A century of cabs and funeral cars

Alfred Laithwaite (1868-1950) was born in Turton, near Bolton. His father managed a dye works, and at the age of 32 it appeared that Alfred was following in his footsteps. He had married Annie Isherwood in 1896 and by 1901 he had two young sons, William and Alfred, and was managing a dye works in Middleton. His third son, Ernest Henry was born in 1903, and daughter Dorothy in 1906.

In 1911, the family was still in Middleton, and Alfred was still a cotton dyer’s manager. We don’t know what happened in Alfred’s life to trigger a change in direction in his early 50s, but in 1921 he took over the house at Belmont, 15 Eccles Old Road. This was one of a pair of substantial semi-detached villas, its neighbour then, as now, being the Pendleton Bowling Club.

Having had a series of interesting residents throughout the 19th century, Belmont had been vacant since around 1908. It may have been neglected and in poor repair, but Belmont evidently suited the needs of Alfred and his three sons who in 1921 opened up a taxi business there. Slater’s Directory for that year listed Alfred Laithwaite and Laithwaite Brothers, Motor Cab Proprietors.

From 1930 the Laithwaites operated as a car hire and motor garage as well as cab business. During the 1930s one of Laithwaite’s regular drivers was Reginald Arran. He spent much of his time as chauffeur to Miss Cicely Beatrice Birley of 6, Sandy Lane. She was granddaughter to Hugh Hornby Birley (participant in the events at Peterloo) and second cousin to Thomas Hornby Birley of Hart Hill and geologist Caroline Birley.

It was in 1939 that Alfred Laithwaite senior first listed himself as a ‘Funeral Furnisher’. In the autumn, acknowledgements in the local newspaper included a family’s ‘appreciation of the dignified and efficient management of the funeral arrangements by Mssrs. Laithwaite Brothers. of Pendleton’.

Alfred Laithwaite senior died in 1950, having retired to Cheshire. He left under £700 in his will. The funeral business would continue to be run as Laithwaite Brothers for many years although William died in 1957, Alfred junior in 1978 and Ernest in 1984.

Today, the business is part of the Co-op Funeralcare group, although it retains the Laithwaites name.