Signwrighting at Williams' newsagents

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The village's oldest established shop, Williams' newsagents, helped celebrate its 150 years in business with a traditional signwriter at work yesterday on the historic doors to the shop's cobbled driveway.

Founded in 1862, the business still supplies a very wide range of products from newspapers to DIY goods, toys to greetings cards, Audlem gifts to winter essentials, as well as providing tourist information to Audlem's many visitors.

Judy Benson of Williams' tells AudlemOnline that the buildings beyond the double doors used to house the shop's pony and trap in the 19th century. The stones at the base of the gates either side of the entrance helped protect the brickwork from the carriage wheels as they swung into the shop's cobbled driveway.

A local geologist believes that the stones are of glacial origin, albeit not brought down to Audlem by glacial action — the shop isn't quite that old! The stones, he thinks, possibly originated from Northern Ireland or Shap Fell.

After the days of pony and trap, a motorcar was eventually purchased at Williams' shop. The then proprietor, Mrs Hilda Dutton, the grand daughter of the founder Eli Williams, got her driving skills from being chauffeur to the village doctor around in the 1920s.

She also rode her own motorcycle and both motorcar and motorbike were serviced and repaired by her brother. He ran a garage on what is now the car park of the Lord Combermere just across the road from the shop.

The shop's building has been called 'Manchester House' since it opened back in 1862 as a drapers and outfitters. The cotton goods that were sold at this time being  largely supplied by Manchester merchants of the day.

It is not uncommon to see other old shops/buildings in the North West of England & North Wales areas called 'Manchester House', or in some cases 'Liverpool House.' The building's name is therefore simply following that tradition.

Incidentally, for those looking closely at the signwriter at work in the photograph, the unfinished work is William's telephone number. It is 01270 811210.

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