Monthly Archives: November 2015

Festive Adverts and Shopping in Batley: A 1915 Christmas – Part 2: Gifts Galore for Man, Woman and Child

In Part 2 of my blog about Christmas shopping in Batley in 1915 I focus on gift-giving. Although the shadow of war cast a cloud it could not, as the papers put it, “eclipse the public’s desire to remember the season of goodwill”.

The war had made a mark though, in terms of presents given. Children’s toys took on a distinctive, militaristic theme. And the postal system and Army Transport were inundated with food and presents for soldiers, sailors and nurses serving overseas or training on home shores: Cakes and plum puddings to revive memories of home; grocers reporting a run on goods men in the trenches could relish; butchers supplying hundredweights of comestibles; clothing retailers, ironmongers, tin-ware merchants and jewellers selling practical goods aimed at those serving King and Country. Batley folk had a wealth of local shops to satisfy these needs.

The town centre had a good selection of jewellers.  The universally popular product stocked by all, aimed especially at those serving in the Armed Forces, were Radiolite wrist watches with luminous dials, readable in the dark. These were also promoted as useful in the dark for people at home.

Joe Fox, whose clock was a much-loved time-teller for shoppers on Commercial Street, was one retailer of these wrist-watchers. He also had a good number of other clocks which, the paper remarked, were not easy to obtain nowadays.

Joe T Fox Batley 11 Dec 1915

Commercial Street’s Messrs Gerald Brooke, Ltd also retailed these “luminous levers”. Diamond and gem rings glittered in the window of this shop, described as “ranking high amongst jewellers and silversmiths in the West Riding”, making a display worthy of their big reputation. Upholding its good name, Brooke’s sold clocks, alberts, signet rings, canteens of cutlery, silver and plated goods such as cake-stands, and dessert dishes and other goods “at prices that cannot be repeated”.


Mr F E Morton was a third Commercial Street jeweller who boasted the sale of luminous watches, a number which had already been sent to soldiers. Silverware marked the other outstanding feature of his shop, with a beautiful home-enhancing collection of vases, bon-bon dishes, cruets, cake, fruit and jam stands. If that wasn’t enough to entice the discerning Christmas shopper, there was also, of course, the alluring range of mantelpiece and wall clocks, watches, rings, bangles and pendants.


The town’s choice in shoe and clothing shops was equally impressive.  Salter and Salter’s heavily stocked Commercial Street shop’s advertising ploy was “The best is cheapest” when buying winter boots, shoes and slippers. Leather was becoming more difficult to purchase so the public were urged to spend their money to the best advantage and see Salter and Salter’s plainly-marked goods.

Messrs George Jessop and Son, clothiers, hosiers, boot and shoe dealers was one of those stores making a virtue of selling stock bought in at old prices without wartime additions. The famous firm used this tactic to encourage people to buy quickly as “much of the stuff cannot be replaced” at these current quoted prices. They stocked fashionable dark grey overcoats with silk velvet collars. They also held a good supply of blue nap and real indigo blue serge which some tailors could not buy for “love nor money”. They had a display of Scouts outfits in one window. Seasonable presents for those at home included ties, hats, hosiery, snow-shoes and galoshes. Cardigan jackets were suggested for soldiers and sailors.


Mr M Watssman of Town Street, Batley Carr also held a stock of cloth bought at old prices. Supplying a choice of new materials and up-to-date patterns cut to a perfect fit, his motto was “no fit, no pay”. He also had a special ladies department with sealskins and raincoats.


Well-known in Dewsbury and Wakefield, Messrs J Pickles and Son, hosiers and outfitters, opened their Batley branch in time for Christmas 1915. Located at 18-20 Commercial Street this was an establishment where “gentlemen can have their every wish gratified in the latest design of ties, shirts and socks”. Soliciting trade from those with military loved ones, they claimed one local officer made repeat sock orders, proof of his satisfaction with them during active service.  They stocked fashionable soft hats and the latest ties with open ends. Raincoats were made to order, so the customer could have his particular ideas catered for. And their vast quantities of underwear, gloves and scarves made the purchase of a sensible Christmas gift easy.

Pickles 2.JPG

Mr Thos. Hull, old-established Batley outfitter and draper, located in Exchange Buildings, Commercial Street, had been remodelled and boasted new fitting rooms. One wonders if this was a response to new local competition in the form of the Pickles’ shop. Managed for more than 20 years by Mr W Bainbridge, the shop sold hats, suits and “superb” raincoats. The latest fashion in knitted silk ties in bright, mixed colours featured here. Scarves were touted as a suitable Christmas gift. But the real big selling point was khaki mittens of a quality far superior to anything Mr Bainbridge had handled.  With over 240 pairs sold for soldiers, these mittens were popular with warriors who found them so useful. Khaki colours also appeared in the shop’s handkerchiefs, socks and shirts.

Hull's clothes 18 Dec 1915

But the ladies of Batley did not miss out. Miss Kendall’s store at 11, Commercial Street was described as “a revelation and a joy for ladies” and “a shopful of ladies’ delights”.  It stocked exquisite, beautifully made Maltese lace, embroidered frocks and handkerchiefs, perfume, pinafores and dainty blouses in the latest fashion, as well as  a supply of gloves noted as one of the best and biggest in the district. They also stocked “a delightful array of cushions, table centres, and other articles that go to make home life truly bright and agreeable”.

Kendall 27 Nov 1915

Miss Hazzlewood was Batley’s blouse specialist. The “Batley News” enthused that “some of the dainty creations now on view will make charming gifts for the fair sex at Christmas”. The on-site staff, in this domain for ladies, also manufactured large quantities of underclothing. But men were not overlooked by Miss Hazzlewood who, in conjunction with Batley Ladies’ Sewing Guild, cut over 1,000 shirts for soldiers and other garments “for the fighting boys”. 


Toy shops abounded too. Mr Lionel Leach had taken over the 68 Commercial Street business previously known as C T Mellor’s, selling handbags, cards and books. His leather goods included wallets, purses, writing and jewel cases.  Fountain pens, photo frames and antimony ware made ideal gifts too. Books catering for children and adults and toys and games were in particularly brisk demand. Christmas cards featured khaki, Union Jacks and other patriotic war-themed embellishments.

Leach Christmas Cards 4 Dec 1915

Leach's 18 Dec 1915

Military toys, electrical goods, cycles and motors were found in the shops of Mr Herbert Hainsworth, on Branch Avenue and Well Lane in Batley and 42, Northgate, Dewsbury. Air-guns, some firing 1,000 shots without the need to re-charge, trained the eye to accuracy. A toy machine gun with wooden “shells”, emitting sounds mimicking the “bark” and “crack” of the weapon, was described as “wonderfully reminiscent of its big brother at the Front”. Then there was the new Sandy Handy, a mechanical toy which filled and emptied buckets of sand.


Hainsworth’s shop also catered for adults. For fighting men they recommended their pocket lamps, leather vests and motorcycle clothing. Their motor and cycle departments held countless accessories which made useful presents, such as capes, gloves, tools and lamps. They sold bicycles. And motor cycles by Triumph, P and M, BSA, Sunbeam, Lloyds and Wolf were available, including new lightweight models for 1916.  They also served the business customer through their light delivery van and commercial motor trade arm.

Mr Thos Wood (late Mr E H Tate’s) was one of the Heavy Woollen District’s foremost ironmongers. The toy shop element of the business was located in Well Lane, with its forts, guns, cannons and building sets. His Commercial Street shop window proved a seasonal delight, reflective of the times. One window portrayed in detail a Red Cross Hospital. They also had a miniature Charlie Chaplin! Christmas novelties for the soldier in the family included a bullet-proof shield which doubled as a mirror and periscope. Cigarette lighters made a nice Christmas gift. And the visitor was urged not to miss the trench stores containing “wonderfully simple little things that Tommy Atkins values immensely”.


But the shop which delighted the children of Batley, Santa’s very own Toyland, was Misses Western’s Commercial Street shop. The “Batley News” proclaimed “it may be aptly called the Batley Home of Santa Claus. He fills his pack and reindeer sledge there”. This year the toys had a largely military theme with soldiers, forts, guns, battleships, miniature tents, cooking stoves, aeroplanes and Scouts outfits. In addition to boys mechanical toys manufactured in England or France, girls could choose from dolls made in Britain, France or Japan. Meccano sets were aimed at both sexes. Adults too were catered for with brushes, combs, oak trays and basket-ware.


So in this selection there are many gifts familiar to today’s Christmas shoppers; and many which typify the war-torn times of 1915.

In Part 3 I will look at Christmas food and drink vendors.

Part 1 can be found at


“Batley News” – various November-December editions.

Festive Adverts and Shopping in Batley: A 1915 Christmas – Part 1: “The Home Beautiful”

In the run up to Christmas I’m writing a series of seasonal blog posts with a family and local history theme. In the opening three posts I look at shopping in Batley in 1915, as described in the local press.

Adverts and shopping articles were a feature in all local newspapers up and down the country in the weeks leading to Christmas. 

These kinds of newspaper pieces and adverts – giving shop descriptions, detailed location information, and the wares on sale – provide a picture of the area in which ancestors lived, add colour to research and complement the information from other sources such as Directories and maps. They also provide a unique insight into the period for a family historian. And it is all the more useful if your ancestor worked in one of the featured shops!

Although the shops I describe are based in my home-town, the type of retail outlet and products sold would be seen in most towns in the country in this period.

By way of context, Batley and the surrounding Heavy Woollen District had prospered in the early part of the war. Its fabrics were much in demand by the military and business boomed. So, even if prices in shops were higher, the employment opportunities, wages and bonuses paid to mill workers went some way to offset this. Also, notably in these early war years, many shops made a virtue of not including wartime additions to the cost of stock bought in at old prices. So the implication given by the press was Batley residents were still relatively well-placed to put on a good show at Christmas.

Batley folk were exhorted to celebrate Christmas 1915 with cheerfulness and a generous spirit. It was claimed this would contribute to national optimism.  So, as families suffered the anxiety of separation and news of dead and injured servicemen reached home, shops were decked out in patriotic emblems, usually centred on the Union Jack or flags of Allies, and these Christmas adverts began to fill the newspapers.

The first ones appeared in the “Batley News” towards the end of November 1915, and by the beginning of December they increased to a steady flow. So a much later start than today’s Christmas retail push.

As for items designed to make a 1915 Christmas celebration, unsurprisingly alongside those traditional food and household goods, many products had a military theme or were directly aimed at our “gallant lads” and “plucky nurses”.

Like today, updating the house for Christmas played a part in preparations, the season being described as an ideal time to adorn the home with new goods.  Mr Preston Jenkinson’s shop, located by the Batley Tram Terminus, was hailed as probably the largest vendor or linoleum and flooring products for miles around. Products included linoleum, oil-cloth, rugs, fringe, mackintoshes and bedsteads. Its plain pricing, courteous staff, range of stock and the fact that “the huge store is one of those rare places where the stranger may have a really good look round before being pressed to buy” were virtues for those “bent on buying well for Christmas”.

Jenkinson 2

Hanover Street’s Messrs W North and Sons was another store for those with an eye for “The Home Beautiful” to frequent. This shop also sold oil-cloth, linoleum, dainty rugs and the “latest creations of carpet factories”. Beyond this they stocked enamelled curbs and hearths and inlaid furniture, “the choicest products of the cabinet-maker”.

Messrs Brett and North’s furnishing emporium on Bradford Road had “everything calculated to make home life bright and beautiful”. Its products ranged from pictures, mirrors, ornaments, cutlery and electro-ware to rugs, suites, desks, cabinets and easy chairs. “The metal artwork, vases, dinner and tea-set’s, exquisite designs in chairs, bedroom suites etc afford a pretty display”.

Flowers also played a part in the festivities. Messrs J Hick and Sons at Wheatcroft was described as “a joy to the eye and a refresher to the soul” whose flowers could “be bought and transferred to the home, to give radiance and fragrance throughout the holidays”. Besides flowers, seasonal evergreens such as mistletoe and holly decorated homes. And, as a time to remember departed loved ones, shops promoted wreaths and crosses to lay at last resting places. Ironic given the number of families who would never know final resting places as the war progressed.

Hick advert

Mr Arthur Kemp’s greenhouses and gardens in Wellington Street, facing the baths, was a Batley institution. Residents were urged to walk around the greenhouses to select tea-table and school party blooms; Christmas decorations for home, church and grave; bridal wreaths and buttonholes for the winter wedding; and the central piece at Christmas – the tree.

Kemps trees  11 Dec 1915

Music was important in Christmas celebrations and family gatherings. Mr W S Beaumont’s Henrietta Street music store stocked gramophones and thousands of records so “no home need to be without mirth and music at the festive season” with “such seasonable strains as ‘The Hallelujah Chorus,’ and good old carols like ‘Good King Wenceslas,’ followed by sprightly jigs and reels, or by patriotic spirit-raisers like ‘Britannia’ and the ‘Marseillaise”.

Beaumont Batley advert

Player-pianos and rolls were available, promoted as a way to play music without undertaking years of study. And for those already proficient pianos, violins and wind instruments were on sale. The shop had repair facilities and Mr Beaumont would consider weekly payment in approved cases. Santa Claus could supply children’s bugles and drums from the shop too!

Beaumont Batley 27 Nov 1915

In my next post I will cover Christmas toys and gifts, including those aimed at soldiers and sailors on active service abroad or in training at home. It can be found at:
“Batley News” – various November-December editions.

WW1 Remembrance in Verse: “In Memoriam” and “Roll of Honour” Newspaper Columns

This is the last of my three blog posts in this period of Remembrance. It focuses on the WW1 period.

Batley War Memorial

Batley War Memorial

As the Great War progressed and the anniversaries of the Fallen came and went, the local newspaper “In Memoriam” and, later, dedicated “Roll of Honour” columns were increasingly filled with moving tributes to lost husbands, sons, fathers, brothers and fiancées. Although less frequent in late 1915 and throughout 1916, this phenomenon became particularly notable from 1917 onwards and endured in the years beyond the end of the conflict.

Many were recurrent standard verses, or variations on standard themes: grief; absence; young lives cut short; a mother’s pain; religious sentiments; Remembrance; doing one’s duty; sacrifice; wooden crosses; graves overseas far from home, or no known grave; not being present in their loved one’s dying moments; occasionally the difficulty of seeing others return; and even reproach for those who caused the war.

Although not war poetry, they are powerful representations of family grief and loss which echo across the ages.

My mother’s brother died in Aden whilst on National Service in 1955. These family tributes from another era are the ones which, in all my St Mary’s War Memorial research, left the greatest impression on her, resonating with her emotions 60 years later.

These “In Memoriam” and “Roll of Honour” notices provide an accessible window into this aspect of the War, the emotions of those left behind. They are also a continuing legacy for family historians. They can provide service details, place and even circumstances of death, names and addresses of family members (including married sisters) and details of fiancées all of which can aid research.

Here is a selection from the local Batley newspapers[1].

Remembrance 1

Remembrance 2

Remembrance 3

Remembrance 4

Remembrance 5

Remembrance 6

Remembrance 7

Remembrance 8


  • Batley News – various dates
  • Batley War Memorial photo by Jane Roberts

[1] These are not confined to those servicemen on the St Mary’s War Memorial

Shrapnel and Shelletta: Baby Names and their Links to War, Remembrance and Commemoration

In these weeks leading up to Remembrance Sunday, my thoughts turned to some research I first undertook in 2011 around baby names. In particular the commemoration aspect behind some name choices, especially in times of conflict. Name choices which went beyond bestowing a “conventional” Christian name on a baby in honour of, or affection for, a relative or friend, living or dead.

Unusually this train of thought was prompted by the 16 December 1914 German naval bombardment of Hartlepool, Scarborough and Whitby. This had an unexpected impact on my West Yorkshire family history. In the course of researching this event I discovered a snippet in the “Batley News” of 9 January 1915 which captured my attention. It recorded the birth of a baby girl in Hartlepool. Her unusual name commemorated the momentous events occurring locally and wider afield at the time of her birth: Shelletta Louvain.

Shelletta is clearly a reference to the events in Hartlepool; Louvain is presumably a mark of respect and signifying a shared experience with Belgian city of Louvain destroyed by the German Army in August 1914. GRO records show the birth of a “Shelletta L Liddle” in the Hartlepool Registration District in Q1 of 1915.

Commenting on the child’s name, the “Wells Journal” asked its readers to “…. think of the poor fate of the poor Hartlepool girl …born to the accompaniment of shell fire, who has been condemned by her parents to go through live bearing the burden of the name Shelletta Louvain!

Shelletta 3

The same paper recorded a Whitby child born during the bombardment of that town, named George Shrapnel Griffin. Other papers quipped if the child had been a girl they could have christened her Shrapnelly. George was, according to the “Whitby Gazette” born at the precise moment the first shell burst over the town! His birth elicited a letter to the family containing the King’s best wishes.

Baby George Shrapnel Griffin with his proud parents Mr and Mrs Edward Griffin

Baby George Shrapnel Griffin with his proud parents Mr and Mrs Edward Griffin

This chance find of a couple of event/place associated names prompted a search into similarly World War One associated Christian names in England and Wales. Using FreeBMD[1], this resulted in the following:

Baby's Names Table 1b

1 = I have taken the total from FreeBMD, unadjusted for duplicates.
2 = Includes an Arrasy and Arrasina
3 = Some of the children named Delville had middle names starting with the initial “W” which may possibly have been for “Wood”, one child in 1918 had the Christian name “Delvillewood”.
4 = Includes Joffrena, Joffrene, Joffreen, Joffrench, Joffree, Joffrein and Joffrey.
5 = Battle was called Neuve-Chapelle. Four out of the six children had middle names starting with the letter C.
6 = Includes a Sommeria
7 = Includes an Armisticia

I discovered a sprinkling of children named Belgium and France and even a Poperinghe if I widened my search dates to 1920.

So there is a mixture of battle, personality and event associated names. Verdun, more usually linked with French losses, is surprisingly an overwhelmingly popular choice for both male and female babies. Dorrien, in honour of General Smith-Dorrien and a name I did not analyse in detail, proved popular in the early part of the war.

There will be far more examples. And my search does not include middle names, such as the one given to baby George Griffin. Incidentally no child was given the Christian name of Shrapnel, in my FreeBMD search.

No major surprise, but the registration quarters for these war-linked names mainly coincide with the dates of the various battles/events. For example the children named Antwerp were registered in Q4 1914, and Q1 and Q2 of 1915. This is consistent with the early October 1914 timing of the Defence of Antwerp by the British Royal Naval Division and Rawlinson’s IV Corps.  And Q2 1915 was the peak quarter for the registration of children named Luisitania, coinciding with the sinking of that ship on 7 May 1915.

It would be interesting to investigate if the Registration Districts in which these events were recorded correspond with the areas where the various battalions fought, especially pre-1917 when they had a more “local” affinity.  Also to know why parents chose these names for their children: Was it patriotism? Defiance? Or was it to commemorate a significant event at the time of the child’s birth, as in the case of Shelletta and George Shrapnel? Was it in honour and remembrance of the battle in which a husband or family member lost their life? Or more generally in recognition of where a husband fought? And did these names prove, as suggested in the “Wells Journal“, a burden in later life?

Incidentally the explanation for George’s name, as indicated in the “Whitby Gazette“, was: “George, after that of the King, in whose glorious reign England is rendering her greatest of many services to humanity by crushing Prussian militarism, and Shrapnel, as commemorating the German attack on our undefended town, so dear to all Yorkshire folk, and so famous in its history“. Sadly George never survived infancy to find out whether his name was to prove a burden or otherwise.  According to the same newspaper he died on 23 May 1915.

George Griffin The Cragg

The naming of children after battles and events associated with war is not peculiar to the First World War. Looking at names given to babies during the period of the 2nd Boer War, October 1899-May 1902, I identified the following:

Baby's Names Table 2

1 = I have taken the total from FreeBMD, unadjusted for duplicates
2 = Includes a Kimberley Mafeking
3 = Magersfontein Paardeberg

Going back even further to the Crimean War, Inkerman first made an appearance in 1855 and also in subsequent years, proving extremely popular. Crimea, Balaclava and even a Sevastopol occur in the GRO indexes.

So baby names can provide a link to historical events at the time of birth, and another research angle.

If anyone has any of these names, or names of similar war-related origins, I would love to know!


  • FreeBMD:
  • “Batley News” – 9 January 1915
  • “Wells Journal” – 8 January 1915
  • “Whitby Gazette” – 8 January 1915 and 28 May 1915

[1] Research originally conducted in July 2011 and updated in January-February 2015