Kirman’s Ironmongers & General Stores were a familiar sight and destination for shoppers many years ago, many people will remember the shop which stood on Chapel Street whilst those of an older generation would recall the premises at the top of Market Hill (seen as the header picture of our pages) – there was once even a branch at the top of Scunthorpe High Street dealing in electrical appliances, plus ‘everyday, general and fancy goods’.
The firm was founded in 1904 by Grimsby born Herbert Kirman as a shop, with one errand boy and Frank Buttrick who was an apprentice. The 26 year old businessman bought a shop premises on Market Hill from a Mr JW Gunn and converted it into a General Ironmongers & Hardware Store. This building was originally built by the Wesleyan’s as their second Chapel. In 1910 he employed Charlie Burgess who later became a manager and a director of the company.
Kirman’s would often have display stands at various shows to advertise their wares though he sometimes saw himself on the wrong side of the law. He was once fined a total of 10s for selling ammunition to an unauthorised person and failing to register the sale of ammunition. Another occasion saw him being fined 2s 6d for obstructing the Highway with a handcart.
The Market Hill premises were the centre for accounting and goods supplied to the building trade, plumbers, craftsmen joiners and heating engineers. In High Street East there was a huge warehouse where items such as baths, sanitary ware and cooking ranges were kept. It was in the early 1960’s when the new Kirman’s shop was built on Chapel Street (seen below) which saw everything sold under one roof.
It was said “if you can’t get it at Kirman’s, you can’t get it anywhere.” The firm had a wealth of knowledgeable staff who were well respected as were the managers and directors. Many former customers too would remember being fascinated by the pneumatic cash tube system which the company used to move cash around the building.
Herbert Kirman was active in many local organisations, being the second ever president of the Scunthorpe Chamber of Trade and a founder member and president of the Scunthorpe Rotary Club. He was also president of both Scunthorpe Conservative Club and Holme Hall Golf Club and Vice Chairman of Scunthorpe Agricultural Society.
In the firms Golden Jubilee year in 1954 Kirman – a cricket fan – received a telegram from shareholders saying “76 not out – your a good opening bat.” He also closed his shops for the day and took the 50-plus staff on a coach outing to York and Leeds. Herbert -then aged 76 – went along with them accompanied by his wife and family. Surprise presentations were made by staff, Mr Kirman accepting a coloured portrait of himself from long serving employee Mr W Bawden. A silver cigarette case was presented by Mr E Hoggard and a sliver salver from Mr E Sharp.
Herberts wife, Mrs Ethal Kirman was presented with a silver powder compact by Mr L Hather.
A director of the firm, Mr T Pollock, expressed pleasure in seeing all the Kirman family gathered together for the celebrations.
In presenting the portrait Mr Bawden recalled the early days of the company and the solid foundations Mr Kirman had laid, helped by Mr C Burgess, he said “Mr Kirman is known to the staff as The Guv’nor – a term used with great affection.”
Mr Kirman thanked all who had contributed to the gifts and said the pleasure he took in celebrating 50 years in the business was due entirely to the loyal staff he had always been fortunate to have. He made particular reference to Mr Burgess, who had been with him from the earliest days. Mr Kirman said it was a particular pleasure to have with them their two daughters, son in law and four grandchildren on the outing.
Bad weather put pay to a planned river trip in York so the party travelled to Leeds via Knaresborough and Harrogate where a visit to the theatre followed tea. The jubilee year outing didn’t end until midnight when the party got back to Scunthorpe after what was indeed a long and happy day.
Mrs Ethal Kirman died two years following the firms golden jubilee in 1956 aged 70 whilst Herbert lived for a further six years, passing away in 1962 aged 84 – two years short of the firms Diamond Anniversary.They had married at Barton’s St. Mary’s Church in 1907.
Kirman’s continued trading until it was taken over by a company called Mercian in 1970, the retail side of the shop closed but the wholesale carried on trading for 2 years before closing.
The Chapel Street premises were later taken over by S&G’s.
Thanks go to David Hornsby for help with this article.