We mourn the loss of High Street names on a daily basis. Part of this is progress. We have neither the need nor the desire these days to wander past endless Blacksmiths, Coal Merchants and Tripe Shops when shopping in a mall. However, there are Grocers we remember from our childhood, whose stiffly overalled proprietors we remember like some archetypal Alf Roberts, when they are gone there is a hole, perhaps our parents felt their loss, as we would if Sainsbury or Tesco were to disappear from streets and yet forty years or so later they are forgotten. No more Gateway, no more Lennons, no more Moores Stores. These were eaten up into larger chains as they in their turn devoured T Seymour Mead and Burgons of Manchester.
Our next West Bank resident, Charles Henry Scott was perhaps an unlikely Grocer, he was born into a working class family in Bridgwater, Somerset, his father, Joseph (1810-1891) was a brickmaker. Bridgwater was a brick town. In 1850 there were sixteen brickmaking factories in the area. The product was exported around the world to China, The Bronx, Canada and New Zealand.
Joseph Scott married Mary Ann Irish in 1832 and worked in the brick trade until 1863, when he moved to Manchester. He died in relative comfort in 1891 in Altrincham, Mary died a few years later in 1895.
Charles Henry Scott was born on 25 August 1834 and his first venture into the working world was as a Bookbinder, but some time in the 1850s he moved to Manchester and in 1861 he started working as a journeyman grocer on Booth Street West, this is possibly at the wholesale grocers Wright & Green. Manchester was a big town and people worked long hours, small shops therefore sprung up in the streets, these were supplied by the large wholesalers.
He shares his lodgings with six other grocers. He is the oldest amongst them.
Interestingly he is working with the man who would become his main competitor in the future grocery trade, and the one whose company would also survive a century – Thomas Seymour Mead.
Two years later, in 1863 Charles married Mary Ann Birks at St John in Heaton Mersey. Mary was the daughter of Frederick Birks and Mary Robinson. Frederick was a Liverpool born grocer who had settled in Stockport and had a shop at 35 Greek Street.
Around this time he began an association with Isaac Burgon. Isaac was born in Derbyshire in 1821. In 1846 he married Caroline Wilson and they went to live on Stretford Road in Hulme where he established a grocers shop. His first average weekly receipts were £23. (typical average receipts were £83-£123 per week). By the 1860s he had three shops on Stretford Road, and two on Oxford Street. He moved to 133 Oxford Street in the late 1850s and then to Lansdown Villas in Withington and finally Belmont in Urmston. By 1881 he was employing 66 men as a tea merchant and grocer. He died in 1885 whilst on holiday in Blackpool, Caroline died a few years later in 1893.
During that time Charles was also coming up in the world. He also describes himself as a grocer and tea merchant between 1871 and 1901.
Mary and he are living at Sandway Oakling in Altrincham in 1871, moving to 35,Rumford Street in Chorlton before we see him at West Bank in 1891. What is clear is that whilst his reputation is rising in the community he is only comfortably off when he lives at West Bank, soon after Isaac Burgon’s death.
Isaac died intestate, and Charles saw the opportunity to buy up his shops from his estate.
In 1880 there were six Burgon’s stores but the growth after Charles took control is quite dramatic. There were 45 stores by 1913, including the flagship store in Manchester City Centre.
The city centre store was quite a novelty, at the time central Manchester was mainly devoted to commerce. However, around St Ann’s Square and St Mary’s Gate was where the fashionable shops stood. Burgon’s occupied pride of place here. It was in Exchange Arcade, the drug department dispensed prescriptions from the other branches which were sent back by messenger. The grocery section was considered high class. It sold over a thousand packets per week as the modern housewife does not have time to spend long hours preparing a dinner which will be eaten in a few minutes, nor does she rely upon the skill of her cook to provide a recherche meal at short notice. She could buy the constituents of an entire meal, hors d’oeuvres, joints, fish, sweets all in tins and packages of various kinds, everything served in a few minutes. Let nobody tell you the ready meal is a modern invention.
The store had two storerooms devoted to chocolate. On Saturdays the trade in chocolate exceeded all other. Not only did it cater to retail customers, it also supplied restaurants. Burgon’s butter was specially blended there, and because of its popularity, the turnover was so high that it was always sold freshly prepared.
They also had a coffee house on Deansgate, which served as English coffee houses had for hundreds of years, as a meeting place for businessmen. The coffee was freshly ground and blended at the St Mary’s Branch.
Infact tea and coffee was at the forefront of their quality offering. This lasted well into the mid twentieth century, both Burgons and Seymour Mead prided themselves on that. I can remember Seymour Mead tea cards, alongside the PG Tips cards.
The employees were well treated, there was a profit sharing scheme, not only that for every £20 spent at the store in a year, customers received one fully paid ordinary share, which paid a guaranteed dividend of 5%, infact the dividend paid in 1913 was 6.25%. If less than £20 was spent, the accumulated purchases were carried forward to the next year.
The head office was in the India Buildings on Oxford Road with branches as far afield as St Annes On Sea, Blackpool, Bakewell, Matlock and Buxton. There was a branch at 52, Heaton Moor Road, on on Stockport Road in Levenshulme and at 108 Barlow Moor Road in Didsbury.
Around 1895 Charles is appointed a director of the Prince Shipping Line in Sunderland. This may have been through his connections. The Prince Line was formed by James Knott, the son of a successful North East Grocer. James started as a shipbroker in 1875 but by 1878 he realised the big money was in ownership. By 1891 the line had 47 steam ships.
Interestingly James Knott took advantage of the boycott of Liverpool shippers of the newly opened Manchester Ship Canal by using the canal. Charles Scott was one of the first directors when the company incorporated in 1895 with a capital of 50,000 £10 shares. Both Charles and James attended the opening of the canal in October 1894, and by 1900 he was the chairman of the Line, as well as a director of the Manchester Ship Canal Company – as was a former inhabitant of Bank Hall and the Towers in Didsbury, Sir Joseph Leigh.
In 1897 Charles embarked on the Creole Prince as she left Salford Docks for the inaugral sailing of the Mediterranean line from Manchester to Egypt and the Holy Land. Not only was the Mediterranean line a money spinner for passengers, it also gave Manchester a ready supply of Egyptian Cotton.
The profits in 1900 were £141,000 (2019 £17.3m) and a healthy dividend of 7.5% was paid.
We have a number of photgraphs of West Bank from Charles and Mary’s days there.
Charles died a wealthy man at West Bank on 2 January 1913, he was certainly a canny businessman. He had built a successful chain of grocers and was good employer and recognised the value of quality. He left £210,768-2/4 in his will (£24.1m in 2019). Mary died earlier in 1906.
Whilst much of his fortune went to his family, he rewarded his company secretary, general manager and company clerk with a bequest of preference shares, as well as leaving money to his gardener and coachman. He left £3000 to the Mary Ann Scott Memorial Home for the Blind in Old Trafford of which Charles was a Trustee.
His successor at the helm of Burgons was a Burgons man, who had worked his way up from the shop floor at the St Mary’s branch. His successor on the Prince Line as Chairman was Daniel Clifton, a Stockport brewer, of Mile End Hall.
Charles and Mary had thirteen children. Emily Birks Scott died in infancy in 1864, and William Edward Scott lived from 1866 to 1880.
Alfred Henry Scott (1868-1939) was a councillor on Manchester City Council and in 1900 stood against Arthur Balfour, the First Lord of the Treasury in Manchester East, he was unsuccesful, and this was despite a campaign of lobbying and court cases funded by his father to prevent Balfour from standing stretching back to 1892.
He stood as a radical, supporting Home Rule for Ireland, the Temperance Movement, Nationalisation of Land, Railways and Mines and the abolition of the House of Lords. He was eventually elected for Ashton Under Lyne in 1906 and held his seat until 1910, when he was defeated by Max Aitken (Lord Beaverbrook to be). He subsequently moved to London and attempted unsuccessfully to be elected there, and retired to Thanet in Kent where he became an alderman and JP, he died on 17 July 1939.
Nellie Scott (1869-1942) married Llewellyn Birchall Atkinson, a director of an Electrical Cable Manufacturer in Buckinghamshire. She retired to Devon after living in Breconshire, Surrey and Buckinghamshire. She may have had an interest in Wagnerian Opera.
Mary Alice Scott only survived nine months, dying in March 1872.
Charles Archibald Scott was born on 7 August 1872 and he followed his father in the Tea trade, marrying Beatrice Sarah Norforlk first, then Florence Kate Hayler in 1919 after Beatrice’s death. They moved to Vancouver in British Columbia where he was like his father a grocer, tea merchant but also a tea blender and real estate broker. He died on 9 July 1932 in North Vancouver.
Dorothy Scott (1873-1933) married Dr Hugh James Dickey, an Irish surgeon resident in Heaton Mersey. They lived at Ovoca, on Didsbury Road which is to this day a GP’s practice in the area before moving to Buckinghamshire.
Millicent Scott (1874-1963) married James David Bell who was a cloth salesman, they moved to Devon then Worthing in Sussex.
Joseph Frederick Scott was born on 10 October 1876. He first set up a printing company, but then enlisted in the Imperial Yeomanry in 1900. He did not stay there long and marred Annie Christian Matthews in 1903 moving to Southport where he established a restaurant. He died in Liverpool at the Northern Hospital in 1954.
James Edwin Scott (1879-1939) became a grocer and tea merchant like his father and married Doris Burton. His sister Kate (1879-1952) remained a spinster all her life, as did Margaret Elsie (1880-1961).
Finally Marion Scott married Adam Gordon MacLeod and lived from 1888 to 1977, when she passed away in Wiltshire.
Both Burgons the Grocers and Seymour Mead were bought by Moores stores of Sunderland which was founded by William Moore in 1907. Moores was eventually bought up in 1972 by Cavenham foods which was part of James Goldsmith’s empire. Burgons and Seymour Mead were both trading under their names until the early 1970s in the Manchester and Stockport areas.
Copyright 2019 Allan Russell