Wetherby’s first-ever charity shop is still going strong...

NAWN. Volunteers from the Leonard Cheshire Disability Charity Shop in action on Cross Street. From left are Val Render, volunteer co-ordinator Maureen Asquith, customer Cath Wagstaff and Pauline Elson. 110601AR5pic1.
NAWN. Volunteers from the Leonard Cheshire Disability Charity Shop in action on Cross Street. From left are Val Render, volunteer co-ordinator Maureen Asquith, customer Cath Wagstaff and Pauline Elson. 110601AR5pic1.

By Wetherby News columnist Roger Bealey

THE Cheshire Home shop was the first charity shop opened in Wetherby back in 1958. It all started when Ernest Scruton, a contractor, noticed a lack of soft furnishings in the home and mentioned it to his wife Mrs Florence Scruton.

Goods were obtained and a shop opened in a cottage in Walton Road owned by Mr Wooliscroft who had a haberdashery business in the High Street. The shop was successful and soon extended to an adjoining cottage. Goods were collected, sorted and stored in Mr Scruton’s washhouse and taken to the Walton Road shops for sale by the volunteers. Among the first donations were books, bric-a-brac, clothes, a wheelchair and half a bottle of brown sauce.

In the early 1960’s the business was transferred to a shop in Cross Street (next door to the present shop).

Then Mr Spiegalhalter who owned property in Cross Street was so impressed by the work of the volunteers that he donated the freehold of the current shop.

That’s how it all began.

I’d arranged to meet Maureen Asquith, co-ordinator of the volunteers at the shop one Wednesday afternoon to find out how the shop operated at present. It still operates in basically the same way with books, bric-a-brac and clothes being popular items donated and sold. They haven’t had an opened bottle of brown sauce donated recently, but they have had a pair of false teeth – and probably still have them somewhere!

There are 23 volunteers altogether but of course there are only two or three of them in the shop at the same time as most of them only work one or two mornings or afternoons per week. Maureen was originally a professional artist but told me that she got fed-up with painting dogs and cats. She does not work in the shop herself, but co-ordinates the work of the volunteers. They’re friendly and all get on well together and enjoy their work.

Val Render was serving in the shop whilst I was there and there were others but I thought it would be impossible to list them all.

Whilst we were talking and I was asking questions, there would be an occasional reply from a disembodied voice upstairs where some of the goods were being sorted. There is a disabled stairlift to the upstairs and this comes in very useful for carrying goods up and down the stairs. Although the shop has steps outside, there is disabled access via a door at the back of the shop.

I asked about the range of items donated and sold. They really hope to receive good quality clothing, books, toys and unwanted presents. Pricing is done mainly by the volunteers but advice may be sought from a local jeweller for some of the more valuable items. Some of the more valuable things which might not have a ready sale in the shop may even be sold on eBay. Goods which cannot be sold are sometimes recycled.

Electrical goods are not usually accepted because legally there is a requirement for them to be tested before they are sold and this is too expensive to be worthwhile.

Amongst the goods on display was the lid of a Portmeirion butter dish for £1. The dish was missing but the lid was too good to throw out and someone might buy it. We tried to think of other uses but could only come up with the idea that it could be used to trap spiders – but they might move too quickly. “No, I’d use hairspray to slow them down” I was told. You learn something every day! Sometimes items are brought in which are unusual and cannot readily be identified – although usually someone knows what it is.

While we were talking, there was still a brisk trade going on with the shop being quite busy. I’d wondered whether the customers were mainly locals, but when the Wetherby News photographer arrived to take a photograph and we asked a customer if she would agree to being photographed; we found that she was from Pontefract and often travelled to Wetherby and a few of the other local towns as she enjoyed looking around the shops.

Charity shops perform a useful service. One person’s junk is another’s bargain.

All monies raised go directly to the home and over the years a great amount will have been raised thanks to the generosity of donors and the volunteers who give their time to work in the shop.