J.B.Banks and Son Ltd – Cockermouth

Walk along many shopping streets in the UK and the good fashioned shop has been replaced by some out of town mega-store.  In its place, an estate agent, charity shop or yet another mobile phone store.

J.B.Banks and Son Ltd - Cockermouth

J.B.Banks and Son Ltd - Cockermouth

Cockermouth in north west Cumbria has however preserved many of it’s old shops, including the ironmonger J.B.Banks and Son Ltd .

Full of the usual mouse traps, scrubbing brushes and screws this unique emporium also holds a museum style archive of mechanical marvels.

J.B.Banks and Son Ltd

J. Banks was started by John Banks in 1836. The shop is situated in Market Place at the East end of Main Street, over the Cocker Bridge.

His son, also called John, joined to make J. B. Banks & Son

Growing from strength to strength it became a limited company on 5 January 1933.

The deeds of the shop bear the signature of William Wordsworth’s father, land agent for Lord Lowther.

John Banks was also quite a popular spokesman on issues of the day. He proposed that there should be control on the ownership of guns: this eventually resulted in the introduction of the gun license.

Family business

Guns, swords, daggers and ammunition

Guns, swords, daggers and ammunition. Not the normal things found in an ironmongers

Vanessa Graham, is the current owner of JB Banks & Son.  She is the daughter of  Jack (christened Wilfred) and Dorothy Eckford. Jack was a founder member of Cockermouth Mountain Rescue.

In 1902 the business employed a 16 year old Wilfred Jackson, who later went on to become a partner in the business.

In 1923 Wilfred married Daisy Emerson, who had a confectionery business in the town. Their son Jack (christened Wilfred) was born in 1926 and he, like his father joined the company at the age of 16.  Vanessa, who now owns the business, is Jack’s daughter.

Ironmonger history

Walking in to the JB Banks & Son Ironmongers shop in Cockermouth you start to step back in time.  Above, and securely fastened to the roof are hundreds of assorted items including swords, guns and knives.

Using the natural squares made by the ceiling cladding items have been sorted to be displayed in collections. Many items have faded cardboard tags indicating their history.

Above the entrance doorway are oil lamps of every description whilst to your left and behind a substantial serving counter are ranks of wooden drawers each filled with screws, nails and other assorted loose goods.

Venture to the rear of the shop you climb a well trodden staircase lined with locks and thousands of slowly rusting and tarnishing keys.

Assorted balance weights

Assorted balance weights

A thin rope, using a former bed leg as a support and bracket, provides a handy rail to one side offering a somehow natural and expected friend on your journey back in time.

Avery weights

Through a strong grilled doorway your journey exits back to a world when life was much simpler.

Lined up on wooden racks are items essential for the day, however many would not know what they were used for.

Arranged in neat rows and enclosed in a wooden box are weights used in thousands of stores nationwide for balancing goods purchased by weight.

Large black hexagon shaped weights are on display, suitable for the rough and tumble of a greengrocers and brass chess piece shaped weights ideal for the more gentle arts such as weighing precious metals or sweets.

Dust free

Along one side of the warehouse is a long wooden bench filled with assorted machinery.  Used possibly for key making and other metal bashing, it appears as if the workers have just left as little dust has collected on them.

Carlisle City and District Bank sign

Carlisle City and District Bank sign

Hundreds of pieces of curved metal, in the shape of horse shoes hang at the far end of the room. Once attached to the soles of clogs these were known a cackers and stopped the wooden clogs from wearing out, as well as providing additional grip.

Over the years, a number of items have been deposited with the Cumbria record office over the years including order books, ledgers and receipts.

Other items of note include the Apprenticeship indenture of John Nicholson, son of Walter Nicholson, of Cockermouth, carter, to John Brown Banks, of Cockermouth, plumber and tin-plate worker, for seven years  YDB 8/59  21 April 1876

Further information

Gazetteer of lock and key makers

Gem town champion dies – Wilfred Jackson, has died at the age of 81.

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