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Last Call For The Drapery Shop

Sad to see this venerable drapery shop in Kidsgrove has finally closed down. It belonged to an age when shopping was a strictly localised and individual affair, before supermarkets killed off the variety of small independent shops that made up the High Street. Even the word "drapers'" seems to have a quaint ring about it, a feeling of obsolesence, much like "haberdashers'" or "tobacconists", hardly seen nowadays. It conjures up a world of half-day closing and the pulling down of transparent yellow blinds to protect stock in the window on sunny days, small shops where you did not browse, but were thrust immediately into a conversation with the assistant. Shops no bigger than a front parlour, claustrophobically stuffed with knitting wool and baby clothes and Dr. White's placed discreetly on the top shelf. The wooden cabinets with multiple drawers for socks, or gloves or handkerchiefs. Sometimes the window would feature a 1930's style baby doll with rosebud mouth and rigid limbs to model knitted matinee jackets of itchy lurid nylon, with matching bonnets trimmed with swansdown.

I was surprised and rather delighted that Bryan's had survived so far into the 21st century, with its stock of household linens, sensible nighties, overalls, serviceable underwear and so forth. One could marvel at the artfully arranged window (itself a picture perfect example of vintage window dressing at its finest), the carefully arranged ranks of bed linen, tea towels, ironing board covers, snug looking vests, tops suitable for ladies of senior years in flattering pastel shades, chiffon scarves, all carefully selected to co-ordinate attractively in colour, and arranged with a precise eye for contrast and detail and a deft hand : a counterblow to today's minimalist displays.

I don't know who might have been buying covers for the arms of armchairs, or Dancing Lady tights, or where such things might be sourced following the demise of this little gem. It is tempting to imagine a forgotten shelf somewhere in the stockroom, where a pile of antimacassars might still be languishing, or some of those wrapover pinafores such as Ena Sharples and both my grandmothers used to wear, like body armour against the perils of housework.

The window still holds a brave and defiant display of the last few items, but the post is piling up behind the door, and the sign says "closed" most firmly. I daresay the next time I go it may well be empty, or having the old shelving ripped out in readiness for what the next incarnation of the premises might turn out to be. And I shall feel a little sad.

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