Many members of the Heritage Trust, and some casual Settle visitors, may know the major difference between the Shambles shown in the accompanying illustration and the building as it is today. Details of the how and when of the change to today's shape are not as well known.
This year sees the 110th anniversary of the redevelopment of the Shambles at Settle to provide two storey cottages above the shops instead of the single storey dwellings shown. If today's planning rules and guidelines had been in place at the end of the 19th century, it is interesting to conjecture what sort of furore would have been caused by the news of the planning application. Giggleswick School Chapel, also planned at this time, would surely have met with serious objections and the Settle area might have been without two of its most characteristic landmarks.
A building company—Settle Market Buildings Co Ltd—was formed on 19th September 1887, with the original issue of 242 shares of £10 nominal value each. The initial call of £5 per share provided the purchase price of £1,210 for the building. The original shareholders were all local worthies and included T Brayshaw (Solicitor), C W Buck (Doctor), H Christie (Mill Owner), Geo. Clark, Thos Clark (Greengrocers), John Handbag (Plumber), Chas J Lord, John Lord (Grocers), Jane Preston, J W Shepherd (Chemists), W A Stackhouse. Charles John Lord, (Solicitor's Clerk) was Secretary to the Company at a salary of £5.5.0. Rents in the first year were £84.19.6, and after the deduction of expenses, the net profit was £60.7.01/2, enabling a dividend of 4s 0d. per share (4%) to be paid.
The changes to add the extra storey were carried out during 1888/89, being financed by an additional payment of £1.5s. Per share, and by the issue of additional shares to a total of 277 out of 300. The cost of the changes totalled £674.11.5, less the sale of old timber, old iron and flags amounting to £10.17.8. The dividend dropped to 2s 6d.
By 1890 all 300 shares had been issued, rents were now totalling £132.13.0 gross, and the dividend was 6s 3d. Per share. Annual expenses shown in the accounts every year include £1.10.0 paid to the poor of Settle, Long Preston and Wigglesworth, and, in the early days, payments made to the man who emptied the midden and lit fires.
There followed a long period remarkable for its stability, with only minor changes of shareholder and dividends generally at 6s 3d or thereabouts, until the early Edwardian years, when they were in the region of 4s 6d to 5s 0d, recovering to 6s 0d to 7s 0d in the late 20's.
Rents also showed a remarkable stability, making a mockery of our present "low inflation" levels. The rent book shows a steady monthly rent of 12s 6d for a cottage from the 1890's to 1921, when it rose to 15s 0d, which level lasted until 1939.
Bad debts were well controlled, with only one recorded case of slow payment becoming eventually written off through bankruptcy. Changes of tenant were usually on a same day basis for the cottages and rarely was one empty.
There were 4 shop units and 6 cellars below the cottages, generally rented quarterly at various rents between £-/17/6 and £2/11/0, these levels remaining substantially the same over 50 years, but there were more frequent changes of tenant and longer vacant periods.
A fire claim in 1932 was settled quickly for about £6. Two of the cellars were rented to West Riding County Council in 1939/40 as Air Raid Shelters.
Overall the documents provide an interesting insight into the working of one small local entrepreneurial activity which is probably typical of the late Victorian/Edwardian period.
Acknowledgement: This article is based on documents in the possession of Derek Soames of Settle.
T H Foxcroft was born and brought-up in Settle. He left Giggleswick School for Manchester University in 1946 and followed a career in electronic engineering. After 28 years as laboratory supervisor at Salford University he returned to the Settle area in 1994.
The Shambles, Settle, before 1888. Copyright K. & J. Jelley.