IT is a sad time for Bolton town centre as we are set to lose two of our famous independent stores that have been part of the fabric of our lives for so long.

Once home to some of the most prestigious shops and stores, Bolton is about to lose two family concerns that have been a familiar sight on our high street.

Those of you old enough to remember Whiteheads will recall this was a family-owned department store in Deansgate.

At the turn of the century it was selling fur coats to the rich and famous of Bolton.

Like other family owned businesses it gave Bolton a prestigious feel.

But times change and Whiteheads closed in 1995 having been taken over by JR Taylor in the 1990s.

Competition was increasing as the larger conglomerates started to take over the high street.

Even staples such as BHS would finally have to shut up shop. This once hugely popular department store had been in Bolton for 50 years.

This year will see the demise of Prestons — the once family-owned business we featured last week in Looking Back.

We will also say farewell to Beales which was once the go to department store for all the family’s needs and owned at one time by the Whitakers — a famous Bolton family well known in the area and renowned for quality.

This was a time when there were no major department store chains. Bolton families owned Bolton stores including Prestons, Whiteheads and Whitakers.

Whitakers started life almost 200 years ago — in 1829 — when Mr Richard Stockdale, who would later become the Mayor of Bolton opened a drapery shop at number 22, Deansgate.

In 1840 John Whitaker was born near Bolton Abbey and came to our Bolton as a bound apprentice in the drapery business.

After some years in the town he opened a business in Tyldesley in partnership with a Mr Cain. The pair then bought Mr Stockdale’s business and in 1874 Mr Whitaker bought out Mr Cain and the business became known as John Whitaker.

In 1902, Mr John Whitaker died as a result of a tragic accident. He was then aged 62 and his son, also called John, took over the family firm.

When John died in 1934 the business was taken over by his sons, Sidney, Frank, Percy and Bernard Whitaker.

In 1907 the present Tudor building we see in Deansgate was opened and it went from strength to strength providing all manner of clothing, shoes, perfumery and lingerie.

Whitakers’ window displays won countless awards and at Christmas Santa was a popular attraction.

Whitakers was bought by Beales in 1996, continuing the long held tradition for good quality clothing and household items with a personal service offered to shoppers.

Sadly Beales is now to close ending an era in Bolton.

The shop has many traditional, famous features.

Gone are the wooden counters were shop assistants would wait to greet their customers and gone also is a beautifully carved wooden staircase which would lead customers from the ground to the first floor.

An iconic symbol of the store is the turret at the front of the building.

Back in 1907 it was used as the Town Cafe and Tearoom and contained elegant tables and chairs, pretty potted plants and even a bird cage.

Shopping was a major expedition for families in Bolton during the early half of the 20th century.

A day out at Whitakers would not be unheard of to buy adults clothing and kit out the children too. Today many people buy on line or shop in huge centres — a far cry from the dream John Whitaker had for his customers back in 1874.