The Preston Guardian reported the death, at the age of 70, of Edwin Henry Booth (pictured in his prime), the founder of the chain of Lancashire supermarkets. He died at his home, Avenham Tower.
The Preston store on Fishergate (now Waterstones) with its café upstairs was a much loved shopping and social venue for generations of Prestonians. What is less well known is that this wasn’t Edwin Booth’s first Preston shop. In fact, Edwin Booth was operating as a grocer and tea merchant from a shop in the Market Place from at least 1859. In that year the Preston Chronicle was carrying advertisements for his shop at No. 18 Market Place. By 1861 a warehouse in St John’s Street was featuring in his advertisements (see images below).
The company’s website, which dates the opening of the first Booth’s shop in Preston to 1867, presumably when the Fishergate store opened, describes how Edwin Booth borrowed £80 to open his first shop, The China House in Blackpool, in 1847, when he was just nineteen.
At the time he was living in Blackpool, but soon after he moved to Preston, for Brown’s trade directory for Preston of 1860 has him living at a house on Fishergate Hill. The move to Preston and the establishment of a warehouse there, suggests that Edwin Booth had made Preston the centre for his operations, as he continued to expand the company.
Newspaper reports show that he began to play an important role in the public life of the town. For example, by 1865 he was treasurer of the town’s Orphan School, a year later he was on the committee raising funds for the Mill Hill Ragged School. And by 1871 he was seeking election to the town council.
In 1866 he was still trading from the Market Place shop, according to another directory, but by then had taken up residence at No. 1, Bank Parade. An 1869 directory shows his business settled in Fishergate, where it was to remain until its eventual closure and replacement by Waterstones. At that time his address was given as 10, Bank Parade (where he was still living in 1882) and a cotton manufacturer had taken over No. 1.