Sherry, port and claret was imported by Strickland & Holt via the River Tees for bottling, labelling and on from the store and as part of deliveries made as far and wide as Wensleydale to the south-west and Bilsdale to the south-east.
Our own-label whisky was blended and bottled too. Called Hob Nob, its name stood for “Holt’s Own Blend: No Other Better!”
The family lived above the shop – a tradition that continued until late into the 20th century.
The premises ran right down to the Tees, with a riverside quay and warehousing beyond a family garden behind the shop.
Today, part of that area forms an extensive car park.
In the wake of devastating flooding in Yarm, joint founder Oliver Strickland dies of pneumonia. He’d succumbed to it while trying to save stock from the lapping waters of the River Tees.
Today, his descendants live in Canada, but the connections and friendship between the two families is kept alive through correspondence and occasional visits.
This picture shows late-20th century floodwaters around the town.
A glance at the old accounts gives a fascinating insight into liquor prices in 1899: a dozen bottles or claret were £1 10s; two gallons of rum would fetch £1 12s, a gallon of Scotch whisky set a customer back £1 6d and six gallons of gin would drown many sorrows for £3 18s.
And after consuming that lot, you might have settled back with 100 Havana cigars for 17 shillings!
In 1938 the business was joined by John Holt, nephew of namesake and company founder John Holt Snr.
A pharmacist, like his uncle, John similarly immersed himself in Yarm’s institutions. He built on established business connections all over the world.
The duties of the town pharmacist were many and varied. On call to dispense urgent medicines at any hour, it was important to the family to live over the business.
The mixing of medicines and ointments was a precise art and some pills and capsules were made in the dispensary to exact recipes.
Several favourite remedies were unique to the shop – an own-brand bronchial mixture was famous in the area.
Teeth were extracted, sick animals put down, shotgun cartridges made, soda siphons filled.
John Holt Jnr also developed and printed many of the town’s photographs – never a dull moment.