It may surprise you 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 back in 1832.
History of Booths: Early Periods
As you can imagine, the shop has adapted and transformed countless times over the years through rough periods that include two world wars and over ten recessions. To put the history of Booths Music and the year of establishment ianto 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. Booths’ trading years in the 1800s saw many notable dates in the musical world including: the completion of Chopin’s Nocturnes Op. 9; Felix Mendelssohn’s Wedding March in 1842; Johann Strauss’ Blue Danube in 1866 and Die Walküre by Richard Wagner in 1870.
Having initially set up shop on Hotel Street, the firm relocated to number 11 Churchgate in 1876. Our earliest photograph is dated at 1890 (below left). 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. 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 images below show Churchgate in the war years (below) and the staff inside the store in 1947 (below right).
History of Booths: Move to the Current Shop
In 1962, 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. This 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.
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.
History of Booths: 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.
(Freda and Trevor Aspinall in early 2000s – Freda is also pictured in the photograph above dated 1947)
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.
(Mike, one of the resident Booths teachers taking a Live Zone rock group class!)
(John taking a one-to-one singing class in one of our vocal booths)
Discover more about the history of Booths Music, the shop itself, music tuition (including how to arrange a lesson), repairs and recording at Booths on our blog at boothsmusic.co.uk.