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Baines drapers shop
On the opposite corner to Povey's Confectioners Shop stands John
Baine's Shop (bottom of St. John's Square), unaltered above ground
floor level. Bennett wrote "I had
knew it as
only a child could know it".
The Baines House on
St. John's (St. Luke's) Square
In Bennett's Old Wives' Tales - Constance and Sophia
Baines, the daughters of a shopkeeper, grow up in the town of
Bursley (Burslem). Sophia eventually runs off and settles in Paris
with her husband, who is a cad, and Constance remains behind in
England and marries a mild-mannered shop assistant.
The sisters are reunited years later when they are
old, and Bennett skillfully contrasts what has remained stable in
their characters with the differences time and environment have
produced in their personalities.
Looking from William
Clowes Street - the Baines house on the left
and Povey's Confectioners shop on the right
photo: Dec 2008
"The building had also a considerable
frontage on King Street, where, behind the shop, was sheltered the
parlour, with a large window and a door that led directly by two
steps into the street."
Bennett: The Old Wives Tales
same view c.1960
photo: the Warrillow Collection
"The side door to Baines' shop in King Street, now William Clowes
Street, showing the steps on which Gerald Scales would wait for
Sophia Baines and "Sophia came to regard his being on the door step
as the most natural thing in the world." The fine old iron boot
scraper is still to be seen as is the window of the cellar in which
poor Maggie worked."
Warrillow: Arnold Bennett and
In Bennett's writings:
"... and among the five the shop of Baines stood supreme. No business
establishment could possibly be more respected than that of Mr. Baines
was respected. And though
John Baines had been bedridden for a dozen years, he still lived on
the lips of admiring, ceremonious burgesses as 'our honoured
fellow-townsman.' He deserved his reputation.
The Baines's shop, to make which three dwellings had at intervals been
thrown into one, lay at the bottom of the Square. It formed about
one-third of the south side of the Square......"
" It was a composite
building of three storeys, in blackish-crimson brick, with a
projecting shop-front and, above and behind that, two rows of little
windows. On the sash of each window was a red cloth roll stuffed with
sawdust, to prevent draughts; plain white blinds descended about six
inches from the top of each window.
There were no curtains
to any of the windows save one; this was the window of the
drawing-room, on the first floor at the corner of the Square and King
Street. Another window, on the second storey, was peculiar, in that it
had neither blind nor pad, and was very dirty; this was the window of
an unused room that had a separate staircase to itself, the staircase
being barred by a door always locked. Constance and Sophia had lived
in continual expectation of the abnormal issuing from that mysterious
room, which was next to their own. But they were disappointed. The
room had no shameful
secret except the incompetence of the architect who had made one house
out of three; it was just an empty, unemployable room.
The building had also a
considerable frontage on King Street, where, behind the shop, was
sheltered the parlour, with a large window and a door that led
directly by two steps into the street."
Bennett: The Old Wives Tales
Actual location / building:
St. John's square
(St. Luke's Square of Bennett's novels)
Photo: Warrillow Collection
A photograph of "The Square"
presenting an accurate picture of the square at the time of Arnold
Bennett's 'Old Wives' Tale'.
Longson's shop (Baines of the story) can be seen at the bottom left
The extensive premises of Lovatts, the
outfitters, was Bennett's Critchlow's Chemist Shop.
The public house which occupied
"the other third of the block." The Marquis of Granby of the story—
in reality the Duke William Hotel—can be seen on the extreme right
of the picture.
Left to right (in Bennett's
Baines Shop | Critchlow's Chemists Shop |
Marquis of Granby
Same view of the
of St. John's square in Dec 2008
the only original building left from
Bennett's days is the 'Baines' shop on the left
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locations in Bennett's novels |