Of the four businesses listed as being in Lion Arcade around 1856, two were owned by women. Mary Lombardini was recently widowed and seems to have carried on the family business for a short time. Her husband Jean Baptiste Lombardini had been born in Switzerland while Mary was from Holbeck in Leeds. Jean Baptiste was not only a carver and gilder but a print seller and ‘Geneva dealer’ and, while in Huddersfield, his business had moved from the Market Place to Westgate and then to Lion Arcade. At the time of the 1851 census Jean, Mary and their three daughters were living at 37 Trinity Street and Jean is described as a carver and gilder employing one man.
Ellen or Helen Ratcliffe had a draper’s shop in the Arcade but she obviously thought the most important thing about her business was that she was an agent to the Ladies’ Industrial Society of Ireland. Set up in 1847 as a response to the Great Irish Famine, this was one of a number of organisations set up to encourage the Irish ‘peasantry’ to turn to cottage industries such as lace making. Before she moved to Lion Arcade Helen had run her agency from premises in Northgate. She regularly advertised in the local press:
MISS HELEN RATCLIFFE begs to announce to the LADIES of Huddersfield and its Vicinity, that she has been appointed AGENT to the LADIES’ INDUSTRIAL SOCIETY FOR IRELAND, and has OPENED a DEPOSITORY at No. 103 NORTHGATE for the SALE of their Goods, which consist of 7-8, 4-4, 5-4 Linens; 6-4, 8-4, 9-4, 10-4, 12-4 Sheeting; 4-4, 5-4, Cloths, Towelling, Huckaback, Hollands, Rubbering, Ginghams, hands-on. Knitted and Netted Goods, Men’s Cotton Socks, fancy ribbed and plain; Ladies’ Mitts, Fancy Stockings, Balbriggan ditto, Knitted and Crochet Edgings, Crochet Caps and Collars, Babies’ Embroidered Robes and Caps, some beautiful Limerick Lace; Jacket Sleeves, Lappets, &c.; Embroidered-Cambric Handkerchiefs; some beautiful Irish Poplins.
Open from ten in the morning until six in the eveningHuddersfield and holmfirth examiner, 3 april1852
By December 1853 she was informing her customers that she would shortly be moving her business to Lion Arcade. In an advert in the same newspaper in August 1855 she describes her business as a ‘Baby Linen Warehouse’ now at Lion Arcade but again calls attention to the Goods of the Ladies’ Industrial Society of Ireland, reminding her customers that she is the Society’s Sole Agent in the district but adding that her stock is ‘remarkably cheap’.