I have been shopping in Market St countless times before, yet today I noticed something I hadn’t before. A foundation stone in black marble, with an inscription This stone laid by Stanley Howard Burton 1938. “That’s quite interesting”, I thought and walked on. I got as far as Cross Keys and then stopped. I had my camera with me, why hadn’t I taken a photo? Who was Stanley Howard Burton? A combination of curiosity and conscience got the better of me. I had to have another look and take a photo. On doing so, I noticed that there were actually two stones.
Arnold James Burton had laid the stone on the opposite side. Two Burtons – brothers or father and son? Burtons…..hmmm….
A google search didn’t show up anything for Lichfield specifically, but I did find a Flickr stream devoted to the Burton menswear empire’s deco buildings, which shows similar stones to those in Market St and confirmed that this building was once home to a branch of what was once the world’s largest tailoring store. It seems that members of the Burton family often laid the foundation stone at their new buildings. In Lichfield’s case it was two of the sons of business founder Montague Burton.
The history of the Burton family and their business is interesting. Montague Burton arrived in the country as a 15 year old Lithuanian named Meshe Osinsky. I’ve read on the company’s website that he adopted the surname Burton after he spent a couple of hours at Burton on Trent railway station. A great summary of Mr Burton Snr’s life can be found on the Moving Here website and also on the BBC local history website for Leeds .
I’m glad I went back for a second look at that stone on Market St. Now I’ve taken the photos I might go the full monty and add them to the Burton Deco Flickr group.
Edit: There are some photographs on the Flickr stream of Burton buildings in Walsall & Wolverhampton, with stylised lions & elephants. Apparently, there are Burton buildings in Sutton, Stafford, Birmingham and other local towns and cities so keep your eyes open!