Shopping for clothes in Liverpool, 1910-40

Black and white photograph showing a tram travelling down Ranelagh Street with the Adelphi Hotel in the background

Ranelagh Street, Liverpool, showing Lewis's department store on the right © courtesy of Bluecoat Press

The 'Bond Street of the North'

For those who could afford it, shopping for clothes in Liverpool in the period between the two World Wars must have been an exciting experience, such was the choice and variety available in Britain's greatest seaport.

It was also a period of transition, with gradual change taking place in the 'pecking order' of garment retailers in particular. The most prestigious shops, providing an exclusive made-to-measure service, were still located in Bold Street, known during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as the 'Bond Street of the North'.

Chief among these were Cripps, Sons & Co, T&S Bacon and De Jong et Cie who, from as early as the 1860s onwards, had catered for the county gentry and the mercantile elite, known as 'the carriage trade', at the top end of the social scale. Their customers included the wives and daughters of wealthy local shipowners and cottonbrokers.

Department stores

After the Bold Street shops came the large department stores, headed by the biggest, George Henry Lee & Co Ltd in Basnett Street, and followed by the Bon Marché in Church Street, Owen Owen's in London Road and Lewis's in Ranelagh Street. Lee's customers included the families of businessmen and members of the professions, such as doctors and solicitors, while both Owen Owen's and Lewis's catered for the needs of the lower middle and working-classes .

At the beginning of the twentieth century Lee's still manufactured their garments themselves in workshops located over their premises, which made them quite expensive and placed them out of the reach of many people. But, gradually, as the department stores began to stock more reasonably-priced ready-made garments, the better-off working-class families could afford to shop at places like the Bon Marché and Lewis's. Such clothes were often supplied to the retailers by local makers, based in factories which had sprung up in several parts of the city from about 1900 onwards to supply the ready-made trade.

Emily's favourite shops

Black and white photograph of a shop window displaying hats on stands

Display of hats at Owen Owen's, 1934
Stewart Bale Ltd archive, accession number SB11894-2 (cropped)

Emily Tinne patronised both the Bold Street shops and the department stores. She especially liked Cripps' in Bold Street, George Henry Lee's in Basnett Street, the Bon Marché in Church Street and Lewis's in Ranelagh Street. But her favourite shop was probably Owen Owen's in Clayton Square.

Like other women of her social class, she also had many of her clothes made for her by a local dressmaker, whose name, unfortunately, is no longer remembered by the Tinne family. The Tinne Collection still includes lengths of fabric, mainly plain and devoré silk velvets, which were obviously left over from the making of garments by Emily's dressmaker.