Down memory lane with Peter Tuffrey: Cleveland Street shops

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In the 48 hours before October 22, 1964 it was reported that 2,000 high-fashion garments, from knitwear to lavish furs – worth in the region of £20,000 – had been moved in as starting stock for the new Mary Freemantle shop that was to open in Cleveland Street.

An opening ceremony was to be performed the following day by well-known TV personality Joe ‘Mr Piano’ Henderson.

The shop, one of six to be opened by private enterprise in a new development block, built at an estimated cost of £55,000, had all the facilities of the modern showroom.

Manageress and assistant buyer Joy Williamson said: “At last we shall be able to build up the business in the way we have always dreamed.

“The shop is a great improvement on our first which was just a converted three- storey house in Waterdale. “

Instead of the one small fitting room hidden away up a narrow flight of stairs, the new shop, which bore the grand name of Cleveland Danum House, had five well-lit and spacious rooms for changing and an impressive floor space.

Since the old shop had been demolished in February 1964, the business had been conducted from a converted vegetable warehouse in Printing Office Street.

The driving force behind the business was Miss Freemantle herself.

With 20 years in the fashion industry she could claim to be well qualified.

Like many others she started at the bottom. On leaving school she became a sales girl in a Doncaster gown shop, eventually rising to buyer.

She was with the same firm until she opened her Waterdale business about 1953.

Customers included women who first met her when she was just a sales girl.

For Mary, whose home was in Bessacarr, the young sales girl’s dream of owning her own fashion house had come true.

n Fred Chadwick, born in 1903, the son of a licensed victualler, was a butcher all his life, first in Cleveland Street and then in Hexthorpe and Balby.

He died at his home in Urban Road, Hexthorpe on Sunday, March 1, 1953 after a long illness.

When his illness took a serious turn over the previous weekend, his son Sapper Fred Chadwick serving in the Royal Engineers in Egypt, asked to return on compassionate leave, but sadly he did not arrive in time for the funeral. Fred Snr left a widow and seven sons.

n William Nettleship’s premises may be seen on the left of this picture of Cleveland Street’s north side.

As a plumber, gas and water engineer, he spent the whole of his business life in the town.

He was born in Arksey, where his father was coachman and stud groom at Arksey Hall.

He came to Doncaster as a lad to be apprenticed to Walker & Wright, plumbers etc in St George Gate, and very soon after he was out of his apprenticeship, he set up in business in Cleveland Street, where he remained up to his death at the age of 61 in May 1915.

During his life he had reputedly been employed on drainage and water works at every country house in the neighbourhood.

Two of his sons, Joseph and Cecil, had for some years been in business as partners.

n Ken Soper, born in 1920, set up a glass business on leaving the Navy after the Second World War.

His first premises were on Doncaster Market, then he moved to Cleveland Street, selling glass and mirrors which were manufactured on the premises.

His son Mick entered the business after leaving Hyde Park school at the age of 15.

The business relocated to Arksey Lane in 1964, when the Cleveland Street shop was cleared for redevelopment.

Ken Soper died in 1970 and Mick carried on the business, along with the apprentices who were trained by his father.

In 1980, Sopers diversified into DIY, establishing another shop on Bentley Road.

In 1982 Mick’s wife Angie opened a jewellery shop next to the Arksey Lane business.

Mick Soper once told me: “This is very much a family business.

“The old apprentices who started with my father are still with me. In fact, they are like my brothers.

“I should think we are one of only a few old town-centre firms that relocated from the town centre with success.’

n Reg Elliff, born in 1909, trained as an electrician and later worked with various firms before changing course to pull pints at the Askern Hotel.

Whilst there, he gained an interest in photography, striking up a relationship with noted local postcard photographer Edgar Leonard Scrivens.

Deciding to pursue a career in that field Reg rented a shop in Balby Road.

He also ran two second- hand shops in Cleveland Street.

After the Second World War, the photographic business boomed and around 1950 he moved into 89 Cleveland Street to develop his trade further.

His son Ken joined him in the business in the 1950s.

Redevelopment in Cleveland Street during the 1960s, meant Reg and Ken had to find alternative business premises.

They looked at sites on Kelham Industrial Estate and at converting old cinemas and clubs to suit their requirements.

Finally they decided on a chapel at Denaby.