King George III was on the throne when Thompson’s began serving the people of Osmotherley but the till will continue to ring thanks to a rare protective covenant.
The famous village shop, which has been owned and run by the same family for well over 200 years, is for sale for the first time with an auction guide price of £200,000.
It began trading in 1786 and passed from father to son until it reached a daughter, Miss Grace Thompson, in 1943.
She was forced to retire nine years ago but concerned that the landmark building might be converted into a house or a café, she has insisted that the new owner runs it as a shop.
Her actions have ensured that this remarkable piece of architectural and social history will be preserved and villagers are hoping that whoever buys it will keep the vintage shop front and signage along with the period cabinets and delivery bicycle.
The family’s ancestor Edward Thompson started retailing from the front room of his home on West End.
The entrepreneurial Georgian built his small enterprise into a general store and each successive generation has added to it. In 1880 Edward D. Thompson started selling newspapers and by 1935, the store was described as “a veritable mini Harrods” .
A newspaper article from that era reveals that all the proprietors were born in the same room of the property and records these snatches of conversation from the counter:
“A pound of rice for my mummy” said a little girl; “an ounce of cut plug” said the farmer. “I should like to see some boys’ shorts and have you got anything to cure the flu?” says the housewife.
Back then the shop billed itself as a grocers, general drapers, tea dealers and provisions merchant plus wholesale and retail tobacconists, newsagents and fancy dealers. It also sold medicines, ironmongery, postcards and was a post office for a time.
Miss Thompson was 16 and left grammar school to help run the business after her father died.
Along with her mother and her Uncle Joe, she worked from dawn till dusk in what was a labour intensive business. Goods in sacks and tea chests were collected from the railway station by horse and cart .
Joe died in 1961 and her mother in 1982, leaving Miss Thompson to run the shop alone until she retired in 2004 after a fall.
Her friend Pat Duggan said: “The shop was her whole life and she kept it going as long a she could. It was difficult as neither she or her mother couldn’t drive, which meant they couldn’t go the wholesalers like other shopkeepers. She was still delivering the newspapers in the village herself until she was 75 and everyone loved her. The only thing she wouldn’t do was sell caps for toy guns to girls. She didn’t think that was right.
“She is very proud of her family and rightly so, Thompson’s is famous, even in America and Australia.”
Osmotherley is near the start of Lyke Wake Walk and tourists regularly take photographs.
Estate agent Robin Jessop is selling the property at auction on May 15, along with the family’s two-bedroom cottage next door, which has a guide price for £100,000.
He says: “It was Miss Thompson’s wish that it should remain a village shop and the parish council and the North York Moors National Park have both supported the restrictive covenant.
“It is an iconic property with a tremendous position and a lot of history. It must be the oldest grocery store in North Yorkshire and perhaps beyond.”
The shop is in need of renovation but has 2,000 sq ft of space including living quarters with four bedrooms, outbuildings and a 0.6 acre grass paddock.
“She is very frail now,” said Pat Duggan. “but I do hope Grace gets the pleasure of seeing Thompson’s re-open as a shop.”