Dewsbury’s oldest shop showing it has more to offer after 164 years

It’s Dewsbury’s oldest shop and it’s been a mainstay of the high street for generations growing up.

Tuesday, 22nd December 2020, 11:17 am
Updated Tuesday, 22nd December 2020, 11:20 am

John Greenwood Ltd has stood proud on Church Street since 1856.

It’s a workwear and outdoor wear shop and a retail jewellery and repairs shop, which is always popular in the run-up to Christmas.

Inside it’s a piece of living history with fixtures and fittings that take you back in time.

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Sue Baker in the museum at John Greenwood's shop, Dewsbury, with the Bolenium Bill figure and sign.

It’s now more than a shop too. Upstairs Greenwood’s boasts one of the smallest museums in West Yorkshire.

The shop was saved for the people of Dewsbury by dentist Sue Baker, who bought it in 2015 when she retired from her practice across the road. It was set to be turned into flats.

Greenwood’s contains a lot of history but has also seen a lot in its time.

The Coronavirus pandemic is just another chapter and Sue said: “It’s been a mixed time for us this year.

“We were closed for the two national lockdowns, of course, but in between we have had some lovely feedback and help from our customers and that’s really encouraged us.

“Everyone wants us to survive. Many people, some in their 80s, just come in to have a look round and see if the shop is how they remember it. We love hearing people’s memories.”

In “normal” times the shop opens the tiny museum to the public but that’s not possible at the moment.

The shop was always famous for the slightly odd advertising figure Bolenium Bill, who had pride of place in the shop window.

Made to advertise Bolenium industrial clothing, Bill has been in the shop since around 1920.

Bill has now been moved into the museum and the shop has now been given an original Bolenium advertising sign found by the Parkin family who previously owned the shop.

Since Dewsbury Museum in Crow Nest Park closed, Greenwood’s houses Dewsbury’s only museum.

There’s all sorts of fascinating items from an early till to an embossing machine, a silver box containing travel hair curlers to a beard trimmer, sovereign scales to a New Year’s card dated 1872.

People drop in and leave historic items all the time.

Greenwood’s used to be a pawnbrokers and Sue has kept all the old ledgers listing all the trades from 1937 through to the 1960s.

She now hopes to digitise it for posterity so that families can trace back what their relatives pawned and see how they lived.

“We’re more than a shop,” said Sue. “We are preserving Dewsbury’s history.”