Hirst’s – Memoirs for an old lady

hirsts working

If Hirsts was a old lady, reminiscing about her life, what would she have seen in the last 500 years..Makes you wonder.

Penultimate chapter telling how she’s been deserted, riddled with aching joints, unloved and left to crumble and die but with a final episode of the people of Thorne rallying and like the Phoenix, she rises from the ashes …sorry getting a bit carried away there……

These key, town centre buildings, which date to the 1600’s, represent one of only a few remaining in the ancient  heart of our town.
English Heritage designated Thorne a “Conservation Area At Risk” in 2009.

The History of the Hirst’s Buildings in Thorne Market Place

After Vermuyden drained the land in this area, Thorne started to expand. It was decided that the Market Place would be sited to the left of Church Street, then known as Church Lane.

The Market Place, which was Chartered in 1658 by Oliver Cromwell, was formed by the building of small timber framed dwellings in the same year; there was living accommodation at the front and first floor of these cottages and business premises such as sail making and blacksmiths to the rear.

On the first day the Market was open for business, the very first trader, a farmer by the name of Hirst came thundering into Thorne with his horse and dray carrying his produce. He had travelled from Rawcliffe. This surname seems to have been present in the history of Thorne Market Place from the beginning.

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On the land at the rear of these houses there was a small farm yard which comprised of a house, tied cottages and outbuildings, one of the barns faced the Market Place. There were stone steps up to a door that led to a passage which led from the front to the rear of the barn into the farmyard. The platform of these steps was known to the locals as the ‘Speaker’s Steps’.

In 1725, the properties we now know as Hirsts and The Market Chippie were renovated and enhanced; most of the original 17th Century foundations and structure were retained and are still present to this day. These new dwellings were two splendid large town houses; one facing the Market Place, the other facing Silver Street, both of the same design.

Beneath the wooden floor in the shops, dust, which proved to have originated from Mount Vesuvius has been found in the mixture used for the material of the original floor.

By the mid 1800s, the first floors of these houses had been converted for retail use. The Market Chippie was then a drapers shop with a double front and centre door, it later become a baker’s shop; the building we now know as Hirst’s then comprised of half of the Market Place town house and the whole of the Silver Street house. This shop sold hardware, farming implements and parts for carriages and drays, all manufactured at the rear of the building.

By the mid to late 1800s, the farm at the rear had been purchased by William Casson and his brother; William was a Quaker preacher, a land owner, a local historian, a landscaper, market gardener and business man of Thorne; the farm was then known as Casson’s Farm. The row of terraced cottages and yard became known as Casson’s Yard. There was also land and outbuildings which belonged to the ‘Hirst’s’ buildings.
In the early 1900s, the barn, which was situated on the site of the shop we now know as La Pizza, was demolished, this is when Hirst’s had a fineThorne#3 Copyright
three storey building built, from which they operated their business and lived on the premises for a short while. This was the time when the door for the corner shop was moved to the corner of the building. Rayners were the tenant’s of Hirst’s at that time and continued to manufacture implements, cycles and were famous Nationwide for their cash tills, they also supplied domestic and farming hardware.

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Therefore, the Hirst’s family now owned most of the Market Place.
By the mid 1920s, Hirsts had taken over the shop on the corner – although ‘Rayners’ could still be seen printed on the roof for many years afterwards – they specialised in hardware and sold anything from a nail to a fireplace, they also provided a plumbing service and a glazing service.
Ernest Pidd, the well known pork butcher, had taken the adjoining property and Reid’s who had previously operated their grocery business on Silver Street, purchased the newer three storey building from Hirsts, after it had been occupied for a short while by Sanders who specialised in the manufacture and repair of bicycles.Thorne#6 Copyright
Around this time, the old farm house had been demolished and Reid’s purchased the row of cottages which we now remember as Reid’s Yard, these cottages were demolished in the 1970s. One of the old barns, which belonged to the original farm still stands at the rear of the Market Place, it is Listed, Grade Two and dates back to the mid 17th Century.
The Hirst’s properties in the Market Place remained very much the same from the mid 1920s up to the early 1980s. The Hood brothers took over the corner shop in the 1950s and retained the shop’s title of ‘Hirsts’; later Mr Raper ran the mobile round in the large van carrying a good selection of stock which was typical of Hirsts.

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Pidd’s closed their business in the late 1970s and The Market Chippie took over this shop soon afterwards, this remained the property of Hirsts. There was a busy market which took place during these times and Thorne was a prosperous little town.

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By the late 1980s, Hirsts closed their business and sadly, the building has deteriorated since this time. Thorne and Moorends Town Council bought the property and then sold to a private developer, a Listing and Preservation Order was placed on this historic building which brought many restrictions as to further development of the building. Attempts have been made to raise funding to restore this significantly historical building of Thorne but sadly these have failed.

These buildings, facing The Market Place and Silver Street are some of the oldest in the town; they have become one of the legends of Thorne. 17th and 18th Century staircases and fire places have been removed for safe keeping.

Millions of people must have passed through the doors over the three hundred years. All with their own stories to tell which have probably been passed down, through the generations.Thorne#2 Copyright

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From a magnificent beginning to a sad derelict end.

Compiled, written and illustrated by Viv Bothamley 
©Viv Bothamley




Photographs and Illustrations Courtesy of Andrew Whitham, David Edwards and Cathy Daniels
©Thorne Conservation Group



One thought on “Hirst’s – Memoirs for an old lady

  1. Ron Holt

    I am interested in the history of the Holt family and Church Lane/Street where my grandfather John had a model lodging house,


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