Taking a look around the corner

Whiteley's Corner showing the famous figure 'Him over Whiteley's - c mid 1930s
Whiteley's Corner showing the famous figure 'Him over Whiteley's - c mid 1930s

Although this corner of Huddersfield Road and Bethel Street is now occupied by Ladbrokes betting office, to many Brighouse residents it will always be known as Whiteley’s Corner.

The history books tell us that this property was built in 1864 by Sugden’s, the cotton manufacturers. The first person to occupy the shop was a Mr Pinder, who is described as an alchemist - in other words someone who dabbled in pills and potions. Following that business came Mr Duckworth, who ran it for a number of years.

It was 1892 and Fred Whiteley, who had trained as a cotton spinner, decided to seek new horizons. He obviously made the right decision when in 1907 he retired from the shop and left Brighouse to live in Blackpool. His son Herbert took over the business once dad had gone to live by the sea and then in 1922 it was taken on by Thomas Henry Whiteley, who moved from Birstall to manage the shop.

Thomas died in 1948 but the business was to go into the safe hands of Fred Whiteley, who was to become a familiar face to many Brighouse people who called into what had become the family newsagents shop.

This was a thriving business - try to imagine the days when thousands of workers set off for work in a morning to the Victoria mills complex (where Sainsbury’s is today) and all the mills in and around Huddersfield Road and Mill Royd Street.

That was before you even got to Birds Royd Lane with all the mills and factories down there. When the hooter sounded the huge crowds pouring down Huddersfield Road to get back home must have been a sight to see, many of them calling into Whiteley’s for ten Woodies and an Echo.

With it being so busy in that section of Huddersfield Road it is understandable why Lloyd’s Bank opened a branch in Huddersfield Road (1875).

As the number of motor vehicles being used became more commonplace it is also easy to see why the decision was taken to have a pedestrian crossing almost opposite Whiteley’s. The decision-makers of the day would have seen that it was the place everyone crossed and to put it anywhere else would have been pointless. The crowds would have still crossed opposite Whiteley’s crossing or no crossing.

Gradually as the mills closed and businesses went into decline there was still the people who lived in Police Street and all the other small streets that branched off Mill Lane. When many of those properties became part of a re-development plan and destined to be demolished, the shortage of Whiteley’s traditional customers obviously impacted on the kind of business the family had run very successfully from 1892.

I am sure that, like me, many boys and girls making their way to the Albert Cinema’s Saturday Star Club or the Savoy Cinema would call in to Whiteley’s for some sweets and a drink to enjoy while watching the weekly matinee of cartoons and serials. In the late 50s and through to the early 70s the weekly visit to watch the silver screen was becoming less popular mainly through the introduction of television.

It was in the 1920s that Thomas Henry Whiteley started a travel element to the business, a time when tours of Northern Ireland were very popular. Gradually the shop became a travel agents in the modern sense and ran for a number of years. When it closed it was bought by Ladbrokes and given a complete makeover.

Some readers will remember the wooden figure that was mounted over the front door - ‘Him over Whiteley’s’ as it was always referred to by the customers. It was a figure of a pipe smoking striding gentleman. Although it is many years ago now, the last time I saw it was in storage in Bankfield Museum.

The clock would have been the time piece all those workers knew to keep an eye on if they were to get to work before the morning hooter sounded.

The clock did not work for many years but in 2007 the area manager Mr Michael O’Connor arranged to have the clock repaired and restored to working order. This followed requests from customers, local residents and one resident was concerned enough to write to Ladbrokes head office and told them that was where he used to meet his dates under the clock.

Brighouse jewellers Neimantas, in Commercial Street, carried out the work which included creating a new frame and re-working the mechanics.

Our photograph shows Whiteley’s corner during the 1930s.