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!

12 comments:

  1. Wood certainly does give a place that feeling of "solid good taste"... it's becoming rarer these days with all things the colder glass, aluminum and plastic... What a nice vintage shot.

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  2. What a great way to teach history and to jog the memories of those old enough to remember when those shops operated.

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  3. I never revised like that but then I wasn't living near Harrods anymore!!
    I love this and I sometimes wish I had TV and the Beeb. As it is, all we get here is a specific BBC channel.

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  4. There was a similar department store in Derby when I was a child. Ranby's was the quality place to shop. Eventaully, it was taken over by Debenhams who have now moved out of the beautiful old building into the Westfield Centre.

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  5. That must be great to step back in time, a nice project of the BBC.

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  6. What an interesting post. «Louis» is fascinated by how some stores can be THE place to shop for a time - and then find themselves grasping for business. One such in San Francisco was the City of Paris department store. Having once been a favorite of the local moneyed class, it faded and failed. The building sat vacant for many years. Then Neiman-Marcus built on the City of Paris site. Neiman-Marcus preserved the rotunda of the old City of Paris.

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  7. I can just about remember Brown Muff's from when I was a kid (my grandma lived in Bradford) We had Rowntree's in Scarborough, which was very similar. It became Debenham's, then was knocked down to make way for a nasty shopping centre......

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  8. I'd have ;loved to visit this. How brilliant. xx

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  9. Fantastic trip down memory lane. Sadly too young to remember the shops being like this although my local post office as a child wasn't far off. Think they still had a similar till even in the late 70s. Lovely picture.

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  10. This is a great image of days long past. Love the composition and the editing.

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  11. Love that huge white vintage scale and really enjoyed hearing about your memory during exams! ~Lili

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