CHURCHGATE, BOLTON - 1832
1832 – Booths opens its doors
Our history timeline begins in 1832! It may surprise you that Booths Music is not only the oldest independent family music shop in Bolton, but also the UK and quite possibly the world. Founded by the great, great, great, great grandfather of the present owners, the store was established in Bolton’s town centre by James and Thomas Booth.
What was happening in 1832?
To put the history timeline of Booths Music and the year of establishment into context, those of you who are a fan of the world-famous Les Miserables show will recall the depiction of the June Rebellion on the streets of Paris; whilst they were setting up the barricade, on the other side of the channel James and Thomas were welcoming their first customers.
1890 - Our Earliest Photo
Our first photo of Booths on Churchgate features Robert Buckley (right), descendent of James Booth and a staff member whose name is sadly unknown.
Churchgate in 1890
Sir Richard Arkwright’s shop is one of many fascinating aspects to one of Bolton’s oldest streets; Boltonians and local historians will of course be aware of other longstanding businesses on Churchgate, including Walsh’s Ye Olde Pastie Shop which dates back to 1667 and the well-known Olde Man and Scythe pub, which (as one of the oldest pubs in the country) dates back to a staggering 1251. Photo dated 1890.
Early to mid 1900s
The first half of the 20th century saw many famous works by some legendary composers and musicians, including Edward Elgar’s Land of Hope and Glory (1902), George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue (1924) and Vera Lynn’s We’ll Meet Again later in 1939. The staff photo here shows the inside of the store with Freda (right), her father Fred and a (sadly unknown) shop assistant, dated slightly later in 1947.
Booths Music in the war years
Needless to say that the war years brought tough times to all; the knock-on effect on trade was huge with the Booths staff at the time relying heavily on the sales of second hand goods and non musical gifts such as toys. The image above shows Churchgate in the war years.
Booths moves to number 17
Our history timeline moves onto 1962, when Booths moved its doors to its current residence number 17 Churchgate to make way for the extension of the Brass Cat building. Interestingly, the building that Booths now occupies was once the workplace of Sir Richard Arkwright (inventor of the water frame for cotton spinning), who from 1760 to 1768 ran a shop on this site as a barber and peruke maker. The image here shows staff member Ian in the 1960s.
Changes in music
The 60s brought about huge changes in the music industry thanks to the emergence of the likes of The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and The Rolling Stones, which naturally had their effect of retailers such as Booths. Suddenly rock and pop were in, and guitars, drums and of course, sheet music were sold in abundance.
The latter decades of the 20th century brought about many changes to the stock and interior layout of Booths whilst it kept up with the frequent changes in musical trends.
Shop window from mid 1980s
The door hasn't changed, but the shop window display has swapped and changed thousands of times throughout the years.
Booths Guitar department 1990
What we called our 'castle period', the whole of upstairs was dedicated to guitars (of many designs that you don't see today), drums, amps and more. The next room displayed violins and woodwind instruments. Today these areas are all teaching studios.
Freda and trevor
Parents of the current owners, Freda and Trevor oversaw thousands of sales and made countless connections with customers, many of whom became great friends. Even during retirement we could not keep Freda from helping out with shop duties, a career that spanned over 70 years (Freda is pictured earlier in the timeline in 1947). They are sorely missed.
Booths in the 21st century
Perhaps the biggest changes to Booths have occurred in the past 10 years. The growth of the internet with its ever-growing buying and download options sadly means the days of seeing music shops full to the brim with browsable popular sheet music are in the past. Customers today may remember the look of the shop in the early 2000s.
Tuition services begin!
Whilst some doors close, however, many have opened thanks to the plethora of opportunities the Internet grants to discover new music. In the mid 2000s, we at Booths were delighted to launch our teaching studios, which are now the home for music lessons in bolton for hundreds of pupils on a weekly basis.
Thank you for reading our history timeline!
We look forward to adding more of our history as things continue to develop at one of the UK’s (and the World’s) oldest family music shops.