128 years in the Northern Quarter 21 Nov

This week Manchester Evening News posted a picture gallery of the Northern Quarter through the decades from 1894, right up to the present day, take a look at the gallery by clicking on the picture.


That got us nostalgic over our own history.  So here is a little bit of Fred’s history in the Northern Quarter and some photos from our archive.

We started trading in 1886, which was the same year that Queen Victoria celebrated her golden jubilee, the Statue of Liberty was erected in New York City and Coca-Cola was invented! Like many smart entrepreneurs our founder Frederick Aldous, we call him Fred the First, was inspired by a simple idea. He had been working as a clerk in cotton mills and at a yeast merchants in Manchester when he decided to set up his own business importing materials to sell to his former employers. He began selling straight from a cart here in the Northern Quarter.


Did you know that in 1902 Edgehill Street was called Elbow Street? This was our original base and renowned for having very little floor space, apparently more than one secretary refused to work in the cramped conditions! From here, Fred the First sold the cane and willow he imported to basket makers who sold their baskets to the mills.


After the 1st World War ended in 1918 Fred the Second returned home and began working with his father and brother at Elbow Street.Perhaps the most influential person in our history, Fred the Second is described by some members of the family as ‘the genius entrepreneur‘. After the war the cotton industry in Manchester began to decline and this potentially could have been disastrous for the company as we relied heavily on trade with the mills. Luckily for us, Fred spotted that the end was nigh for cotton and decided to expand the handicraft side of the business, which had been a sideline up until then. This decision not only changed the whole direction of the company but it took us into a period of prosperity.

Business was going so well that in 1923 we had to expand into rooms at Hatter Street and to an arch under Manchester’s old Exchange Train Station. Things continued to improve and just six years later the entire handicrafts wing of the business moved to 45 Thomas Street (as you can see we’ve always loved Manchester’s Northern Quarter).

By 1955 we had a large staff of almost 100 (thanks to the impact the mail order side of the business), we had moved into a swanky new home at 20-22 Withy Grove and our wholesale arm, known as Atlas Handicrafts, had expanded into an address on Spring Alley. This was a real time of growth and team building activities became very important. We took trips to the seaside in the summer, had staff dances in the winter, and there was even a Fred Aldous Ltd band. To this day we still have a big Christmas bash every year, which always involves a good deal of revelry!





After a brief stint in 31 Back Piccadilly we moved to 37 Lever Street in 1966 which has remained our location to this day! Since opening, we’ve made a fair few changes to the shop, such as the opening on the top shop in 2007 and most recently we have extended the subbasement to make room for much more paper! Do you remember our old entrance which went straight down to the basement?








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