Sunday, 5 December 2010
Brown, Muff & Co
I made a rare visit into Bradford city centre on Saturday, to visit a 'pop-up shop' styled in the manner of a 1930s grocer's shop. It’s part of a BBC TV Learning Hands on History project complementing the series Turn Back Time – The High Street, currently running on BBC1.
The shop was sited in part of what used to be Brown, Muff & Co's department store - known as 'the Harrods of the North' because it was one of the classiest stores in the region in its hey-dey. The roots of Brown, Muff can be traced back to 1814, when a room shop was set up in Market Street by Elizabeth Brown. In 1834 it was taken over by her son, Henry, who married Betsy Muff, an Ilkley girl. The department store was founded in the 1840s (I'm sure Sir Titus Salt's wife, Caroline, must have shopped there) and thrived for many years, eventually being taken over by Rackhams in 1978. It closed some years ago, a victim of the move to shopping malls rather than department stores and also to Bradford's decline as a centre for 'middle-class' shoppers (who now favour Leeds).
I have my own fond memories of Brown, Muff's. When I first came to Bradford as a student in the early 1970s, the store was still the place to shop - full of beautiful clothes and other goods, with gleaming wood and brass shop fittings and an air of solid good taste. I vividly recall one bright sunny day when a friend and I, in the middle of preparing for our exams, decided we needed a treat. We went to Brown Muff's delicatessen, situated right on the top floor of the store, and bought olives and cooked meats and all sorts of other yummy luxuries, plus a bottle of sparkling wine, then went back to my bed-sit. We sat on the bed in the sunshine, surrounded by revision notes, and scoffed the lot! Revision went a lot better after that!