From the Bromfield Arms to Westminster Road
Charles Street was given its name to recognise Charles, the last of the Hamilton family to own this part of Hoole. When it was built in the 1850s it was mainly residential and remained so even 100 years later. Some shops were built, the earliest reference being the sale in 1854 of a “recently erected dwellinghouse with spacious shop, warehouse, yard and shippons (cattle sheds), situate on the north side in the occupation of Thomas Pemberton”. It is almost certain that this became No.24, occupied for many years by the Roberts family, cow keepers and butchers. It was then briefly occupied by George Stalker, dairyman, and William Wild, fishmonger, before continuing as a butcher's shop run by the Roberts family again.
Chatwins the bakers is the only shop still carrying out its original trade. The first baker and grocer there (in the 1857 Directory) was Henry Richards, a prominent member of Hoole Local Board from its founding in 1864. His son took over the business and for a number of years also ran Hoole Post Office from there which had transferred from Balshaw's shop (now Lewis's Ice Cream) in Peploe Street (now Westminster Rd). The bakery later became a branch of Charles Roberts of 19 Brook Street and, following the death in 1894 of Mr. Roberts who lived at 1 Alexandra Terrace, it was run by Thomas Langford. The Post Office had meanwhile moved to the chemist's shop run by David Dickinson at 2 Faulkner Street.
In 1914 Thomas Jones who had run a bakery in Peploe Street, also at Lewis's, took over the Charles Street premises and continued until the 1950s. P.A. Davies from Newtown then installed one of their branches there until it was recently taken over by Chatwins. Remarkably, for over 100 years a horse and cart delivery service was operated. An incident is recorded when a horse broke the shafts of Richards' delivery trap and bolted in Phillip Street!
The first advertisement for houses appeared in January 1855 when “seven substantially built and neatly finished dwellinghouses let to respectable tenants at the low rent of £83 p.a.” were put on sale. In 1873 the shop on the corner of Faulkner Street with two attached cottages in Charles Street was advertised. (This is now Sainsbury's but many readers will remember Peters Electrics which occupied the site from 1956 until 2011). In a subsequent sale in 1890 the shop and cottages were bought by William Stringer, licensee of the Faulkner Arms, for £600. The original shop was a grocery run by Charles Harrison in the 1890s and by William Holmes in the mid-20th century. In the 1860s Miss Carver's School occupied the premises before moving to Westminster Road School. On the other side of the entry, in 1871, No.8 was a butcher's shop which became Thomas Baldwin's greengrocery from 1891 to the late 1950s.
Occupants of some of the houses ran businesses from their premises. A shoemaker, dressmaker, milliner, commission agent (bookmaker) and a piano tuner are listed in early Directories, and in 1871 Hoole Local Board rented one as an office for its surveyor, William Grice. Front rooms were gradually converted into shops and some of the tenants within living memory included Magnus Clark the chemist at No.12, Miss Thacker's smallwares (haberdashery) shop at No.6, Mrs. Mutch's sweetshop No.9 and at No.18 Isaac Simpson the dairyman who sold his business to Deva Dairies.
Charles Street was to become the sartorial district of Hoole, if not Chester. Its tailors, drapers and outfitters included James Beck, Thomas Todd, J.S. Hornby, James Broadhurst and Alice Benyon. The well-dressed inhabitants of Hoole would no doubt have enjoyed using the bars, cafés and restaurants and the high-class hairdressers which have now replaced many of the retail shops.
Beyond Westminster Road
The last house on the south side of Charles Street was No.17; next door was the yard and storeroom for the off licence run for many years by Archibald Manley on the corner with Westminster Road which provided its entrance and address. Opposite, No.19 Charles Street (now a wine shop, formerly a cycle dealer) was the retirement home of Henry Richards the baker. Nos.21 and 23 (now carpet and trophy shops) appear from 1891 as furniture shops run by Clarissa Goldstraw. In 1897 she became insolvent and clearly took the law into her own hands, being charged with “feloniously stealing” some furniture which she had sold on the easy payment system to a Mrs. Saunders of Halkyn Road, turning up with a hand cart and two men claiming that the goods had not been paid for and taking them away.
From 1933 J.M. Baldwin, son of the greengrocer at No.8, ran a painting and decorating business at No.21, before it became a Laundromat. No.23 became a confectioners run by H.J. Brewster who was the contact for the Westminster Dance Band. In the 1940s Charles Ives continued the confectionery business there and his daughter Wendy became Hoole's Festival of Britain Queen in 1951. This was a national event but in the mid-20th century there was a Carnival every year on the Playing Field off Canadian Avenue, where marquees and flags were erected. There were dancing troupes, sporting events, and attractions such as motorcycle races. The Carnival Queen and her retinue attended after processing through the District on floats.
On the other side of Charles Street, Robert Daniels was a newsagent on the corner at No.26 succeeded by James Beck, tailors. That block was occupied for many years by Thomas Norbury, plumber, glazier and gas fitter; his workshop and store were in Westminster Road next to the School and his family ran a restaurant in Chester which was alluded to in his advertisements. The row of three shops built in the garden of No.29 Hamilton Street in the 1920s was occupied by Charles Morris, grocers, and greengrocers at Nos.30 and 32; No.34 has always seemed to be a sweetshop. In very recent memory it was an acupuncture parlour and now it sells a different kind of bytes!
The need to protect consumers' rights is not new. Even in the 19th Century shoppers were safeguarded. In 1869 William Jones of Charles Street was summoned, his scales being 4 drams against the purchaser, and he was ordered to pay costs of 4s 6d. Records show that in 1891 George Stalker was also summonsed for refusing to sell milk for the purposes of analysis by Mr. Watts, Inspector of Weights & Measures. The bench imposed a fine of forty shillings (over £120 in today's money!) and costs, and ordered Stalker to pay the advocate's fee.
The local delivery of fresh produce was not confined to the bakery at No.3; Thomas Baldwin delivered fruit & veg, George Stalker and Isaac Simpson brought fresh milk to the doorstep, ladled out from churns; their successor, Deva Dairies continued providing milk in bottles – two choices, pasteurised with a cardboard top or gold foil top (Jersey milk). The Co-op also had milk rounds (tokens needed, bought at the Walker Street shop). Other horse drawn deliveries were made by various coalmen, and Patsy Dobbins, rag and bone merchants from Canalside were Chester's ‘Steptoe & Son’. In Hoole's leafy suburbs there was great rivalry to be the first with bucket and shovel to collect what the horses left behind to spread on prize roses or rhubarb!
- Article by Ralph Earlam, some parts of which were initially published in ‘Hoole Roundabout’ in May and June 2016 - http://www.hooleroundabout.com