In the final part of my seasonal shopping blog I look at Batley’s food and drink shops, as featured in the local press during the weeks leading to Christmas 1915. These shops catered for festive meals in households across Batley. But many also provided a taste of home for those serving overseas.
Mr Geo. Brown, a popular Branch Avenue caterer and confectioner was one such business. He supplied amazing quantities of chocolates, biscuits, fancy cakes and larger currant cakes to men in khaki and navy blue. Of his cakes, going to soldiers, the Batley News eulogised “and won’t they welcome the toothsome and nourishing comestibles that they are so fond of in peace times”! He also sold boxes, crackers, stockings and a variety of decorative tins and jars filled with sweets, chocolates and toys. And what would Christmas be without its Christmas cake? I find Brown’s 8 December Xmas show opening date a notable difference to Christmas shopping today, when festive goods start appearing on the shelves months earlier.
Meat shops were plentiful. Mr John Fox’s establishment at 39, Wellington Street had an array of Norfolk turkeys, Yorkshire geese, pheasants, game, rabbit and poultry. His products included oysters, fish, potted meats, even apples and oranges. His shop was described as “like a picture of Christmas as it should be”.
Jesse Roberts’ pork butchers was located almost at the Hick Lane corner of Commercial Street. His polony, a tasty delicacy, was relished both at home and abroad with hundredweights of it sent to those serving King and Country. The newspaper said patriotically “it has come as a real reminder of the tea-table at home, for many of the local KOYLIs on war service”. The demand for that Christmas staple, the stand pie, from those serving overseas caused a shortage at Mr Roberts’ depot in mid-December. His shop also sold bacon, mincemeat and even tomato sauce!
Another pork butcher was Mr John Batty. His spotlessly clean shop was located at 52, Wellington Street. He too sold bacon, cooked hams and those stand pies so sought after by soldiers and sailors and those keeping the home fires burning. Potted meats, sausages, polonies, tongue and mincemeat also helped “give the Christmas bill of fare a most acceptable variety”.
Alfred Milnes owned butchers shops at Town Street, Batley Carr and Mill Lane, Hanging Heaton. He also had a Saturday Dewsbury market stall. A veteran judge of beef and one of the district’s most popular butchers, he was the beef go-to man. Prime mutton was another of his fortes and his beef sausages were noted as “amongst the most reliable commodities of their kind”.
Mr J C Ridsdale, provision dealer, wine and spirit merchant, dispatched large quantities of figs, raisins, plum puddings and biscuits from his Market Place store to soldiers and sailors. Whilst admitting that the price of some products, such as raisins, were dearer than in previous years their superb quality repaid the price. Prize cheese and smoked Wiltshire bacon also featured amongst his wares. As did table delicacies ranging from jellies and biscuits to bottled fruits and sweets; from muscatel, almonds and mincemeat to champagne and cigars. And his shop was the only local agency for Gilbey’s wines and spirits.
On the subject of drinks and cigars, Mrs Chadwick’s Crown Hotel on Commercial Street boasted a fine stock with sherry cask matured spirits and whiskies including brands from some of the world’s most famous distilleries. Buyers though we’re reminded of the curtailed hours due to the new Liquor Control Order.
Sam Wilson’s establishments, one at the Market Place corner of Upper Commercial Street and the other near the Tram Terminus at the Bradford and Station Road junction, provided another sign of the times. A popular local tobacconist, “every local worshipper of the Lady Nicotine” knew his shops. He stocked a wide price range and flavour of cigarettes, boxes of cigars and blends of tobacco. He also had a wonderful array of pipes, “a rare stock of beauties, just right for using or giving when the Christmas spirit is greatly developed in men”.
And finally not to be forgotten at Christmas was the horse. This was still a society heavily reliant on horse power, both on the land and in terms of transporting goods locally. Henry Rhodes, corn merchant, located at Station Road was “excellently situated for supplying the quadrupeds with as good a Christmas dinner as anyone could wish”.
I hope this series of posts has given a flavour of a 1915 Christmas. Although a century ago it is still recognisable as the Christmas we celebrate today. And although these shops have long since disappeared, forced out by supermarkets such as Tesco’s, I can relate the locations to my ancestors lives and picture them doing their Christmas shopping in the multiplicity of individual retailers lining the thriving town’s teeming streets.
My two earlier post can be found at: