Having served her time as a hat maker in a Fishergate shop, Edna Alice Deakin opened her own millinery business in 1938 at 47a Church Street in Preston, between Derby Street and Pole Street. At some point, probably in the late 1950’s, Edna removed to a premises at 54 Church Street, a little further eastward along the road, just after the Pole Street junction with Church Street.Advertisement
Not until 1983, when Preston Borough Council purchased the premises and land from Edna, did she retire following almost fifty years in business and during that time she had become one of the most well known and loved milliner’s in Preston.
In the early years, millinery was a thriving business as you would hardly see a lady walking down the street without a hat. Edna’s skill in hat making was beyond reproach as she was a ‘practical milliner’ and this meant that she was never short of customers as she would design and manufacture hats in her little workshop at the back of her premises ensuring that customers could have a very unique model, one that no one else had; after all, that is what all the ladies wanted.
There were other milliners in town and in Church Street alone, there were originally five more; Edna recalled that over time there had been Marsden’s, Coupe’s, Lacey-Vincent’s, Gooby’s and Worden’s and by the time she had retired in 1983, they had all gone. Edna had seen the decline of ladies wearing hats for many reasons and she remarked: “Every woman wore hats at one time, even older women do not dress the same way these days, the trend is to casual clothes and women are no longer required to wear a hat in church.
“Cars have been a major factor too. At one time, everyone put on their Sunday best and went out for an afternoon stroll. Nowadays it is a matter of jumping in the car and going into the country…hatless
“Everyone lived a much more sedate family life where doting dads would bring their daughter to the shop and buy them a new hat. Now, it is the teenagers who seem to have the money and their own ideas about fashion.
“People are store-minded nowadays, and of course the development of Ringway and the bus station changed the face of Church Street too.”
In the early 1980’s Preston Borough Council had embarked on a long-term plan to regenerate Church Street and restore it to the main-stream shopping centre it was in bygone years. As a result, the council had purchased the block of property where Edna’s shop stood which was bounded by Ringway, Pole Street and Percy Street for eventual demolition to subsequently build new properties.
The business remained open throughout the war and Edna walked into to Church Street from home each day from Cleveland Avenue Fulwood, carrying out duties as an air raid warden in the evenings. It would be fair to say that Edna obviously took her work and duties seriously and by all accounts, loved every minute of what she did during her working life.
There must still be many people around in Preston who will no doubt remember the former milliner of Church Street. Edna would have been 106 years of age in the month of November this year and even in her retirement years she had plenty on her hands with children and four grandchildren to fuss over and as Edna said: “They are angels, but I’ll miss the people and the creativity of running the business. It really hasn’t seemed like work at all!”
We would like to thank John Deakin, one of the two sons of Edna Deakin, for bringing the story of his mother’s working life to our attention and the Lancashire Evening Post for some of the information from 1983 which is included in this article.
Do you remember Edna A. Deakin’s milliners shop on Church Street? Let us know in the comments below.