The history of Burnley's Keirby Hotel

SOME readers might be of the opinion we are not going all that far back into Burnley's history this week. However, when you think of it, the Keirby was opened, with considerable and understandable celebrations, almost 50 years ago.

I don't know about you, but I can have difficulty coping with the knowledge the Keirby has been with us that long.

The building, when it was first projected, was planned to be something of a marker for a prosperous economic future for the town. If I remember correctly, it was to be the diamond in Massey's crown, the only 4-star hotel in Lancashire outside Manchester and Blackpool. Now Massey's Burnley Brewery no longer exists and Manchester and Blackpool are not even in the county!

The postcard view is of St James' Street looking towards its junction with Yorkshire Street. Notice the shops in the row of property, right. Of all Burnley's shops, when a boy, I was most familiar with these.

The reason is that I attended a town centre school, St Mary's in Yorkshire Street, and the bus back to Harle Syke set off from the top stand on the left.

We had double-deckers in those days and they stopped outside Poole's Silk Shop at the top of Hall Street.

In the picture there are new shops on the far corner of Yorkshire Street and St James' Street but on the other you can see the oddly-shaped chemist's shop which stood between Yorkshire Street and Cliviger Street.

It was owned by Frank Pick and I always found his window displays interesting.

There was another Pick's Chemists at 56 St James' Street, but this one was owned by Harold Pick, a gentleman who lived at the Hollies in Queen's Park Road.

The first shop on the row was occupied by C.F. Hargreaves Ltd, the ironmongers, though they were better known as the "Golden Padlock".

This was another interesting shop, one of a considerable number of similar shops – 17 in Burnley in 1953 – a few years before today's photo was taken.

Many readers will remember Bulcock's in Manchester Road, Hudson's at the old Sun Inn in Bridge Street, Collinge's in Croft Street and Boot Street and Harker Bros. in St James' Street.

On the photo I publish today, the name of the business cannot be seen on the next shop, number 6 St James' Street.

It was, for many years, occupied by John Henry Hesketh who was, in his early days, listed as a cabinet maker, house furnisher and undertaker at 9a St James' Row in town.

Hesketh's was in business here in 1914 but, by 1926, the firm had moved to the premises you can see in St James' Street. I recall Hesketh's moving to Elizabeth Street where they occupied the former spinning mill which is now the site of Ko Ko's.

The next shop was occupied, when the photo was taken, by Ardal, Amalgamated Radio and Domestic Appliances, whose offices were at Duke Bar in the old Marles Mill. Ardal, at one time ran a very successful radio relay business but they became known, in the early television era, as a TV renting company.

Cort's, the carpet shop, were at 10 St James' Street and, at number 12, was Lupton Bros.

They were stationers, booksellers and fancy goods dealers who also had premises in Burnley Market Hall and, as a student, I worked there, mostly on Saturdays, enjoying my time there.

The shop itself was quite modern, with the books in at the door and stationery further back. Upstairs was the toy department which was really busy when fireworks were on sale around Bonfire Night.

I have many memories associated with my time at Lupton's and I recall a little story about the shop which involves Jimmy McIlroy, whom the town has recently honoured as a Freeman of the Borough.

A book "Right Inside Soccer" by Jimmy had been published in 1960, the Championship year.

As the leading booksellers in town, Lupton's had bought rather a lot of them and hundreds were indeed disposed of to the many fans who came into the shop.

However, as we all know, Jimmy, much to the distress of local people, was sold to Stoke City not long after and Lupton's still had quite a large supply of books to sell. A lull in sales, along with a considerable outcry about Jimmy's departure, occurred when the news broke, but, after a while such was Jimmy's popularity sales started again.

When I worked at Lupton's, the shop next door was occupied by Stockdale's (Burnley) Ltd who were toy dealers.

This shop rivalled for my attentions Webster's toy department in Bridge Street and, when it closed and was replaced by Halford's, the firm which occupy the premises in the picture, I was just as upset as I suspect was the book manager at Luton's when Mr McIlroy departed for Stoke-on-Trent.

The drawn awning on the extreme right hides the shop window of Jackson's Ltd, the boot and shoe dealers and then there was the Boot Inn, which became a Yates' Wine Bar. The latter has recently closed and not one of the businesses mentioned survives today with the exception, of course, of Halford's, though they are on another site in town.

This part of Burnley has changed quite a lot but the row of shops, which we have been discussing, date from 1876 and remain a constant.

Perhaps the largest change has been the pedestrianisation of this part of St James' Street but who would have thought, 50 years ago, that we would have an ice-skating rink located here?

I wonder what Miss Lupton would have thought?