Saturday, 12 May 2018

Mrs Keal and the mystery of 419 Barlow Moor Road

Leon's, 2015
It has taken sometime but I am closer to solving the mystery behind the date on the wall of  419 Barlow Moor Road.

Most people will know the place as Leon’s the fabric shop but I have long wondered why the building carries the date 1885 when it was built around 1915.

The Leon family began trading there in the 1990s and before that it had been the Addressal  Print Works which is listed in the directories by 1921 and for an even shorter time between 1915-17 it was the Chorlton Laundry owned by Mrs Keal.

Not that this helps with the date of 1885 which appears above the door along with the word Established.

Addressall Printing Works, 1959
Now it is just possible that the date refers to either establishment of the laundry or the printing company but there is no reference to Addressal in any of the directories in the late 19th century and any way the stone lettering looks like it was done when the building went up.

So I rather think we must be with Mrs Keal who was running a laundry business on Beech Road in 1894.

That said there is no evidence that she was trading before that date and in 1881 Mr and Mrs Keal were living in Croydon.

But by 1889 they had settled in Chorlton and were running a business from nu 30 Wilbraham Road.
Mr Keal described himself variously as a brick layer or builder and I suppose it is just possible that the date 1885 refers to the start up of his business.

Either way in1915 Mrs Keal was in that building on Barlow Moor Road operating the Chorlton Laundry.

Now I can’t be exactly sure when she moved in but in the April of that year Mr Keal of “Brookbank Bridge Barlow Moor-road died at Chorlton Laundry Brookbank Bridge.”

London Gazette, February 1917
And just over a year later the business went bankrupt.*

According to Mrs Keal at the bankruptcy hearing in the February of 1917 “the main cause of her coming into court was the shortness of loose working capital when she removed to her new premises in Barlow Moor Road after having carried on a similar business on less extensive lines for many years in Beech Road, Chorlton.

Mrs Keal further stated that after she had expended over £900 on new machinery so that she might undertake the laundry work of the military hospitals in Manchester a large proportion of the work was undertaken from her.”

But the “military authorities had established laundries under their own control.  Difficulties in the way of getting sufficient labour had it impossible for her to get the work done as promptly as the hospitals required [and] she could not overcome these difficulties by paying higher wages.”

She went on to say that “she had taken steps to strengthen the weak point in her business affairs which had been pointed out by her accountant.”

But it seems that was it and she finished up the business and moved to St Annes-on-Sea where she died in 1935 leaving £2625.

It is just possible that the date refers not to Mrs Keal's Laundry but to the building business of her husband which may well date from 1885.

And it t maybe the Leon family can help who could have the deeds to the building which will offer up its history.

Peter painted the picture of the building and while there he spotted the story of the Leon family which is displayed inside the shop.

It is a fascinating account of one family business stretching back across the last century and so by the time I get round to writing their story they may well be able to offer up a missing document.

Well we shall see.

Additional research from Tony Goulding

Picture; Addressall Printing Works (originally built for laundry), House adjoining used as office for printers, RE Stanley, m17530 courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

Painting; Leon's Barlow Moor Road, © 2015 Peter Topping,
Facebook: Paintings from Pictures

*First Meetings and Public Examinations, The London Gazteet, February 16, 1917

**Laundry Proprieters Ill-luck. Failed with a surplus of over £3000, Manchester Evening News March 6 1917

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