[No: LXXVI | April 23, 2017 | By Viveka Hansen]

Drapers, tailors, dressmakers, milliners and other similar shop-keepers could have various reasons for offering goods to a lower price than normal. Advertisements giving evidence for this type of information to the customers were often mentioned in the terms of “reduced prices” or “special value” – whilst “sales” seldom were associated with a lowering of the price at this period according to adverts in Whitby Gazette. This case study is based on my research for The Textile History of Whitby 1700-1914 and will further exemplify in what way a couple of traders tried to sell their stock of garments, cloths, interior textiles, accessories etc for the best possible price to local customers and visiting tourists alike.

The Linen & Woollen drapers Wellburn Brothers of Bridge Street (1857-1914) placed small advertisements regularly, either to announce a new item available, a large stock of a particular product or a sale at reduced prices. In spring of 1860 for example, they sold a selection of their goods ‘At an immense reduction in price!’. (Whitby Museum, Library & Archive). Photo: Viveka Hansen.

One recurring reason for reducing prices on various goods in these early advertisements was that a shop-owner closed or retired from their business. One such representative case was the millinery Misses Noble & Wilson, already established by 1860 and continuing to advertise until 1878. This establishment for ladies was situated in west Whitby on Bellevue Terrace, and they advertised the latest fashions for hats in every imaginable material. On 23 March of their final year they announced: ‘Notice, Retiring from Business and Selling off… Whole of their Stock at Greatly reduced prices.’

Another cause for reducing prices was to sell-off unwanted stock at the end of the summer or winter seasons. One such example was the draper David Hume (1895-1909) at Baxtergate, who had earlier worked for the cash-drapers R. Gray & Co. David Hume advertised regularly till 1909, concentrating mainly on ladies’ clothes and accessories. For example, on 25 August 1899 he had on offer a ‘Surplus Stock of Mantles, Jackets, Capes, Coats & Skirts… Remaining Stock of Blouses, Shirts, Ties, Collars, Fichus, Ostrich Feather Boas, Sunshades, Skirts, Sun hats & Bonnets, Millinery, &c. All specially reduced.’

Detailed study by an unknown photographer showing the opening of the Swing Bridge in 1909, leading up to Bridge Street. This area was a “textile district” for the whole advertising period from 1855 to 1914 – and earlier – including several of the long-established draperies of Whitby. (Courtesy of: Whitby Museum, Photographic Collection).

If a business was unsuccessful despite own attempts to sell-off surplus clothing, fabrics, carpets etc – it was possible to use an auctioneer for such goods. Mr Flintoft was one such trader advertising in Whitby Gazette in 1870, who held auctions in the Victoria Room at the Angel Hotel, where he sold both ‘Drapery Goods’ and ‘Household furniture’ on various occasions. In the case of drapery goods the sale was not always by auction, but sometimes could be sold directly in an event that could last five days, during which several drapers could leave goods that needed to be disposed of before new stock could be taken in. Since this type of sale or auction of drapery goods was repeated over the next two decades it must have proved a good way for sellers to rid themselves of large surplus stocks, while giving buyers a chance to acquire quality textiles at heavily reduced prices.

This advert from December 1875 in Whitby Gazette gives an example of the more unusual term “Sale” when a shopkeeper announced reduced prices. Marshall & Snelgrove [now part of Debenhams] was a well-known London firm at Oxford Street at this period, but had among other places also had a branch at St. Nicholas Street in Scarborough. (Whitby Museum, Library & Archive). Photo: Viveka Hansen.

Previous post in this series:
‘The Great Exhibition in 1851 – Textile Influence on a Coastal Town’.

– Hansen, Viveka, The Textile History of Whitby 1700-1914 – A lively coastal town between the North Sea and North York Moors, London & Whitby 2015. For full list of Notes & Bibliography, pp 404-423. (Additionally: Research material from the period 2006-2014, including surplus photographs and various facts not possible to fit into the book).
Whitby Gazette, 1855-1914 (Whitby Museum, Library & Archive).

(The monograph The Textile History of Whitby 1700-1914 is available here: The IK Foundation).


Hansen, Viveka, ‘Reduced Prices on Textile Goods – Advertising 1855-1914’, TEXTILIS (April 23, 2017); https://textilis.net/ (Accessed: Day/Month/Year)