Look behind the scenes in Dewsbury's oldest shop on Heritage Open Days

Dewsbury’s history will literally come alive this weekend as part of the national Heritage Open Days festival.

Sue Baker in the museum at John Greenwood Ltd, the oldest shop in Dewsbury
Sue Baker in the museum at John Greenwood Ltd, the oldest shop in Dewsbury

Sue Baker, who runs Dewsbury’s oldest shop John Greenwood Ltd, has teamed up with members of Dewsbury Community Outreach to bring history to life.

Several characters from Dewsbury’s past will be on the streets of the town on Saturday chatting to shoppers and telling their own life stories.

Among them will be the sinister Ratcatcher who, as the name suggests, was hired in Victorian times to catch rats.

Historical characters prepared for the Heritage Open Days outside Greenwood's, the oldest shop in Dewsbury. From the left, Sue Baker as former Greenwood's owner Doris Burns, Andy Parkin as Ratcatcher, Lindsey Littlewood as a cloth ripper, Bruce Bird as architect Henry Holtom, Brian Lapworth as Sir Thomas de Suthill, Rowena Kyle as the pig and Shaun Carroll as Machel's Mill manager

Another will be the unsavoury Sir Thomas de Soothill, who murdered a servant boy in a fit of rage in the 15th century.

As a penance he gave a bell – known as Black Tom – to Dewsbury Minster. The bell is rung every Christmas Eve, one toll for every year since Christ’s birth. The tradition is known as the Devil’s Knell.

A third character will be Henry Holtom, one of the architects who – along with George Arthur Fox – designed Dewsbury Town Hall and other local buildings.

Local historian and film maker Simon Reed is leading morning and afternoon history tours around Dewsbury on Saturday and some of these characters will be popping up along the route.

Sue said: “They’ve all got a bit of a story to tell and they will be part of the tours but they will also interact with the public too, which should be interesting.”

Meanwhile, Sue’s shop – Greenwood’s in Church Street – will also open its doors as part of the Heritage Open Days.

The workwear-cum-jeweller’s shop, which dates back to 1856, is a throwback to a bygone era with many original features.

Sue, a retired dentist, saved the shop from closure in 2015 and now has one of Yorkshire’s smallest museums inside.

Lots of historic items, many with Dewsbury connections, have been donated and Sue opens the museum by appointment only as it’s so small.

The museum will be open as part of the Heritage Open Days on Saturday, September 18. Bookings can be made by contacting the shop.

Star attraction is Bolenium Bill, an advertising figure promoting Bolenium industrial clothing. He’s been in the shop since the 1920s and for most of the time was in the shop window.

Greenwood’s started out as a pawnbroker’s and among the fascinating relics are ledgers recording items that were pawned.