The original company was started in 1868 by George Barlow in Henshaw St, Oldham near the town centre and market. George was a milliner, dress and mantle maker, tailor and coffin maker – a very busy man. As the business prospered, further premises were bought in Union Street West, where there was room for stables, carriages and a joiner’s shop. We became George Barlow and Sons.
Around 1908, Arthur, one of George’s sons, was the sole proprietor. He and his wife Hannah, sold the premises in the town and with their family moved to live at 17-19, Union Street West.
The advent of motor vehicles arrived and George Barlow and Sons progressed into the charabanc era. A purpose-built garage was built in 1922 to house the coaches, and Arthur’s three sons. William, George and Arthur, who were all by now working full time in the business.
In 1941 the name changed again. A limited company was formed with the directors being Arthur M Barlow, Hannah E Barlow, William M Barlow, George B Barlow and Arthur Barlow.
The last of the horses went in 1947, which must have been a relief to the staff. The horsekeeper had to be at the stables no later than 5.30am. Commiseration must go to the person who looked after Maggie, who was described as ‘subject to severe and serious complaints of the bowels…..must not have hay or dry provender’.
1947 was also when we acquired 'Doris', our Daimler DE Hearse, supplied brand new by renowned hearse builders Woodall Nicholsons of Halifax. Doris was first used on 4th August 1947, and continued in active service for over 20 years before being taken off the road. In 2015, after much painstaking restoration, Doris was brought back onto the road and is in active use, providing classic, vintage transport at funerals when required. See Funeral Transport for more on Doris' story.
Arthur and Hannah died in the 1950s. Their sons now had their own homes, so it was decided to use part of the premises for the first chapel of rest in Oldham.
The next generation was coming up. In 1967, David Barlow became involved full time, having been around “for ages” helping out. His uncle Billy and father (his Uncle George had died) were not getting any younger, and decisions were needed. Staff needed to be employed as “the family” in the business had deceased.
By the 1980s David was in sole charge and a massive refurbishment took place. The old stables were demolished, the two houses gutted and in their place a further coach garage, mortuary, prep room, offices and a much larger and spacious chapel of rest were created.