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  Bradshawgate Mystery Oak Panels : Article printed in The Journal (Bolton), Friday, May 27 1960, relating to old oak carvings in a premises on Bradshawgate, Bolton, later assumed to be the coat of arms of the Tonge family.

Related article: The Journal (Bolton), 12th August 1960

The carved oak in Bradshawgate premises.  Top, the fireplace with the date 1713 above it, with, right, a detail from one of the pillars; below, the panel with its coat of arms, and right, the beautifully worked doors.


Origin of oak carvings in Bradshawgate shop is unknown

PEOPLE who were patrons of Nicholson’s café at 15 Bradshawgate and who often admired the oak carvings there will be glad to know that the present owners of the premises, the Singer Sewing Machine Co., are preserving them with great care.  But very little is known about them and efforts by the Journal to discover more have so far met with little success.

When were the carvings, one of which bears the date 1713, placed there?  It seems from references to the property in Bradshawgate 150 years ago that along this portion of it were small shops, certainly none of them pretentious enough to warrant oak carving, and it can only be assumed that it was brought to the premises probably from some older building when renovations were taking place to provide the café accommodation.

In 1813 the occupier of the premises was a Mr. James Yates, tinplate worker and brazier but seven or eight years later his name had disappeared from the directory list.

In more recent times No. 15 has been occupied by Hamer, confectioners, who were there in the late 1800s.  Then followed H. Walmesley, also a confectioner, who occupied the shop from about 1898 to 1916.  In 1922 Robert Roberts and Co. Ltd. Had a café and confectionery business there.  Then it passed into the hands of the Nicholson family who had the Empire Café and restaurant there.  About 1932 John A. T. Young had a restaurant on the premises and finally in 1957 Messrs. Singer Sewing Machine Co. left their premises following alterations and improvements.

Coat of arms

The carvings exquisite examples of the woodcarver’s art are on the first floor.  In the rear showroom there are two doors, each with two deeply carved panels, set in chastely cut mouldings.  Immediately adjacent to the doorway is an oak fireplace which bears the date 1713.  Three panels at the top are carved in an intricate pattern, while below are four additional panels.  On either side are stout uprights with two figures representing rather cherubic-looking children, one playing a drum, the other a horn.

In the front part of the first floor, used as a dressmaking room, is a striking square panel, bearing a coat of arms which no one has yet been able to identify.

This measures a good four feet square, with an additional frieze-like panel running along the top.  By a misunderstanding this particular piece of woodwork was painted over some time ago.  When it was realised what had happened immediate steps were taken to remove the paint and restore the woodwork to its original state.  The coat of arms consists of a hand holding an emblem representing the four points of the compass.  Beneath is a heraldic shield which bears two groups of birds, divided by a diagonal bar.  Search through the details of coats of arms of well known Lancashire families has failed to reveal to which family the coat of arms belongs

Hidden Passage?

Mr. J. Grumley, manager, told the Journal that he had heard it said that a tunnel existed, running from the nearby parish church to the rear of the shop, but inquires do not reveal the existence of such a tunnel.  Another rumour suggests that there was once an inn at the premises but there again no trace can be found in the history of Bradshawgate.  The nearest to it is the fact that the Cross Keys Inn was next door at No. 17 and it might well be that the upper part of the premises once belonged to the former inn.