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By the middle of the nineteenth century, the population of Leeds could be divided into two main social groups, the middle class and the working class. During Queen Victoria's reign the middle classes benefitted from the industrial and commercial development of the city and grew more prosperous, moving to houses away from the city centre, and having the means to employ servants.

As the middle classes became more affluent, so they could afford to buy more consumer goods. This meant that shopkeepers began to stock a greater variety and range of goods. It also meant that specialist shops, and shops selling luxury goods could set up in business. The Victorian middle classes spent their newly acquired wealth in the shops of the Headrow, Boar Lane, Commercial Street and of course Briggate. With the building of the Arcades, and the Leeds Estates Company's development, Leeds became the shopping capital of the north of England.

Firms such as Durham's with shops on Briggate, Queen Victoria Street, and in the County Arcade, sold a variety of fancy goods. Their catalogue of 1900 is called 'The Transformation of Briggate', and  celebrates the new buildings. The catalogue shows that among other things they sold jewellery, dressing cases, toys, games, stationary and overmantles.

In 1909 the principal traders in Leeds organised a special show week, when displays were put on both in shop windows and inside the shops themselves. The catalogue says that 'traders invite you to visit them freely. You will not be pressed to buy, but they intend to prove that it is more agreeable, more convenient and more economical for you to do your shopping in Leeds than elsewhere.'  Several shops on Briggate were represented, like Dyson's, furriers, Awmack's Glass and China Emporium, who had on show 'a most magnificent selection of dainty china tea sets.' Their advertisement states that 'even a drink of the best tea tastes better and more acceptable when served in a DAINTY cup.' Chaffer's of New Briggate specialised in Millinery and Ladies tailoring, and Stead and Simpson's and Saxone sold shoes. Hirst and Leach had 'the largest and best selected stock of household ironmongery in the north of England', including fireguards, coal boxes and the 'perfection' oil stove. John Dyson and Sons, watch and clock makers, jewellers and silversmiths, promised 'The largest Stock. The finest show. The best value,' and invited a 'a visit of inspection.' William Greenwoods were also jewellers, selling 'the only genuine Kimball's Anti-rheumatic Rings.' Hayward's had three shops in Thornton's Arcade, selling ladies and children's underclothes and corsets, haberdashery and hosiery, including the 'celebrated 'Schoolboy Stocking', with double knees, heels and toes.' There were some unusual shops like Macdonald's at the junction of Briggate and Duncan Street, where you could buy a new set of teeth. Taylor's, also in the Leeds Estate Company Building, sold every sort of hat you could wish for, and incorporated the Empire Hairdressing Saloon.

Marks and Spencer opened a new shop at 76, Briggate in 1909. Michael Marks began as a market trader in Kirkgate market in 1884. He went into partnership with Tom Spencer in 1894, and set up his 'Original Penny Bazaar' in two shops in the market in 1896, before moving to a site in Cross Arcade in 1904. The present store was built in 1939-40. During the war it was requisitioned by the Ministry of Works, and did not open until 1951.




Click images to enlarge
Jewellery from Durham's, c.1900
Jewellery from Durham's, c.1900
Awmack's advertisement, 1909
Awmack's advertisement, 1909
Chaffer's advertisement, 1909
Chaffer's advertisement, 1909
Mcdonald's Shop
Mcdonald's Shop
Taylor's hat shop
Taylor's hat shop




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© 2003 Leeds City Council | Site created by: LCC electronic information team | 25 March 2003