Echoes of the past: Brighouse decorator open for business

Sam Wilkinson standing outside his shop in Holroyd Buildings, which was demolished before the First World War and the open space renamed Thornton Square.
Sam Wilkinson standing outside his shop in Holroyd Buildings, which was demolished before the First World War and the open space renamed Thornton Square.

Look through your telephone directory, the free magazines, online for individual websites and the recommendations by word of mouth.

Those are quite often the ways we find a decorator these days - except for those of you that can do a wonderful job yourself.

Not a job I can brag at being any good at. Many will remember the days of lincrusta wall covering, the very thought of it takes me back 40 years to our first house. I suppose to the people who put it on the staircase walls thought it was nice at the time. But this very British invention I found to be a nightmare of a job to removed. In fact I had to resort to a hammer and a chisel and then employ a plasterer to put the wall back as it should be.

Lincrusta wall covering was the brainchild of inventor Frederick Walton who in 1860 had patented linoleum floor covering. Or as we commonly called it ‘lino’. Lincrusta was launched in 1877 and was used in a number of applications from royal homes to railway carriages and to our 1930s house in Bailiff Bridge. The linseed gel continues to dry for many years, so the surface gets tougher over time - and didn’t I know it.

Now, if we go back to a little over 100 years ago, in Brighouse and the surrounding communities there were twenty decorators advertising their services. Some of them could offer more services; grainer, painter, paperhanger and some of them even sold oils, paper and varnishes.

One of the most frequent advertisers often with the largest advert was the one shown in this weeks old photograph. Sam Wilkinson c1910, standing outside his shop in Holroyd Buildings, property that was demolished before the First World War and the open space renamed Thornton Square.

Sam could provide a multitude of services over and above the traditional paperhanging and painting. He was a picture frame maker, a gilder, sign writer and if that was not all he was an art dealer as well.

Sam opened his business in Brighouse in 1884, so successful was his business that in c1903 he had to move to larger premises in Holroyd Buildings. His showroom proudly displayed a wide selection of water colour paintings, etchings and many engravings. He also showed off examples of his own work in re-gilding picture frames and furniture, sign writing, mouldings, cornice work and even some of his own carvings. His available choice of wallpapers displayed both English designs and for the more selective client a number of French designs were also available.

He employed a full team to carry out any decorating job that came his way. This man was clearly an artist and just looking at his many advertisements and his shop windows shows he offered a wide and diverse choice of services. Without further extensive research I cannot say when his business ceased to trade.