Ann Clough obituary: Yorkshire draper who ran her grandfather's haberdashery shop on Bridlington Promenade into her 80s

Ann Clough, who has died at 90, was one of Yorkshire’s most venerable shopkeepers and the proprietor of perhaps its oldest drapery retailer, a Bridlington business that has scarcely changed for more than a century.

She was the third generation of her family to run Ernest Whiteley and Co, which has stood on the Promenade since her grandfather opened it in 1901.

He had come to Bridlington that year on a day trip but liked the town so much that he never left.

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The shop has remained much as he designed it, stocked with net curtains, bed socks and ladies’ underwear for the over 60s which, Ms Clough said, ordinary shops had forgotten.

Ernest Whiteley & Co family drapers, which Ann Clough had run since 1960, was a relic of a vanished world and did not take card paymentsErnest Whiteley & Co family drapers, which Ann Clough had run since 1960, was a relic of a vanished world and did not take card payments
Ernest Whiteley & Co family drapers, which Ann Clough had run since 1960, was a relic of a vanished world and did not take card payments

Antimacassars, arm caps and linen tea towels were stacked in huge mahogany cases, while stored in the back were the sort of “interlock underwear your grandma would have worn”, she liked to say.

Ann was Ernest’s oldest granddaughter, and when he lost his sight in 1940 it was Ann’s mother, who took over. Ann herself arrived in 1960, planning to stay for a single season to help out, but found herself “a round peg in a round hole” and, like her grandfather before her, never looked back.

She was born to Susan and Joseph Clough in March 1933, in the hinterland of Keighley in the West Riding. The family moved to East Yorkshire not long afterwards but Joseph died when Ann was a child and it was Ernest who helped bring her up.

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After school she went to a food technology college in Manchester before becoming a housekeeper at various schools and colleges. At Hull University she looked after the poet Philip Larkin, making cottage cheese for him because he refused to eat it from a shop.

But when her mother began struggling to run the family shop by herself, Ann stepped in and was soon in charge.

“She never wanted to change things in the shop,” said Sue Walker, Ann’s assistant of 35 years who joined originally on the Youth Training Scheme and eventually took over the day-to-day running. “Her grandfather paid over £1,000 for the cases in the 1930s, which was an awful lot of money back then.

“He spent all of his life making that money and spent so much time making the shop what it was, she did not want to change it. We never took credit cards – it was cash or cheque only, and we never went online. She was an absolute technophobe.

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“Everything was pen and paper. The accounts were all handwritten and all the stocktakes were hand counted. It used to take at least a month to do it. She would then designate time to copy it all into her stock book. She was so old school.”

But Ann remained staunch in her belief that she was providing a service few other shops could or would offer.

“I am serving the third generation now,” she said three years ago. “The West Riding think we are wonderful. We set our stall out for the over 60s – I think our oldest customer is 104 – they still want knickers and nighties.

“They will drive 50, 60, 70 miles to come and stock up here. We get a lot of elderly gentlemen who are left to fend for themselves because their wives are ill.”

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One of the best-known figures in Bridlington, Ann was active as an after-dinner speaker, entertaining women’s institutes with anecdotes about her customers and their idiosyncrasies.

She was a member of 60 years’ standing of the local operatic society, having given her last performance in The King and I seven years ago, and was active in the local tennis club, history society and gardening club.

She spent her last days in a Brtidlington care home.