William Antrobus & Son, Painter and Decorator

We know that for a small village, Moore had a lot of painters and decorators. One of the businesses which  I have a particular interest in is William Antrobus & Son, as this was my great grandfather and grandfather’s business.

William, born 1886, first appears as a ‘House Painter’ aged twenty-four, in the 1911 census. He is living on Moss Lane, Moore with his wife Elizabeth, who came from Hatton, and my grandfather Harold who is aged just three months. William’s enlistment papers from December 1915 show him declare himself with a trade of ‘painter’. He is then assigned to the Royal Engineers. It seems that becoming a painter and decorator was a popular choice of career for the Antrobus family members. William’s brothers Herbert (B.1881) and Frank (B.1891) were also painters and decorators in and around Warrington.

I am very lucky to have William’s hand-written ledger from the mid-1920s. The first entry is dated 23rd April 1925 and runs until 4th April 1932, although there are gaps between these dates. There are many recognisable family names from the village.

One of the more interesting entries in the ledger, is that of work carried out for Mr Mitchell at Moore Hall on 23rd March 1926. The work included ‘decorations to staircase’, ‘maid(s) lavatory’ and ‘scullery’. The work totalled just over £29, which in 2019 prices would be about £1700. The costliest single item used was ‘32 litres of painters lime at 1s 10d a total of £2, which would be about £120 today. There are several other interesting locations for his work including, Ring O Bells pub at Daresbury, Walton Arms pub, Keckwickford Farm and Marshgate Farm and Moore Chapel House. According to the ledger, there are also other members of the Antrobus family having work carried out. My family tree research suggests these were uncles and cousins.

In the late 1920’s William was joined by my Grandfather Harold after he had finished his schooling. Harold had a longing to work on the railways, following his Grandfather’s footsteps, but William was adamant that he would join him in the family business. 

Harold began a bookkeeping evening class travelling from Daresbury station, which is actually in Moore, to Warrington and back. It was around this time he first met my Grandmother Edith Dutton who was in service at The Willows for the Jacksons. In the early 1930’s Harold was a member of Moore and Daresbury Cricket Club and cricket teas would be held at The Willows. It is here that Harold caught the attention of Edith by throwing a dish cloth at her!  They had a long courtship and were married in 1937.

William and Harold were known for their commitment to the job. Hard working and high quality craftsmanship. They built a paint shop at the Walton end of the village which is still standing and was last used as Moore Farm Shop. In addition to these premises, when Harold bought Highbank (63, Runcorn Road) in 1952, he had the outbuildings converted into storage and also began selling paraffin from the premises. It is also understood that from the paint shop they also sold tar for roofing. It is interesting to see that although they were painters and decorators, they were also trading in other areas.

Harold grew the business and began taking on staff. Through a contact at Stockton Heath Secondary Modern School (now Bridgewater High School) he would take on apprentices and would employ around four men at one time, to work on different jobs at once. James (Jimmy) White, no relation to me, was his main employee and an excellent tradesman. He worked for the business until Harold retired. They carried out a lot of work for Greenall Whitey. Pub work was often carried out after closing time. Harold also applied the gold leaf to the fish on the Daresbury Church flag pole. He carried on doing this after retiring in 1977. Although I can’t recall this, my sisters remember the fish in the porch of our grandparents’ final home, 260 Runcorn Road.

In modern times painters and decorators are very mobile with large vans adorned with their business names. For William his company transport stretched to a hand cart. It is interesting to note that some of the work which we know was carried out between 1925 and 1932 was as far away as Preston on the Hill and Stockton Heath. If William was still using his hand cart during this period, then he may have walked for an hour with his equipment to reach his customers. By the time Harold was running the business, in the 1960’s, things had improved. During his working life he was the owner of several Bedford vans and latterly Ford Escort Estates. The Bedford van was the family’s only form of transport and would occasionally have a sofa in the back when going out together!

Harold and Edith had three girls, and as a sign of the times, when Harold retired in 1977, over sixty years of trade sadly came to an end. It is warming however, to talk to members of Daresbury District Heritage Group who remember William and Harold and their work throughout Moore village. If you have any information or stories relating to William, Harold or the business, please do get in touch via the website.

Read William’s WW1 story here

Thanks to Gareth White who has researched and written this article for us and to his family for letting us use the photographs which can be seen by clicking on the link below