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Sunday, 10 January 2016

Shopping Saturday - Village Advertisements, 1891

January is the time when  TV, online and  press advertising does all it can to encourage us to participate in a winter sales frenzy   But what enticed our ancestors  into shops in the1890's?   Take a nostalgic look at advertisements in a local paper of Earlston,   my village in the rural Scottish Borders. 

Among the items donated to my local heritage group Auld Earlston is a photocopy of the first edition of " "The Earlston Comet", published Saturday October 10th, 1891.

Old newspapers are  fascinating documents. They enable us to "experience" events as they were recorded in the press of the time, featuring  "Local, District, London and Foreign Intelligence".   The advertisements can often be as interesting as the news.

As was the custom at the time, advertisements were given space on the front page for maximum impact.  

So what were Earlston people being encouraged to buy in 1891?   

Taking centre stage were promotions by the drapers and  clothiers in the village, and we get a good description of what the well dressed man or woman would be wearing in the late 19th century. 

Thomas Clendinnen & Sons, Drapers, Milliners and Clothiers announced their:
For the whole of  their stock, replete with all the latest novelties in Plain and Diagonal Serges, Homsepun, Twist, Knicker Checked and Striped, Dress Tweeds,
Ladies Jackets, Braemar and Russian Cloaks,
Trimmed Hat and Bonnets in Newest Style
White, Scarlet and Shetland Flannels
 Gentleman's Tweed Suits - Made to Measure- From 37s.6p 
New Melton and Diagonal Overcoats from 30s. 

All garments carefully made and finished -  Perfect Fit Guaranteed. 

In the 1891 census, 32 year old draper  Thomas Clendinnen lived on the High Street with his 72 year old mother Jane  named as head of the household.  The drapers was very much a family business that included  Thomas, his  mother, his sister Marion, and brothers Henry and  Charles.  

Miller's Drapers Establishment (above)  offered competition with the claim:  
"The largest and cheapest collection  of Autumn and Winter drapery  goods to be seen in any warehouse in the South of Scotland. 
The constant desire is to supply goods of Reliable Quality
 suitable for all classes of the parish."  
[Note that phrase "All classes of the parish" - you could not use that now!]

Also in the field of fashion was David Wallace,  with:

"An Immense and Magnificent Collection of every New and Fashionable  Dress Material....which for Variety, Superior Quality, Good Taste and Moderate Prices is unequalled in Earlston.

Tweeds in Cheviot, Homespun, Harris and Grampian makes, latest styles and newest mixtures, Black materials in great variety.
The latest novelties in Millinery, Flowers, Feathers etc.  Bonnets composed of Velvet and Jet, from 10s.6d to 25s.  The latest novelty in hats is Gladys in French Beaver, trimmed with Feathers.  All orders for this Department made up in the most Fashionable and Tasteful Manner." 

Note the reference to "black materials" - at a time when formal mourning wear was still the custom.  Somehow the name "Gladys" does not quite conjure up to me  an image of a French beaver hat with feathers!

Draper David Wallace was listed in the 1891 census as at the High Street with his wife Ruth, two young children Robert and Ruth, and  eldest son Henry described as a  Draper's Apprentice.   

Occupying the same premises in 1901 was 25 year old draper George McDonald.   Unmarried he was living at 15 Station Road with his father John, a saddler, mother Jane and two brothers David and James who were also saddlers.  George must have been an enterprising lad,  as at the age of 15 in the previous census of 1891,  he was also listed as a draper.   


Background Information:
According to the 1901 census, the population of Earlston was 1677.  Shops  in the village included:

6 grocers/spirit dealers/ironmongers,  3 butchers, 2 bakers, 5 tailor/drapers/ clothiers, 3 watchmakers/clockmakers/'jewellers, 1 confectioner, 1 chemist,  3 dressmakers/ milliners,  and 1 fishman & earthenware dealer. 

What was striking was  the number of women in business - Miss Jane Douglas, confectioner;  Mrs Margaret Kerr & Mrs Jane Readman grocers;  Miss Margaret Mcdonald, Miss Jane Wood &  Miss Isa Tennant. dressmakers & milliners;  Mrs Agnes Smith,  baby linen,  Mrs Isabella Winchester, draper,  and "in charge of the telephone call office" Miss Isabella Aitchison. 

Thirty years later in 1931 saw listed:  3 grocers/ironmonger, 1 butcher, 1 baker, 3 tailor/clothier/drapers,  1 watchmaker,  3 confectioner, 1 chemist, 3 milliners/dressmaker,  and 2 newsagents.  

                                          Earlston High Street at the West End 

Today we are left with 2 convenience stores, a butcher   a baker, chemist, flower shop, sweet shop, 3 pubs/hotels, 2 hairdressers, a beauty salon,  a craft shop, an electrical shop, a cafe, a tearoom  and a fish & chip shop.  
How times have changed! 

Shopping Saturday is one of many daily prompts from Geneabloggers.com encouraging writers to record aspects of their family history.

The Crippen story aroused enormous public interest at the time - See more at: http://www.historytoday.com/richard-cavendish/execution-dr-crippen#sthash.Rvy7ZSbM.dp


  1. Interesting. I like looking at ads in old newspapers too. I wonder if the first family lived upstairs over their shop. on Shopping Saturday - Advertisements in 1891

  2. Thank you Kristin for your comment. Yes, you are right, in Earlston many shopkeepers at this time lived above their shop.


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