Alston Moor Partnership

Townscape Heritage SchemeThe Properties

The Top Cafe/Ryder HouseProperty No 1

  •  Old Ryder House

    Old Ryder House

  •  Before renovation

    Before renovation

  •  After renovation

    After renovation

Ryder House – Completed Nov 2016. - Top Cafe

The Story

This was probably the site of the Old Dun Cow Inn, which closed about 1858. Having been completely rebuilt, it was bought, in 1869, byThomas Bramwell. Born in 1836 at Snappergill near Garrigill, the fourth of fourteen children, he worked as a lead ore washer before becoming a watchmaker and jeweller. His business moved here from further up Front Street, where he had been based since 1860.

Thomas was nothing if not ambitious. He expanded the business to includes spectacles, musical instruments, sewing machines and photography. In about 1893, he created an extension at the back of the shop as a studio for his growing photographic business, which included producing postcards. A man of energy, he was also a member of the original Rural District Council. After his death in 1907 at the age of 71, his son Charles, born 1860, took over the business having formerly been a merchant navy enginer. After Charles’ death in 1925, the premises were bought by J.H. Hodgkison, ‘The Chemist’, who had previously been based near the Market Cross.

The Works

The slate roof was replaced, with associated roof repairs, cast iron rainwater goods and the repair of stone window surrounds. Where needed, the front of the building was repointed using lime mortar. The still-existing original shop front was refurbished, including reinstating the missing historic finials. The final touch was the replacement of the ‘teapot’ which had hung. Lime repointing where needed to parts of the front elevation. Retaining & refurbishing existing original shop front including reinstating the missing historic finials and replacing the ‘teapot’, a feature of the property for many years.

The Cane Workshop - Stokoe HouseProperty No 2

  •  Historic Stokoe House

    Historic Stokoe House

  •  Before renovation

    Before renovation

  •  After renovation

    After renovation

Visit "The Cane Workshop" online

Stokoe House – Completed Dec 2017 The Cane Workshop

The Story

Built in the 17th century, the building’s more recent history includes, from 1880, a grocer’s shop run by a former miner, Joseph Seatree, who probably developed the shop when lead-mining declined. In 1901, he is recorded as a 66 year old widower, living here with his 39 year old daughter, Sarah.

In 1908, the shop was bought by Annie Stokoe, then in her mid-40s. The popularity of her sweets, known as ‘bullets’ has ensured that her name continues to be that of the building, long after she died in 1943 at the age of 81. A 30-year incarnation as a well-known antique shop, Pedlar’s Pack, ended in the early 80s.

From the 1990s, it became a craft pottery and showroom. In 2009, it became The Cane Workshop, the workplace and showcase of a cane-worker, and also providing an outlet for a range of other local crafts.

The Works

The front of the building was re-rendered in a hydraulic lime render; the tall northern gable wall was repaired and painted with a silicate paint. The roof was restored, using local stone ‘slates’, and the chimneystacks, cast iron rainwater goods and stone sills were restored and repaired. The shop front was reinstated to its historic appearance, as evidenced in old photographs.

Mad HattersProperty No 3

  •  Historic Shop

    Historic Shop

  •  Before renovation

    Before renovation

  •  After renovation

    After renovation

Visit "Mad Hatters online

Mad Hatters Hardware – Completed August 2018

The Story

Jacob Walton Smith, of Low Cowgap, traded here as a general grocer and draper (with a line in hosiery and hats) from the late 1860s, with assistance from his younger sister Margaret. After he retired in about 1900, Margaret continue the shop for a while. The shop was empty for a while, until, from 1910 to 1920, J Leake & Son ran a florist and fruiterer.

It was then, for a long time, run by Mabel Graham as a milliners, fancy drapers and wallpaper shop, noted for being crammed with stock. Her daughter Evelyn took the business over and sold a large selection of wools. Later, it became a shop selling gemstones, posters and assorted other things, before housing a café and later the youth club. Its current incarnation as a hardware shop began in 2012.

The Works

The shopfront was reinstated with historic detailing, informed by reference to historic photographs.. Replacements and repairs included cast iron rainwater goods, a replacement door to the cellar, associated masonry works, minor roof repairs, replacement of the stone flagged terrace at the front, repairs to the steps and replacement of the iron railings and canopy.

Harvest Home/Livewell BeautyProperty No 4

  •  Historic Shop

    Historic Shop

  •  Before renovation

    Before renovation

  •  After renovation

    After renovation

Visit "Livewell" on Facebook

Former Wholefoods Shop – Completed July 2019 (now Livewell - beauty / therapy)

The Story

Saddlers were in considerable demand at a time of heavy horse traffic, and Harrison Hall (born c.1855) was one of the longest serving. His saddlery business was established at the top of town in 1874, and he bought this shop and the dwelling above in 1894 when he married. He continued here, also trading as an ironmonger and furniture dealer, until 1912, when he moved to smaller premises, letting the shop here to the Walter Willson grocery business. They bought the premises in 1926 for £800, and the shop continued trading until 1977, with the claim of being the ‘Alston & Nenthead Branch of a Colossal Business’ written above the windows.

Since then, it has been a greengrocers (Harvest Home), an ‘alternative’ shop, a photography studio, a wholefood shop, and now a beautician’s.


The Works

Historic photographs informed the reinstatement of the shopfront to its earlier format and, following removal of the render on the frontage and gable end, the stonework was lime-pointed. Repairs were made to the steps, and iron railings and handrails replaced. Roof repairs and cast iron rainwater goods completed the job.

Former Butchers Shop - now the Wholefood ShopProperty No 5

  •  Historic Shop

    Historic Shop

  •  Before renovation

    Before renovation

  •  After renovation

    After renovation

Visit "Alston Wholefoods" online

Former Butchers – Completed November 2019 (now the Wholefoods shop)

The Story

Established in 1814 by John Thompson as a ‘druggist’ business, the shop was later expanded to include groceries. By the 1860s, it was also a ‘licensed dealer in tea, coffee, tobacco, snuff and British Wines’, stocking a large range of exotic spices. Colourful advertising posters, designed by the family, were an eye-catching display.

John’s son took over, continuing for over 50 years, with three employed staff, until his death at the age of 71 in 1891. It then transferred to William Laws, a grocer and former chemist’s assistant, assisted by his son Sidney and two other male staff. By 1910, the shop had passed to John J. White as a grocer’s and general merchant’s until the late 1930s, when R. Wright and Sons, fruiters and florists, took over.

From the mid-20th century until 2017 it was Blackstock’s butcher’s, and then the Wholefood Shop moved here in 2019, as soon as the building work was finished.


The Works

The roof was replaced, along with a series of repairs to, or replacement of, stone windowsills and lintels and cast iron rainwater goods. The first and second floor windows were replaced, and the shopfront was remodelled in its original symmetrical form, as seen in historic photographs.

Church GatesProperty No 6

  •  Historic Building

    Historic Building

  •  Before renovation

    Before renovation

  •  After renovation

    After renovation

Church Gates – Completed August 2020

The Story

The former Church Gaytes Inn has a lintel inscribed 1681 from its earliest existence. It became an inn from the late 18th century until about 1900. The historic mullioned windows are of particular note. The external upper porch was added in 1890, and it is this part of the property, nearest the churchyard wall, that gained grant in the project. For some time, it housed a solicitor’s office.

The house is now called Gallery House and is run as a bed and breakfast (which is what made it eligible for the Townscape Heritage grant, for which the other businesses were shops and cafés).

The Works

Extensive masonry repairs were undertaken to all four elevations, which are visible from adjoining roads and from the churchyard. Major renovation was undertaken to the distinctive upper porch. The restoration was completed with the repair or replacement of windows, external doors and cast iron rainwater goods.

The Clock ShopProperty No 7

  •  Historic Building

    Historic Building

  •  Before renovation

    Before renovation

  •  After renovation

    After renovation

The Clock Shop – Completed October 2020

The Story

In 1899, Joseph Roberts’ plan to build an ‘out-of-character’ addition to his Alston & District Drug Store. There was considerable controversy about the bay window with curved glass, and it took several site visits, report and solicitors’ submission before the Rural District Council accepted an amended plan in February 1900. However, the Parish Council still objected and it took a County Court case in 1901 before the now-listed window was agreed. A pestle and mortar etched on the window above advertised the drug store.

An optician, James Adair Clues, had taken over by 1924 and continued until his death in 1957, selling a range of remedies and presents as well as spectacles, and offering a range of photographic services.

More recently it was an estate agent’s office, then a clock shop (as it is still known) and, for a few years, a bookshop.

The Works

The shopfront beam was repaired, along with repairs to the ceiling and beam in the passageway accessing Kate’s Lane behind. Repairs to the upper floor windows, reinstatement of lime render to the passageway and front elevation, and work on the traditional bay window shopfront and its roof completed the restoration work.

Alston PharmacyProperty No 8

  •  Historic Building

    Historic Building

  •  Before renovation

    Before renovation

  •  After renovation

    After renovation

Alston Pharmacy – Completed October 2020

The Story

From the late 1840s, Ann Milburn ran the shop as a grocer’s and draper’s for thirty years, after which it had a change of direction. Anthony Walton had run a wine and spirits merchants elsewhere in the town from the early 1800s, with his son Michael and daughter Hannah taking over the business after his death. Following Michael’s death, his much younger wife Ann remarried, and in 1881 she and her second husband, William Little, established Walton & Little here. The family lived over the shop, and also came to own the Bluebell and Golden Lion hotels, and more than a dozen other properties in the town.

A pharmacy has been established here for many decades.

The Works

Black paint on the existing masonry was removed by specialists. A new stone lintel above the doorway, and a stone step, were installed. The shopfront joinery was carefully restored and its original hanging sign reinstated, displaying a new pharmacy logo .

Kirsopp HouseProperty No 9

  •  Historic Building

    Historic Building

  •  Before renovation

    Before renovation

  •  After renovation

    After renovation

Kirsopp House – Completed October 2021

The Story

From the 1930s, this was Willie Kirsopp’s cycle shop (the business having originally been established next door in about 1910), with motorcycles also being sold and repaired. His son continued the business into the 1970s. It then became ‘King’ Arthur’s fruit and vegetable shop, with old bottles being the main line for which Arthur was known. In more recent years, it was a sweet shop for a while. It is now Busy Bees, a cleaning and laundry service.

The Works

All the doors and windows on the front of the building were replaced. The shop window was replaced, in a format similar to that in historic photographs. Masonry was repointed and the cast iron rainwater good replaced or repaired. Defective stone lintels and window sills were replaced, the chimney rebuilt, and the stone steps to the first floor re-aligned. The wrought iron railings, which featured in a photograph from around 1900, have been repaired and extended.

Arch HouseProperty No 10

  •  Historic Building

    Historic Building

  •  Before renovation

    Before renovation

  •  After renovation

    After renovation

Arch House – Completed November 2021

The Story

From the 1930s, for several decades, this was Birkett’s bakers’ shop. The bakery itself was in Grisedale Lane behind it. In the 1990s it became a flower shop and has had various incarnations since then.

The Works

The fine masonry of the frontage of Arch House had been overpainted with black gloss paint. This was professionally removed and the shopfront was restored. Windows and doors were repaired and replaced, and the ceiling to the passageway accessing Grisedale Lane was also repaired

10 Front StreetProperty No 11

  •  Historic Building

    Historic Building

  •  Before renovation

    Before renovation

  •  After renovation

    After renovation

10 Front Street – Completed November 2021

The Story

Thomas Walton ran a grocery and tobacconists here from about 1900 to the 1930s and Mabel Irving continued the business, adding pies and pastries to the items for sale. More recently it was a wholefood shop and then an antiques shop.

The Works

The front elevation of No 10 had been rendered with incised lines, attempting to give the appearance of random coursed masonry. This render was removed and revealed quality coursed sandstone behind it. This was cleaned and pointed. The glazing to the shop windows was replaced to the format shown in historic photographs and the cast iron rainwater goods were fully restored.

Hatters House/Simpsons and Sons Property No 12

  •  Historic Building

    Historic Building

  •  Before renovation

    Before renovation

  •  After renovation

    After renovation

Hatters House/Simpsons and Sons – Completed November 2021

The Story

One of the oldest businesses in Alston, established in 1822, Simpson & Son began as a drapers and grocers. William Simpson and his family lived above the shop, and bought the property in 1826. His wife Mary ran the shop after his death in 1844, and later his sons. The business expanded to include outfitting, tailoring and hat departments, and continued in the family via the widow of one of the sons and then their daughter and her husband, Thomas Holmes. In 1904, it was advertised as a Drapers, Milliners and Hosiers with “bespoke tailoring a speciality”. After Thomas died in 1926, the shop was run by his son, and then by a nephew, trading until the early 1990s.

It had a later incarnation as a hardware shop, and now as a charity shop. Its frequent designation as ‘Hatters House’ is a misreading of the lettering above the windows: “Simpson & Son, Clothiers, Hatters. House furnishers” – with a definite full stop between ‘Hatters’ and ‘House’!!

The Works

The masonry around the shopfront had been rendered, but this was perished and in very poor condition. The render was replaced, the shopfront joinery repaired and leadwork over the shopfront fascia was also replaced. Some windows to the rear elevation were replaced and cast iron rainwater goods and soil pipes repaired or replaced.

Kearton HouseProperty No 13

  •  Historic Building

    Historic Building

  •  Before renovation

    Before renovation

  •  After renovation

    After renovation

Kearton House – Completed November 2021

The Story

A grocery and drapery shop here was run by the Milburn family, whose daughter Sarah married Hugh Kearton in 1883. He had developed a joinery business, expanding it as a building company and also making coffins, with various workshops largely in the Butts. Sarah ran the shop here, including her own work as a milliner, and she and Hugh brought up their three sons in the apartment above the shop. The business was run from the offices upstairs here.

For a while after this it was the Alston Library, later a computer repairs shop and then a jewellery shop

The Works

A historic photograph of the shopfront showed a symmetrical format with equal shop windows either side of a shop entrance door. Latterly this had been replaced by a continuous shop window with no central entrance door. Access into the shop was gained via the external doorway to the right of the shop window, which served the accommodation on the upper floors. This compromised the independent use of the shop, so the format shown on the historic photograph was reinstated. First and second floor windows were also replaced.

With Thanks

We would like to thank Peter and Rachel Wilkinson for most of the historic photographs and Countryside Consultants for the before and after photographs. Thanks to Simon Danby for the historical photo of Church Gates & Kirsopp House. Thanks also to those individual shop owners who provided photographs.

Thanks to Alice Bondi for compiling the "stories" and works information.

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