Meet the woman who runs Yorkshire's oldest traditional draper's shop

Generations of shoppers have beaten a path to a 119-year-old shop in Bridlington to stock up on knickers and nighties.

Friday, 4th September 2020, 4:45 pm
Updated Friday, 4th September 2020, 4:56 pm

Ann Clough, 87, this year is celebrating her 60th anniversary at the helm of Ernest Whiteley & Co, which her grandfather opened in 1901.

Her draper’s shop at 67 Promenade, is a relic of yesteryear, with its 1930s layout, and staples, including net curtains, bed socks, tea cosies and ladies underwear for the over 60s which “ordinary shops have forgotten.”

Chair backs, arm caps and linen tea towels are stacked in huge mahogany cases, while more obscure items for sale include “Interlock underwear” made from a knit fabric “which your grandma would have worn - but they knew a comfortable fabric when they saw one”.

87-year-old owner Ann Clough, who has worked in the shop for over 60 years Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

The dozen mannequins predate Ann, with one or two going back to the 1930s and some lacking a finger or two.

These days she says the shop is more of a hobby with her “very, very good” assistant Sue Walker, who has been working there for 32 years, after joining on the Youth Training Scheme at 18, now running the show.

After four months of lockdown, she reopened as soon as she could in July, as she had been “bored to tears”.

Ms Clough admits they haven’t really made profit for a year or two and says her accountant told her “you can’t go on being a branch of social services forever” - but says it keeps her out of mischief.

Ann Clough, who has worked in the shop for over 60 years. Pictured with her grandfather.

“I am serving the third generation now,” she said. “The West Riding think we are wonderful.

“We set our stall out for the over 60s - I think our oldest customer is 104 - they still want knickers and nighties.

“They will drive 50, 60, 70 miles to come and stock up here, but in Bridlington we are just part of the scenery.

“We have always been here. We get a lot of elderly gentlemen who are left to fend for themselves. Their wives are ill.

Ms Gough outside the shop

“There are no district nurses coming round. It’s not unusual for an older man to produce a pair of knickers and say: ‘I want another six pairs like this.’

“We are the sort of shop they feel comfortable in. I have a certain reputation. Not long ago I had a lady and gentleman, and he said: ‘I bring my wife in every three weeks so she can have a good rant with you, it makes her feel better.’

“Another husband whose wife was looking at dressing gowns - she didn’t need one - said: ‘Give in you are in the presence of Auntie Wainwright’(the super persuasive bric-a-brac shop owner in the BBC sitcom Last of the Summer Wine) And she did buy the dressing gown - God bless her. He put his hand in his pocket and give me the money.”

A sign above her head declares: “To open a shop is easy - to keep it open is an art” - which seems to sum up the situation.

Ms Clough, who has been a member of the local operatic society for 60 years,who gave her last performance as one of the King’s mothers-in-laws in The King and I four years ago, doesn’t believe that there is a future for shops like hers, faced with “colossal” rates and suppliers trading only online.

And she says: “People say to me: ‘We’ll find you dead behind the counter and I say: ‘More than likely’”