Thomas Walton was born in c1878
at Mickleton, then Yorkshire, now County Durham and came to Kirkby Stephen in
1898. He worked as a journeyman
painter and decorator for the firm of Brunskill and Nicholson. Thomas
specialised as a signwriter, coach and trap painter as well as a house painter
of decorative finishes and wall paper hanging.
In 1901, Thomas was living in
Melbecks with his mother-in-law Margaret Lamb, sister-in-law Maggie, wife Mary
and his three month old son Joseph, named after his father.
This is where he chose to start his first business in 1907 as advertised below.
In 1912 the business moved to the Market Square in the former Golden Fleece Inn.
Advertising in Methodist Circuit News 1908
Advertising in the Parish News Dec 1918
Thomas and Mary had four sons
Joseph, John, Percy and Tom. Two of the sons joined the business and ran the
motor hire side as pioneers of coach hire in 1925 Kirkby Stephen. They had
buses, a hearse, wedding cars, and taxis. Son Tom retired aged 60 when his
nephews Ken and Stan continued the business.
Early Walton vehicles
Later Walton vehicles
The business expanded occupying
both sides of the arch, becoming known as Walton’s Yard as this mini
department store grew to include furniture, plumbing, decorating supplies and
carpets etc. Many of the buildings down the yard were filled as stores. The
current Century Chinese restaurant was part of the furniture store with a link
across to both sides of the yard.
One interesting story about the
yard is that when William and John Nicholson ran their butcher’s business in
the Shambles from 1880, they are said to have butchered animals in the yard.
Their diary records that in one week they “kild” [sic.] 4 sheep, 2
lambs and a heifer.
Today’s Walton’s Yard has
small independent shops with some housing alongside the restaurant and fronted
by the Age Concern charity shop and is well worth exploring.
1901 UK Census
BIRKBECK Douglas, Frosty, Foddered on the Fell – Diaries of a
Westmorland Farmer 1868-1914, Cito Press, page 14.
Links to other Kirkby Stephen Blue Plaques