29 Poulton Street


Poulton Street is one of the oldest streets in Kirkham and, in recent times, Roman and medieval remains have been found nearby. There would certainly have been dwelling places along Poulton Street from the medieval period. Most of the current properties were redeveloped during the nineteenth and many have more recent facades. Poulton Street has long been considered as the commercial centre of Kirkham and census records from the early Victorian period onwards, and the numbers of shopkeepers and tradespeople they reveal, show that this commercial character has a long history.

The Current Scene and Recent History

Currently 29 Poulton Street is part of a block from 27-29 occupied by Poundstretcher, part of the retail phenomenon of the ‘Pound Shop’ which, to some degree, works in the tradition of the now defunct and much mourned Woolworths. The Poundstretcher chain was established in 1981 and their stores have been a staple on our hight streets now for many years. Poundstretcher’s Kirkham store has been on the Poulton Street site for about ten years. Before this there was a Co-operative store on the site from the 1970s onwards

Looking further back, a Blair’s Directory of the County Borough of Preston and District for 1968 just gives the name James Clarke at 29 but with no further information as to his occupation. Barrett’s 1948 Directory of Preston and District notes a P J McMahon, a painter, was resident at this address.

In September 1939, at the start of the Second World War, a register was taken of residents and their addresses which was used initially for the purpose of producing National Identity Cards. At this time, we find a Second-Hand Dealer, Fred Ingham (57) and his wife Sarah (47). Also at the same property are Builder’s Labourer William Spencer (23) and his wife Lily (20). A William R Spencer married a Lily Nock in the Blackpool District in the March quarter of 1938, so it seems that William and Lily married the year before and presumably are lodging at the house. In 1926 another Barrett’s Directory shows that a confectioner’s shop was run by Ernest Barlow on the premises and  the 1913/14  Town and Country Directory of Preston, Barrow and District for 1913/14 gives a milliner and dressmaker, Miss T Ashton at 29 Poulton Street.

Joseph and Mary Jane Ford – Fruiterers

When tracing a house and its occupants we can usually make much more progress with the census records and currently the most recent census available is the one from 1911 (The 1921 Census will be available from January 2022). We can also use these records to find histories of families before their arrival at number 29. The 1911 census provides details of all those present at properties on 2 April 1911 and, at 29 Poulton Street, the head of the household was a fruiterer called Joseph Ford (37). Joseph lived with his wife Mary Jane (35), who assisted him in the business, and three daughters – Helen (9), Helena (8) and Annie Eastham Ford (4). Joseph was born in Whittle-le-Woods near Chorley and Mary Jane in Greenhalgh, a hamlet to the north of Kirkham. All the children were born in Kirkham. The house is described as having 7 rooms not including any bathrooms or closets etc. so was a reasonable size.

Joseph and Mary were also at Poulton Street in 1901 but occupying the premises next door at number 31. Curiously they are also given at number 31 in the Town and Country Directory of Preston, Barrow and District for 1913/14 – it appears they had moved back to their earlier premises after 1911. Joseph Ford married Mary Jane in 1899. In the marriage register Mary’s surname is given as Eastham which came to be used in daughter Annie’s full name. It was quite common at the time for the maternal surname to be preserved as a middle name for one of the children. A photograph of Joseph outside one of his shops (presumably No. 29) shows the shop bedecked with impressive hanging baskets, one of which slightly obscures the shop sign.

In 1891 we can find Joseph living with his parents Richard and Eleanor at 13 Garstang Road in Wesham. His father was an Overlooker in a Cotton Mill and Richard, along with a brother and two sisters, were Cotton Mill Operators. Richard and his siblings were all born in Whittle-le-Woods, but his father and mother were both from Blackpool. It is highly likely that Joseph’s mother and father moved around Lancashire looking for work in the cotton industry and the area around Whittle-le-Woods, like Kirkham and Wesham, was notable for cotton production. Another interesting observation from the 1891 Census is that Eleanor has the occupation of Grocer, and Joseph’s brother Richard that of Grocer Assistant, which provides a hint as to the influences which led Joseph to become a shopkeeper.

In 1891 Joseph’s wife Mary Jane, aged 15, is shown living with her parents Richard and Ellen and five siblings on Bradshaw Lane at Greenhalgh on the Fylde. Mary is a Cotton Weaver but her father, like many other heads of household in the area, is a Farmer.

Death records for 1924 indicate that a Joseph Ford from the Fylde died in that year aged 50. There is also a small entry in the ‘In Memoriam’ section of the Lancashire Daily Post of 7 March 1930, placed by his daughters and sons-in-law, which shows that Richard died on 9 March 1924. The parish records from Kirkham also record the burial on 14 March 1924 and that the ceremony was recorded was performed by a ‘Dissenting Minister’, revealing that Joseph was part of the Nonconformist tradition. The probate record for Joseph shows that he was still at 31 Poulton Street at the time of his death.

A probate record for Mary Jane shows that she died on 29 June 1929 aged 52. At the time of her death, she was living on Dean Terrace, Station Road in Kirkham. Mary Jane also appears in the burial records for Kirkham Parish. The funeral was performed at Wesham Primitive Methodist Church, so like Joseph, she comes from the Dissenting tradition. Strangely, here the date of burial is given as 2 July 1928, but, as the official death records also confirm this year, we must assume there is an error on the probate record.

An article from the Preston Herald from 27 February 1909 reveals a distressing event for the family. The article is about the death and funeral of Richard’s mother Eleanor Ford at the age of 76. The funeral service was at the Parish Church in Kirkham but there was also a short service at the Wesleyan Chapel at Station Road. The article also recalls an event from 1892 when Eleanor’s husband (Richard) and one of her sons were both buried on the same day. Eleanor was described as having ‘a very kind-hearted disposition.’

Mary Walmsley and Family – Confectioners and Coopers

The 1901 Census shows that, at that point, 29 Poulton Street was again in the hands of a shopkeeper and was a confectioners run by Mary Walmsley (61), a widow from Claughton (near Garstang). Her daughter Teresa (26), born in Garstang, is also living with her. Mary must have lost her husband relatively early in life as we find her in the 1891 Census, again at 29 Poulton Street and again a widow. Her occupation is still Confectioner, but we get some interesting further information which shows that the premises were both a Confectioner’s Shop and a Cooperage, or a place where barrels and casks would be made. Her eldest son Edward (28) is given as a Cooper so would also be working from the premises. She also had four other children living with her. Teresa (then 16) was working as a Dressmaker along with another daughter Mary (21) who is also a Confectioner and presumably worked in the shop. There are also two other sons – John (19) is a Watchmaker’s Apprentice and Thomas (14) has no given occupation. All the children were born in Garstang.

Coopering is an ancient trade and wooden barrels, or similar vessels, were used for the storage of many goods. Barrels etc. would also have been used for storage on ships so it is possible that Edward’s wares, along with the sailcloth that Kirkham was noted for, found their way onto ships using ports at Fleetwood, Poulton and Lancaster.

If we go back another ten years to 1881, we can see the family, this time with father Edward (40), living on Market Place in Garstang. Edward is also a Cooper so obviously Edward junior had decided to follow in his father’s footsteps. Looking at death Records we can see that an Edward Walmsley died in Kirkham in 1890 aged 49. This is highly likely to be Mary’s Husband so we can perhaps assume that Edward senior had decided to move his business over to Kirkham at some point after 1881.

Two Thomas Irelands – Coopers

In Kirkham in 1881 we can see that 29 Poulton Street was in the hands of another Cooper, Thomas Ireland (70) born in Kirkham who was living alone and a widower. Thomas also appears at 29 in an 1882 Barrett’s Directory of Preston and District. Although a death for a Thomas Ireland in Kirkham is recorded in 1884 the age does not correspond with our man. However, there is another Thomas Ireland who died in Preston in 1888 at the age of 77 which tallies. This suggest that the Cooperage transferred to the Walmsley family at some time between 1882 and 1887.

In 1871 we can see that Thomas is again present at 29 aged 60 along with a wife Helen who is also 60 and was born in Goosnargh near Preston. In 1861 the houses had not yet been numbered (this happened in 1862) but Thomas and Helen are both present on Poulton Street at what we can perhaps assume is the same property. They are also both on Poulton Street in 1851 (although Helen is given as Ellen), along with Ann Arrowsmith (12) a niece from Burnley and Joseph Hodgson (57) a visitor and Agricultural Labourer from Esprick.

In 1841 on Poulton Street we see two Thomas Irelands as Coopers at the same address. One is aged 55 and the other 30 so, although there is less information in this census and family relationships are not made clear, we can guess that the younger Thomas is the son of the older one and the one who remained at number 29 and in the family business until the 1880s. The younger Thomas also has a brother, Edward (20), a Tailor’s Apprentice and two sisters Ann and Mary (both 25, so very probably twins) who Milliners are.

Although censuses were taken from 1801 onwards it is unusual for any personal information to be available prior to 1841. However, in Baines’s 1825 History, Directory and Gazetteer of Lancashire, there is a Cooper listed on Poulton Street with the name given as Dorothy Ireland. Presumably, there is some relationship to Thomas Ireland, but it must surely be highly unusual for a woman to be in this or any such profession at this time. There are interesting details in the Marriage Bonds at Lancashire Archives and the parish records for Kirkham for 1781. Here there are details of a marriage between a Thomas Ireland and a Dorothy Singleton with Thomas’s profession being that of Cooper. This Dorothy would have been around 65 so it is feasible that she could have been on the premises in 1824.There do not seem to be any further clues in the Lancashire Parish Records but more investigations into Catholic records for the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century may give up further information on this.


Taken as a whole, the census records and additional information from other sources provide a fascinating insight into the life of 29 Poulton Street and the people who lived and worked there. It shows a long tradition of the trade of Coopering along with several people who made their living as shopkeepers. We can also see lives of individuals and families developing over time. Some stayed in the Kirkham district for much or all of their lives, but others moved wider across the Fylde and Lancashire as they looked for work or developed their businesses. Currently 29 Poulton Street is still part of the shopping scene of the town, although part of a national chain rather than a local business. It will be interesting to see how the premises and its functions change over the next 100 years or so and which social and economic trends drive those changes.

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