

(NOTE: During the First World War, “National Factories” came under the direct control of the Ministry of Munitions. They made every conceivable product that was needed in the war effort, including wooden crates, respirators, shells, and explosives, optical glass, and vehicle radiators. Many factories were adapted from existing works, while others were located in specially designed new buildings.

Benjamin Sands Johnson married Janet Steele (Netta) Hutcheson in 1905 and they had one daughter, Ruth.

During the years before WWI, there were significant changes to the processes used for dyeing and repairing clothes. One major change occurred because of the war; German aniline dyes became unavailable and Johnson Brothers had to source other supplies and encourage the production of British dyes.

The dyeing and cleaning trade was declared an essential industry in WWII, and Johnson Brothers undertook a considerable volume of work for the War Ministry. ‘Make do and mend’ was a slogan that the civilian population had to learn to live by and the mending side of Johnson Brothers assumed greater importance. The Bootle works suffered bomb damage during the war, as did several of their receiving centres.

For well over 100 years, the business model remained largely unchanged – the clothes were taken in at a receiving centre and dispatched to the works in Lancashire for dyeing or cleaning. However, in 1960 this began to change with the introduction of a one-hour cleaning service on the premises at the Princes Street, Bury branch.

Johnson Brothers amalgamated with or took over a number of companies throughout the first seven decades of the 20th Century and became the largest dry cleaning business in the country. In 1995, the twelve companies within the Johnson Group were restructured into two companies within Johnson Cleaners UK Ltd (JCUK).

In 2000 they took over their biggest rival, the Seamara Group, and a few years later bought Sketchley from the Timpson Group, rebranding them as Johnsons in 2007.

In 2012 Johnsons announced the closure of over 100 of their dry cleaning shops and three years later 109 of their remaining 307 branches were also closed when their leases came to an end.

In January 2017 the remaining 198 Johnson Cleaners shops were purchased from Johnson Service Group by Timpson Group PLC (see below).

1970s – 2007 (Occupiers unknown)

 2007 (ESR Services)

A firm of shoe repairers, key cutters, engravers and watch battery replacement services was here in 2007.

 2015 (Timpson)

The shoe repair company Timpson have a branch here (it is not known when they first opened this branch). In addition to shoe repairs, they specialise in key cutting, engraving, dry cleaning, photo processing, and repairs to jewellery, watches and mobile phones.

The origins of the business go back over 150 years. In 1865 William Timpson (b. 20/05/1849 – m. Elizabeth (Lizzie) Farey in 1871 and Katherine Chapman Mursell in 1893 – d. 23/01/1929, aged 79), opened a boot and shoe shop at 298, Oldham Road, Manchester, in partnership with his brother-in-law, Walter Joyce. Five years later William branched out on his own, opening a shop at 97, Oldham Street, Manchester, and soon expanded by opening branches in and around the city.

William Timpson had been born in Rothwell, near Kettering in Northamptonshire and he returned to live in the area for health reasons. He retained day-to-day control of the business and made regular fortnightly visits to Manchester for the next forty years. He married Elizabeth (Lizzie) Farey in Kettering in 1871, and they had eight children – the first five born in Lancashire, the youngest three born in Kettering:-

1) Lilly (b. 1872 – m. Hugh Ellis Roberts in 1897). 2) Florence (Florrie) – (b. 1874). 3) Nelly – private secretary to her father – (b. 1876 – d. 03/01/1945, aged 68). 4) Lizzie Farey (b. 1877). 5) Mary Ann (b. 1879). 6) William Henry Farey (Willie) – company chairman 1929-1961 – (b. 1880 – m. Florence – d. 12/01/1961, aged 80). 7) Charles (b. 1881 – m. Mary Elizabeth Stops in 1908). 8) George Frederick (b. 18/03/1891 – d. 1970, aged 79).

William’s wife Elizabeth died in 1891, aged 41, and he married Katherine Chapman Mursell (b. 1867 in Kettering – d. 1940, aged 73) in Kettering 1n 1893. They had four children, all born in Kettering:-

1) Noel Mursell – managing director 1929-1960 – (b. 1895 – m. Mildred A. Everard in 1922 – d. 09/10/1960, aged 64). 2) Alan Geoffrey (b. 14/06/1897 – m. Ethel B. Rutherford in 1924 – d. 1976, aged 78). 3) Katharine Joan (b. 04/06/1900 – m. Henry T. Guest in 1927 – d. 07/07/1980, aged 80). 4) Margaret Hope (b. 05/10/1902 – m. Charles A. Hambourg in 1940 – d. 28/10/1989, aged 87).

William Timpson expanded the business with assistance from David Gotch and Thomas Alfred Mursell (his brother-in-law), and a huge new warehouse was opened in Great Ducie Street, Manchester. His son William Henry Farey Timpson joined the company in 1896, becoming Managing Director in 1912.

William gradually retired from active involvement in the running of the business but retained an interest until his death on 23rd January, 1929, aged 79. William H. F. then took over as chairman until 1961, and had the role of president in his last year.

The 1970s saw some fundamental changes in the management and direction of the company. John Timpson joined as the purchasing director of the family-owned business but in 1973 the company was acquired by United Drapery Stores for £28.6m. In 1975 John became managing director of William Timpson Ltd.

In 1983, when owned by Hanson Trust plc, William Timpson came back into private ownership under a £42m management buyout led by John Timpson. This was followed by some radical structural changes; the freeholds of the shops were sold to raise funds, and the loss-making shoe retail business was sold to George Oliver for £15m.

By 1987 Timpsons was trading as primarily a shoe repair company with the addition of the other services it now offers.

The company came back into the Timpson family ownership when John bought out the other shareholders in 1993. Since that date Timpsons have acquired numerous chains of shops, together with 40 Persil Service concessions in Sainsburys stores, and Johnsons Cleaners (see above).

The current CEO is James Timpson, who has introduced some outstanding innovations, including the Timpson Pod, a stand-alone concession-trading unit that is placed on supermarket car parks. There are now over 200 of these around the country. He is a leading advocate for the rehabilitation of offenders and around 10% of Timpson’s employees are recruited directly from prison.