J. W. BRAITHWAITE & SON
One of the oldest known
references to this prestigious location facing the Market Square, was in the
18th century when owned by Abraham Dent. Abraham
was the son of shopkeeper and wine merchant, William Dent.
Some of Abraham’s accounts, dating from 1756-1777, were found many
years later and published by Professor T. S. Willan in 1970.
The documents have provided fascinating information detailing this early shop.
Abraham stocked amongst other goods, tea, sugar, soap, tobacco, spices,
thread, ribbons, quills, almanacs and patent medicines, almost anything that was
in demand that was not be made locally. You
can imagine the excitement in Kirkby Stephen when Dent’s new stock arrived.
Dent was also one of the biggest
traders in locally knitted stockings. Wool
to knit stockings, which were long socks, was distributed to local people on
Market Day and collected a week later for onward transport to London, taking two
weeks along the packhorse routes. Dent
is known to have traded in over 1,000 pairs of stockings per year.
During the American War of Independence (1775-1783)
and the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815), stockings were in great demand for our
army and this trade became an important additional income for subsistence
farmers of the area. All the members
of the family took part and even male drovers were said to knit, on horseback,
one-handed in the traditional manner, with a knitting sheath tucked into their
Dent branched out into brewing,
first mentioned in 1784 when he was a partner in the Dent, Portrees and Mason
brewery. This partnership disbanded
in 1786 with Portrees setting up a business in Liverpool and Dent mortgaging the
premises. Described as ‘A common
brewery, a counting house, a shop and a malt house and two inns, The Golden
Fleece [now Walton’s Yard, Market Square] and The Sun Inn [now Stoneshot].’
What remains of Abraham Dent’s brewing industry with a 15-foot seepage well
and cold storage are in the manmade cellar below Stoneshot that has been annexed
from the rear cellar through a short tunnel.
In Dent’s day, this was a two-storey
building as drawn by Thomas Fawcett in his bull-baiting illustration dated 1817.
Fawcett names the building as the ‘Old Brewery’.
In J. W. Braithwaite’s day, a third storey had been added with a hipped
roof, quoins, sash windows and a Victorian shop front as illustrated below.
Alterations have been made in the 20th century blocking windows on the
north and south facing walls. The
stepped buttresses to the eastern corner mark where a building and an arch of
The Sun Inn was knocked down for improved access into Stoneshot.
At one time, Dickinson’s Yard, named after the then Sun Inn owner, was
surrounded by housing, also demolished in the 1960s.
Just in front of these buttresses is a cellar entrance which has a piece
of tracery used as a balustrade. It
is likely that this masonry was a section of a church window replaced in the
19th century. The building is Grade
II Listed referenced as ‘shop to north east corner (Market Square)’ and
at the heart of Kirkby Stephen Conservation Area.
John Waistell Braithwaite
(1850-1934), was the son of Robert Braithwaite (Westmorland born -1890) and
Margaret nee Capstick (born 1819, Crosby Garrett).
Father Robert was a stonemason working with our local Brockram stone.
John worked as a booking clerk at Kirkby Stephen East Station where he
was drawn by Poet John Close (1816-1891) in approximately 1870 as illustrated
below. By 1881, John was a
postmaster, bookseller and stationer and is later listed with Bill Poster and
Book Trades as his business occupations.
J. W. Braithwaite is particularly
remembered for publishing a series of Kirkby Stephen and district guides for the
early tourism industry. The books
include interesting information about the town, legends, history and walks and,
are invaluable as historical sources. A
later version dating from 1938 features scenic car routes in the area for
at least 1890 and 1892, Braithwaite’s published the Kirkby Stephen &
Appleby Monthly Messenger. This
included the serialisation of John’s ‘Trip to the Far West’, ‘The
Incidents and Adventures of 16,0000 Miles by Land and Sea’.
John was an early member of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian
and Archaeological Society (CWAAS), an amateur geologist and an avid potholer
married Sarah (Dent?), (b.1849 Hardendale, Shap) in 1870 and they had 14
children, Robert Waistell (1871-1956); Elizabeth Jane (b.1872); Margaret
(b.1874); Mary Eleanor (b.1874); Isaac Bainbridge (b.1876); George Edmund
Capstick (1878-1936); Harriet Annie (b.1880); Emily (b.1881); John Wilfred
(b.1883); Harold (b.1884); Emily Sarah (b.1887); Mabel (b.1888); Dora Gladys
(b.1891) and Florence May (b.1893).
Braithwaite children and grandchildren worked in the business into the 1950s
with Mabel Wharton née Braithwaite in charge of the shop.
The business was sold to “Jones the print” and Peter Coward
became his apprentice. The Hall
family took over and ran their newsagent’s business from 2005 selling to Tom
Perkin and his family, the current owners, in 2019.
Officials at Kirkby Stephen Station (east) drawn and published by Poet John
J. W. Braithwaite is number 7.
Sun Inn as illustrated by Ann Sandell 2019.
This drawing has been made from a selection of photographs taken when The
Sun Inn was trading and later, when the building was demolished.
shop on Market Square from a postcard. The cars in the photograph suggest that
it may have been taken just before WWII.
The cover of Braithwaite's 1884 “Illustrated Guide . . . for Kirkby Stephen, Appleby, . . . &C”, published from this address.
WILLAN T.S., 1970. An
Eighteenth-Century Shopkeeper Abraham Dent of Kirkby Stephen, Manchester
Births, Deaths & Marriages, East Ward, Westmorland.
CLOSE John,1870. Poet
Close’s Grand Christmas Book. Poet’s
Hall, Kirkby Stephen
Links to other Kirkby Stephen Blue Plaques