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John Horsley Ltd.
Corn, Flour, Cake, and Forage Merchants.

1912 Pictorial Wellingborough Trade Record

The premises 42 + 44 Midland Road, Wellingborough, and outbuildings.

The business began when John Horsley, a native of Hull, came to Wellingborough in 1904.

He took over the business next door to All Saints Church at 44 Midland Road and also acquired the freehold of the mills at the rear of the premises. He equipped the mills with new machinery for grinding and splitting corn, and for chaff cutting.

John, together with several other gentlemen in the corn trade at Hull, had formed a limited company. At Wellingborough with Mr Horsley’s three sons ran the business, and then opened a Rushden branch in 1906 and a Higham Ferrers branch in 1909.

the three sons
Stephen Horsley - Frederick William Horsley - John Cordeux Horsley

Frederick William, the eldest, assisted in the office, Stephen acted as a representative, calling on customers, and John Cordeux was in charge of both Rushden and Higham branches.

They supplied an area within about ten miles of Wellingborough, supplying horse, dog and poultry owners with animal feed, hay and straw as well as the corn and flour.

In 1910 they expanded again into 42 Midland Road, the adjoining property.

The two younger brothers enlisted in WWI.
Stephen Horsley died in 1918 and John was wounded.

Grandson John eventually took over the Rushden branch.

Taken from an old postcard c1910 - Horsley's extreme right
Beyond Horsley's is R A Wheeler butcher, Whiting's Music and
the Waverley Hotel and Coffee Tavern - left Robinson's

c1907-10 Carnival Procession
The Fire Brigade's 1907 Steamer passing Horsley's & Ward's Corner,
drawn by two white horses.
Rushden Echo, 22nd January 1909, transcribed by Kay Collins

Higham Ferrers - Messrs. John Horsley Ltd., corn merchants, have opened their new shop and stores in the Market Square, where they will be pleased to see their old friends, and, they hope, many new ones. Best quality goods at lowest market prices.

Rushden Echo, 12th March 1909

Fine Seed Oat, grown on black Fen land, ensuring the best yield in this district. Seeds, Beans, etc., etc.
John Horsley Limited, Corn merchants, High Street, Rushden.

John Horsley's corn merchants cart

1914 Plan of this area.

Invoice from 1916 price list c1955
The back of a 1916 invoice showing the three branches and the range of animal feed stuffs they supplied
A much later list of vegetable seeds supplied c1955.
The telephone number now has a prefix '2' added in 1951.

Evening Telegraph, July 1998, 'Memory Lane', transcribed by Kay Collins

End of an era as pet shop closes
A CHAPTER in the history of a county town centre draws to a close next week with the closure of one of its longest established shops.

Horsley's corn and seed merchants opened in High Street, Rushden, shortly after the turn of the century, selling birdseed and farm fodder for local smallholders.

In later years it became more popular as a pet shop, providing food and playthings for dogs, cats and budgies.

Pat and Patricia Holt
Present owners, Pat and Patricia Holt
The store closes on Saturday, August 1 [1998], when its present owners, Pat and Patricia Holt, take early retirement. They took over in 1984 from John Horsley, whose grandfather, also John, founded the firm.

Horsley's began in the late Victorian era as a Wellingborough business trading from premises in the town's Midland Road.

Rushden was its first branch but sister outlets were later established in Irthlingborough and on the Market Square, Higham Ferrers. A second Wellingborough shop was also opened in Silver Street (now the TSB Bank).

The Rushden shop opened in about 1905 at 6 High Street, previously used as temporary premises by ironmonger Harry Cartwright after his shop, opposite the John Cave shoe factory in High Street, was one of 11 destroyed in the 1901 Great Fire of Rushden.

Founder John Horsley originally came from Hull and during the last century helped establish a thriving business, Horsley and Wareham, which sold the first Crosley oil engines and was the first manufacturer of cattle cake.

In its early days the Rushden store sold feed for pigs, poultry and goats, making deliveries by horse and cart. When Mr Horsley, then living above the shop, died in 1912, he was succeeded by his eldest son Fred, who later took over a small farm at Harrowden.

The shop in High Street
The shop in High Street in 1998
Over the years, as demand for seed and corn fell, the pet shop side of the business was developed, selling day-old chicks and ducklings. But after the Second World War, Fred became more involved with the family farm and all six shops went into voluntary liquidation in 1954.

Fred's son John bought the most viable store at Rushden, which he ran for the next 30 years. Previously he had been a travelling salesman in the same trade, selling Welham's birdseed, and for a short spell ran his own corn stores in Hastings.

Now aged 74 and living in Bedford, he told Memory Lane: "The business had changed considerably over the years.

"In the old days Horsley's sold pig and horse food - chaff and had a regular contract with Bertram Mills Circus, 14 lorry loads of hay and straw at a time."

Mr Holt, formerly transport manager for Spillers at Bedford, bought the shop when Mr Horsley decided to call it a day.

The idea was that his wife Patricia, an assistant with Horsley's for many years, should take over as manager but Mr Holt decided to help her run it when they realised how much work was involved.

"We provided everything people wanted for rabbits, cats and dogs and sold budgies and goldfish," he said. "For many years we have also been agents for packet seeds and sold peas and beans loose by the half-pot for gardening.

"Everything is so commercialised now but we stocked many things you couldn't get elsewhere, such as hemp, maple peas and tares (tiny peas boiled and used as fish bait)." The shop premises are being taken over by Wills, the department store next door, and its old signs have been bought by a local collector. The frontage has changed very little since it opened. Mr Holt said: "We were going to change the name to Holts but we never did put a sign up because it had been known as Horsley's for so long. Many of our older customers have been coming here all their lives and are very disappointed we are closing.

"We are a nation of animal lovers and it's amazing what people get for their pets - they even buy Christmas presents for their cats or budgies.

"Some owners also regard me as some kind of vet. They consult me over their pets' ailments, thinking I know everything about animals. I do my best but it's a good job I'm not allowed to prescribe medicines!"

A series of photos by Derek Savory in the final days of the shop.
inside counter
lots of choice a busy place

And the final days.........after street posts were installed
The post box was moved here from the corner.
The shop still with the orignial sign.

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