It was coming up to Christmas 1889 that Peter Ashbrook started on his own as a cabinet maker. With an apprenticeship just completed at Goodalls (later to be known as Waring & Gillows) he set about getting orders. You can well imagine him canvassing relatives and friends at the many parties the Victorians held to celebrate the festive season. His skills soon became apparent and after working 12 months at the back of his parents confectionary shop in Salford he needed larger premises. He soon acquired a workshop off Tib St Manchester, sharing a building with a shirt maker, a mantel maker and a sign writer. Business kept improving and in 1892 he moved to larger premises at 20 Garden Street Hulme with his new wife Ruth. Orders were; coming in quicker than could be made and it was Ruth who was the instigator of buying in from other local manufacturers. By 1895 they had yet larger premises at 72 Pickford Street and goods were sold on the never-never at between six-pence and a shilling a week. Even so Pickford St. was only a work shop and it was 1898 before the first shop was finally purchased. This was at 191 Jackson Street. By 1907 Peter and Ruth had six children and a successful business, but just when the future looked brightest, tragedy struck. Peter died suddenly on 27th August 1908 at the age of 42. Devastated but determined to carry on his young widow moved Ashbrooks in 1909 to 20 Alexander Road, Moss Side one of the best shopping areas of Manchester. Her eldest son Reg joined the business helping his mother on collecting rounds she had built up Those days many people would think nothing of going out and leaving the money on the parlour table, the door ajar enabling the collector to step inside. The 1914 war intervened and both Reg and Leonard, the second son, were called up leaving young Peter to help his mother in the shop. The two sons returned safely from the war and shortly after the adjoining shop at No18 was taken.The other two sons, William and John joined the business, though they had enjoyed the deliveries ( especially holding the reigns of the horses ) for years. The shop never actually owned a horse but borrowed from the local greengrocers Furniture was far heavier than today, everything coming wrapped in straw. Apart from furniture, Ashbrooks sold Belgian Pianos, cots prams, curbs companion sets, reliable wringing machines, carpets and linoleum.The early 20’s saw the acquisition of 22, Alexander Road and a van and Ruth was able to leave more responsibility to her growing family. Leonard was the first son to marry. Soon he had two sons and began looking for a shop of his own. It was in 1936 when a shop at 1189 Chester Road Stretford came vacant, that the family decided to take it with Leonard in charge.
Further expansion was considered but the Second World War intervened.Only Reg remained at Moss Side and Ruth continued to run the Stretford Shop the rest of the sons going off to join the war effort. Furniture was utilility made.It was considered economic then but it is amazing how much is still in use today. Once more the sons returned unharmed. It was John’s turn to look for a shop of his own and in the year 1949 18 Washway Road, Sale became vacant. It was already a furniture shop and John soon built up a strong connection, but alas tragedy again struck and in 1956 he died of cancer William took over, acquiring No. 16 when the tailor next door closed. For health reasons Ruth took a decreasing part in the business, and she died on June 30th 1958, aged 86. The sixties saw rapid changes. Fitted carpets replaced congoleum squares, units replaced robes and sideboards and fashions in shopping changed too. Stretford decided to go ahead with its Arndale Centre the Stretford shop was demolished It was decided to amalgamate with the Sale shop and No.20 Washway Road was added.
There were now three Ashbrooks of the third generation Peter, Derek and Arnold to take over.In 1973 Reg died and three years later William also. Further changes followed in 1975 when the Alexander shop was demolished and the business transferred to the new local precinct Leonard was now the only surviving brother of that generation. He always held the view that the personal touch was the most important asset in any business. People like to know who they are dealing with he would say. Sadly he too died on the 26th October 1988 but the policy of personal service was carried on by the third generation.Twenty years have passed since Ashbrooks celebrated their centenary,we are now into the 21st century.Chris O’Brien, Derek’s son-in-law has joined the business and so we are now into the fourth generation. Whilst we have always sold carpets, in 2008 Carlton Travel next door became vacant and we took this over and opened it as a specialised carpet showroom. Our aim is to offer the same quality of service that has built up such a reputation in the past and hopefully the business which has been built on such a strong foundation will go from strength to strength in the years to come.