Dalesman June 2013 – Osmotherley shop run by same family since 1786

Thompson’s of Osmotherley

Pat Duggan, of Osmotherley, is helping her friend Grace Thompson to sort out the remains of her shop, which she is selling after it has been in the family for 6 generations.

Gillian Shepherd, Grace Thompson and Pat Duggan

Gillian Shepherd, Grace Thompson and Pat Duggan

Being good Yorkshire folk, the Thompsons tended not to throw things away – they might come in useful one day – and Pat is fascinated by the remaining details of everyday life from times gone by.

She says, “They’re things that you don’t think about until they’re gone. Nowadays, we’ve become used to pre-packaged, self-service goods in shops. But for generations at Thompson’s shop, this was not so. Goods were bought in bulk: receipts show a ‘stone of currants’ and a ‘barrel of sugar’. Then, the family weighed them out, as customers required.

Pat says, “They got loaf sugar, and salt came in blue blocks, that had to be cut up and sold in smaller amounts.”

Another friend, Gillian Shepherd, grew up in the village, and recalls, “They weighed out tea from big jars.”

As a child, Gillian recalls having her 6d [six ‘old’ pence] sweet money to spend. She says, “I remember tubes of Refeshers – they were 3d – stacked up on the counter. There was another shop in Osmotherley, Mrs Littlefair’s – that was the main sweetshop. Thompson’s was the general stores.”

Pat, who came to live in Osmotherley in the 1970s, is endlessly fascinated by lists of stock from the olden days. She says, “They did dry grocery, cheese and bacon. And there were seeds, peas, beans etc – flowers and veg for the allotment. They also did clothing and drapery. I found socks – and some silk stockings – men’s trousers, a brown work smock, vests, long combinations, and lots of beautiful linens, such as tablecloths and sheets.”

Pat knows that there used to be a big linen bleachery at Walk Mill on the Cod Beck, and wonders if the linens had been bleached locally.

Gillian adds, “They sold buttons, elastic and millinery, and there are bottles of old-fashioned disinfectant.”

While the shop sold lots of useful everyday items, even back in the 1930s, Osmotherley was attracting visitors to the North York Moors. Miss Thompson’s father, says Pat, “Wrote a booklet about what you see if you cycle into Osmotherley from Swainby. He wrote lots of booklets, had them printed in Stockton, and sold them to the tourists.”

Osmotherley

Osmotherley

Pat is so fascinated by Miss Thompson’s shop and the old records in it, that she is hoping to use them to compile a book about the shop. She says, “It’s a lovely history, and shows how different things were in times gone by. The shop’s come through and adjusted to so many changes. There’s so much Victoriana left, and some of it’s even older. It would be lovely to keep some of it together.”

Meanwhile, Miss Thompson is hoping that someone will come forward to reopen the shop.

About Helen Johnson

Freelance writer specialising in Yorkshire's history and heritage.

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