Nostalgia with Margaret Watson: Greenwood’s has remained almost exactly the same as when it was opened in 1856
Margaret Watson writes: Sadly, there are few of the old shops left which I remember as a child, but I know it is the same in other towns because we are changing the way we shop.
But one shop I am glad is still with us is Greenwood’s in Church Street which has remained almost exactly the same as when it was opened in 1856.
Greenwood’s, which was once also a pawnbrokers, has hardly changed over the years, although the three brass balls which once hung over the shop door are long gone.
From being a little girl I had known of Greenwood’s because my grandmother had been what they called a ‘pop’ lady.
I remember her going round the street where we lived in Springfield every Monday morning asking neighbours if they wanted her to take anything down to the pawn shop.
Most of them did, and within a short time she had collected quite a tidy bundle which she’d carry down to Greenwood’s wrapped in her shawl.
She would lay them on the counter and try to get as much as she could for them, and her reward was usually a copper or two from grateful neighbours who’d been saved the indignity of taking them themselves.
The shop is now owned by Sue Baker, who saved it from closure some years ago, because she didn’t want to see such a long established shop close down. Thank you Sue.
By rescuing the shop, Sue has ensured it retains all its old features and has even opened a museum on the upper floor which people can visit by appointment.
John Greenwood originated as a publican from Pudsey and had two daughters. The younger one Ellen Greenwood married Henry Chadwick who also owned the Chadwick clothing shop on Westgate.
But the man who ran it from the early days was called Tom Burns whose large framed photograph still hangs in the shop. It was his daughter Doris who later ran it for many years.
A man called Jack Gledhill took it over from her, and many Dewsbury people will still remember him as a dapper man who was always smartly dressed.
The shop did an extremely brisk trade in working clothes for working men, selling everything for working people but that was when there were lots of mills and businesses in Dewsbury.
All the different tradesmen wore different coloured overalls – plumbers wore blue, joiners. brown, and painters and decorators, white.
Warehousemen in those days always wore smocks – brown ones – which all the shop assistants at Greenwoods also wore.
Greenwood’s at that time had two shops, one in Church Street, and another around the back in Robinson Street, near Caddy’s Ice Cream Parlour and Worfolk’s Toy Shop.
I remember some 20 years ago visiting the shop when it was run by Catherine Parkin to interview her, and I’m glad I did because I was able to learn much of its history which may have been lost.
Catherine took over the running of the shop after the death of her husband, Colin, and was helped by her daughters Caroline and Lisa and Colin’s nephew Michael Phillips.
Colin had started work at Greenwood’s at the age of 15 after leaving Wheelwright Grammar School in 1953, and had remained there right until his death.
A bright and intelligent lad, he could have stayed on at school and gone on to better things, but his family needed the extra income his wage would bring.
He followed their wishes and, fortunately, for him, it was a job he grew to love and one which he dedicated his life to.
Eventually, his hard work was rewarded in a most unexpected way when the owner at that time, Jack Gledhill, died and bequeathed it to him.
The Parkin family would never forget the shock they got when a solicitor called into the shop one morning and told them the good news.
It was totally unexpected because Jack had never spoken to them of it, and Colin was so overcome he broke down in tears.
It seemed that Jack, who had no family, had wanted to reward Colin for all his loyalty and hard work.
When new government regulations came into effect, the Parkin family had to give up the pawn broking side of the business and the three brass balls were taken down and presented to Dewsbury Museum.
Where they are now is anyone’s business because when the museum closed some years ago, all its contents were taking to Batley and Huddersfield museums.
But I am glad to say that when I visited the shop recently I found that it remains almost exactly as it would have when my grandmother used to take her bundle of garments to be pawned.
The old mahogany counters which have been in the shop since it was built in 1856, still remain, and the jewellery repair section still operates.
I felt comforted when I interviewed the Parkin family all those years ago to learn that Colin, who had always looked after the pawn broking side of the business, never discussed the people who had gone in to pawn items, not even to his family.
He always felt sorry for them because he knew it was a shaming thing to do and that sometimes people were pawning their treasured possessions.
Sometimes the things they brought in weren’t worth anything, but Colin felt sorry for them and took them anyway.
Even when the shop was no longer a pawn shop and people brought things in and he knew they had nothing, he would give them money out of his own pocket.
Let us hope that Greenwood’s shop and the memory of people like Colin Parkin are not forgotten and live on for many years to come.