Writing’s on the wall for Wetherby to see history

Four generations of the Richardson family, from left, Ann Richardson (daughter in law)Joyce Richardson (wife), David Richardson (son) John Richardson, Andrew Hudson (grandson in law), Fiona Hudson (granddaughter), Philippa Hudson (great granddaughter).
Four generations of the Richardson family, from left, Ann Richardson (daughter in law)Joyce Richardson (wife), David Richardson (son) John Richardson, Andrew Hudson (grandson in law), Fiona Hudson (granddaughter), Philippa Hudson (great granddaughter).
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A former interior designer’s work to record the royal family tree for the Coronation has become writing on the wall for Wetherby.

John Richardson has lived in Wetherby for many years. When he left the army in 1947 he was already engaged to be married and was looking for work.

He was offered a job by a well-known and respected north Leeds cabinet maker as his “lorry-driver”, the vehicle being a pre-war Jowett pick-up.

One of his duties was to chauffer an elderly interior decorator who had a world-wide reputation with clients throughout Yorkshire and it became common practice for John to help him to measure and fix soft furnishings. One day, on their return from visiting a client in Huddersfield the old gentleman urged him to start his own business.

After a bit of persuasion and the promise of all his customers when he retired, John opened a shop on Moortwon Parade in June 1950.

The new interior designer had nothing more than a few pattern books to dress the two large windows.

The only ad advertising was by “word of mouth” but each successful commission lead to further enquiries and as time went by, antiques and art-works were added to the range of merchandise.

In 1952 as the Coronation approached, John, as a great Royalist wondering what to display to demonstrate his respect for the young Queen, hit on the idea of the Queen’s Family Tree.

Some sheets of drawing paper measuring about seven feet by four feet were bought, together with a pen and suitable nibs.

Many evenings were spent practicing “Old English Script” as the paper had cost too much to allow any mistakes. At last John was sufficiently confident in his new skill to begin the task.

The table was too small so the large sheet of drawing paper was spread out on the floor of the tiny lounge in their small flat and John began the painstaking task of copying the “tree” onto the paper in Old English Script. It was to be many days before the sitting room was returned to normal.

Eventually the scroll was finished. A week before the Coronation it was taken to Moortown and placed in one of the shop windows surrounded with suitable memorabilia and floral decorations, all lit by special spot lights.

The impact was surprising; it stopped people in their tracks, children from the local schools came with their history teachers and cameras were constantly clicking.

When all the celebrations were over the “scroll” was hidden away just in case it was ever required again – and subsequently it was resurrected for important jubilees and Royal visits.

Then with the business going from strength to strength, disaster struck. One Monday morning John found that he could not get out of bed and by lunch time he was in Seacroft Hospital diagnosed with polio. He was told that he would never walk again but resolved that he jolly well would.

Since he was unable to continue hanging curtains or laying fitted carpets, he decided to expand the glass, china, gifts and fancy goods. Stock expanded and display area was insufficient. The shop grew, firstly into next door, then up on to the roof - followed by out of the back then sideways into the third “next door”. As the bank would not move further expansion had to be further along the parade.

John retired and his two sons took over. They, in their wisdom and in their fifties saw the future of small retail shops and decided that they in turn would retire. Everything had to be cleared out after nearly 60 years trading.

Things were found in many obscure places, all of which went into the final sale. Out came the fixtures and fittings, office equipment and tea making equipment.

Then the sons discovered the Coronation scroll hidden in one of the stockrooms and John said to put it with the rest of the junk for them to get rid of when he departed.

When Wetherby decided to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee, John Richardson asked the town clerk if the town would like to have it.

The impressive Queen’s Family Tree now hangs on the staircase of Wetherby Town Hall.

During May, four generations of the Richardson family attended the unveiling by Wetherby Town Mayor Cindy Bentley.

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