Book review by Steve Matthews of Bookends.
1954. Fifty-eight years ago. Certainly not a life-time away, and yet it is already history.
The West Cumberland Silk Mills, “manufacturer of high quality silks has built up a reputation which is world famous”. Marchon Chemicals made chemicals and detergents which were “widely sold on the home market” and “exported in large quantities to the continent”. After the depression of the thirties and the turmoil of the Second World War, Whitehaven was on its way to recovery. “Other industries include the manufacture of building bricks, animal and poultry foods, flour, blouses and shirts, clothing and ties.”
F. Anderson, Esq., who lived at 107 Greenfield Avenue, Carpenden Park, Watford, Herts, was the Member of Parliament. W.H.J.Brown was the Town Clerk and A. Thornley, Esq., F.I.M.T.A., was Borough Treasurer. D. Hay ran the Library and J.W.Inness was the Medical Officer of Health and A.J.Chisnall the Housing Manager.
If you wanted to fill your time usefully you might have tried the Whitehaven Scientific Association, established in 1867, but reconstituted in 1950. It offered lectures and outings for a subscription of ten shillings per annum. If you were of an artistic bent there was the Art Club or the Music and Arts Association. The latter had 320 subscribing members who enjoyed celebrity concerts throughout the year. The Whitehaven Drama Society, under the chairmanship of Miss M. Atkinson offered fortnightly play readings and put on “three (3) full-length plays (public productions) in the Oddfellows Hall, Whitehaven, during the Winter Season.”
The Mirehouse Tenants Association published a magazine, “The Valley News”, every month. There was a Cricket Club, Lawn Tennis Club, Rambling Club and Rugby League Football Club. There was even a Whitehaven Club in Coates Lane, but we are given no information as to its activities.
Rowland West lived at number 1, Cartgate Road, and Hubert F.T.Gough lived next door in a house named Denton. William Worthington lived in Cartref, in Catherine Street. He was an engineer and could be contacted on Whitehaven 910. Ellwood Thomas was both an electrical engineer and plumber, a useful man to know. You could telephone him on Whitehaven 183.
R.H. Donaldson ran a Family Butchers in 46-47 Market Place and was “Noted for Cumberland Sausages, Fresh Daily”. And J. James, in Roper Street, were “Purveyors of the best quality Beef, Mutton, Lamb and Veal”.
J. Stout and his sons ran the Newtown Foundry and telegrams should be sent to “CASTINGS”. T and R Batty of Bransty and St Bees were coal and coke merchants and L and J Gazzi in the Market Place manufactured ice creams.
Elsie Preston of Castle Lea, Corkickle, Ladies’ hairdresser was a tinting specialist and a registered Eugene Waver.
Dobson and Musgrave, “Grams ‘TULIP’ , wholesale grocers and provision merchants insisted that “This business is ALIVE – And our prices COMPETITIVE”.
Stout’s Garage, “The Motorist’s Mecca”, promised to “Serve you the best for all your requirements” and were Rover Distributors and Austin Main Dealers. J. Birkett at 53 King Street was a “Hatter, Hosier and Outfitter” and a “Specialist in Men’s Wear” as was the alliterative and punning W.W.Wearing – “The sign of good outfitting” – in Lowther Street.
Nothing, of course, could be more boring than an out-of-date directory, a list of long forgotten names and addresses. To make it worse, every house and its occupier is listed first by street and then alphabetically by the occupier’s name. This is followed by a Trade Section which lists all the accountants, butchers, solicitors, hair-dressers, hair manufacturers, joiners, yeast merchants and everyone else.
Yet, you would find it fascinating if you were one of the 24, 624 people who lived in Whitehaven in 1954, or even if one of those was your mother or father or a grandparent or whatever.
Directories like this are history in the raw. These are the people of Whitehaven as they were over half a century ago.