Snippet of History: Taylor, Mason and Timothy White

In 1985 the Timothy White chain of stores – formerly a major presence on British streets – disappeared from the high street following a takeover by Boots the Chemist. It’s perhaps not secret history – more forgotten history – that the Timothy White company had at least part of its roots right here in Leeds. That was due to the determination of one individual, William Barker Mason, who launched the Taylor Drug Store in 1881 from a small unit in Thornton’s Arcade. Later expanding to over 250 branches nationwide, all run from a head office in Leeds, Taylor’s Drugs merged with Timothy White in 1936 to form Timothy White and Taylor’s.

Much of this history came to light while we were casually browsing through a copy of the Leeds Mercury (available on microfilm in our Local and Family History Library, or free online to all Leeds Libraries members through the Nineteenth Century British Newspapers resource) from 1 January 1891, and came across the following advertisement:

taylor mikado

This fantastic-sounding event was held at Taylor’s warehouse at 5 & 7 Albion Street. Using the early Goad maps held at the library (these showed occupiers of premises for insurance purposes), we are able to identify the exact location of that warehouse, a little earlier in time – around 1886:

goad 1886

Then, using our photographic archive, Leodis (available at, we were able to find some images of the Albion Street area in the decades around the same time.

Image showing the west side of Albion Street at the junction with Bond Street, 1882
Image showing the west side of Albion Street at the junction with Bond Street, 1882

Mason – who named his stores after his wife’s maiden name – was something of a major figure in local Wesleyan Methodist circle, at least according to his obituary, which we located in our collection of Leeds news cuttings. No further information is known about his connections to that religious movement. If any readers of this blog can shed further light on that tantalising hint we would be delighted to hear from them!

William Barker Mason obituary

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