Mark’s History: Thrift Stores and the Kirkstall observation post

BHS Kirkstall
Photo: Rich Tea/Geograph used under CC licence

Thrift Stores were started in Holbeck in 1881 by grocers Wright Popplewell and JW Jessop, writes Mark Stevenson.

The company expanded and in 1929 set up its central warehouse and bakery in Kirkstall at Bridge Road. Thousands of tonnes of groceries were dispatched to its branches each week, including the one in Raynville Road, Bramley.

Long gone: Thrift Stores in Raynville Road.

The clock at Thrift Stores was installed by Charles Potts & Co. Ltd in 1932. When war broke out the balcony around the tower below the clock was used as an observation post.

If you look carefully in the b&w pic below you can see the pill-box that was manned by the firm’s Home Guard Battalion on the roof.

thrift kirkstall 1

The building was host to many household names such as Clover, Allders and British Home Stores. Eventually it was closed and demolished in 2015.

BHS Kirkstall
Photo: Rich Tea/Geograph used under CC licence
The building was demolished in 2015. The new Kirkstall Bridge Retail Park sites in its place. Photo: Mark Stevenson


  1. During the War my mother always shopped at Thrift, the Co-op was closer but she said that they had ‘under-the-counter’ goods and she didn’t approve. I loved Thrift, the huge blocks of butter and lard,the large tins of biscuits which were weighed out, sugar in (to me as a child) enormous blue bags of sugar. Bacon to be sliced – and of course almost everything on ration. Oh thanks for reminding me!

  2. Thats a great bit of information about Thrift Stores. The Popplewell family, co founders of the THrift Stores, were close friends of my garandparents, Alan Silverwood and Ada Scott. who lived in Halton. I have reason to believe they met through Methodist connections. The Scotts were in the laundrey business .The Popplewells and the Scotts moved to Arnside in Westmorland in 1920s. The Popplewells lived in a large house called Beachwood fronting on to Morcambe EStuary. They remained friends with the SCott family and my mother, Dorothy Scott was great friends with their daughter Gwen. I am piecing together the family history for the Scotts, so this is very useful as the Popplewells are very much part of their story. If anyone can add anything to this train of thought, I would be delighted. Thanks.

    • Nick – I am very interested to read your comments. My father was Edward James weight popplewell (Jim) and as you say was very close family friend with Dorothy. The mischief and stories he had to tell about them growing up together.

  3. My dad, Jack Roberts, was a butcher and managed the pre-packaged meat department on kirkstall road. I believe Thrift were one of the first supermarkets to sell pre-packed meat.

  4. I worked in the bacon department from 1963 to 1966. My dad Fred Roberts Snr. was a driver for them. Fond memories of my time their.

  5. I was an “order boy” for the Halton Thrift store from 1961-63 deriving order on a bike after school. 2/6d per day plus rips.

  6. I started work on my15th birthday in 1964 at thrift stores head office on bridge road kirkstall Leeds, a lovely boss Mr England, in the general office.
    I started as a post girl and worked my ways to payments section with my friend jeanTurville .
    Happy days Linda Rosindale as was now edwards

  7. wow fascinating Lnda. Do you remember anything of the Popplewells? Was it a popular place for families to shop? I understand there were several smaller Thrift shops around Leeds too


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