I am always intrigued by objects on our streets which people pass every day without a second glance.
Two such items caught my eye recently next to Oasis Amusements on Marine Road and set me on a trail to discover their origins.
The granite foundation stones either side of a door carry the inscriptions ‘this stone laid by’ and the names Stanley Howard Burton on one and Raymond Montague Burton on the other.
Both show the year of 1936.
Who were these gentlemen and what was the building that carried their names?
The clue is in the surname.
The building was a branch of Montague Burton’s Tailors, which opened on January 29 1937, amid much fanfare and civic pride.
Montague Maurice Burton (real name Meshe David Osinsky) was a Jewish Lithuanian, who came to Britain in 1900 with £100 and the ambition to start up in business.
He began by selling door-to-door, before opening his first shop in Chesterfield in 1904.
By the time the Morecambe branch opened, Burton’s business was worth £8,000,000, with over 500 stores and employing 100,000 workers.
They were the largest clothing retailer in the world.
Burton acquired the Morecambe site in December 1934, at which time it was occupied by the West View Hotel (owners William Tong & Son of Bolton.)
The Visitor described the hotel as “an ugly, square building” and demolition began in January 1936.
Like many Burton stores of the time, the Morecambe branch was designed in the Art Deco style, with a white terracotta frontage broken up with pilasters and wrought-iron windows.
The Burton name featured prominently at the apex and above the window panes was the legend ‘The Chain of Merit’ and names of the many towns where Burton’s traded.
The windows were surrounded by an emerald pearl granite facia, which included the foundation stones that survive today.
The Visitor was given a preview of the interior and raved, “on entering, one is immediately impressed with the atmosphere of refinement. There is an air of freedom, as well as beauty of setting.”
The glowing review continued: “the rich appointments of polished oak are expressive of that stability and taste which one associates with a firm of such wide repute.”
High praise indeed!
A small army of tradesmen had worked on the building project, including local firms Simpsons of Stonewell, Lancaster (Electrics), WJ Cross of Euston Road, Morecambe (plaster work) and JW Baynes of Euston Road, Morecambe (plumbing).
The grand opening on January 29 1937 saw The Mayor (Councillor M Benson, JP) cut the ribbon with a special pair of gold and silver scissors.
Speeches were made, with the Mayor heralding Burton’s arrival as reward for the council’s “million pound march” (the council had invested £1,000,000 in the last 10 years, to improve the town and attract new business.)
Special mention was also made of The Visitor, which had launched a campaign in 1919 to attract ‘new blood’ and fresh ideas to the council – the Mayor spoke of how this new blood was behind the improvements to the resort.
The opening ceremony was followed by luncheon at the Midland Hotel.
Montague Burton’s son, Stanley Howard Burton, was in attendance and it was his name, along with that of his brother Raymond, which adorned the stones either side of the entrance.
It was a bit of a tradition to feature stones with family names, various examples can be found on Burton’s buildings around the country.
The Morecambe branch continued to trade until 1978, after which it was put up for sale.
A couple of years later, it became Oasis Entertainment.