THERE was a public outpouring of sympathy – well, a couple of kind messages, at least – when Memories 481 included an 1891 poster advertising Iley’s Cheap Supply Stores in Shildon, which promised “teeth carefully extracted”.

Memories itself was suffering a lockdown dental emergency and, after two weeks of agony, our tooth has been most carefully extracted.

But what of Mr Iley?

Peter Reynolds got the ball rolling, and discovered that William Henry Iley lived in Smithfield House at 25, Main Street, Shildon, which, by strange coincidence, is today a dentist.

Then Tom Hutchinson sent details from his 2010 book, Glimpses of Shildon & Its People, where we actually get a glimpse of Mr Iley standing at the door of his shop, which was on Garbutt Street (Garbutt Street was behind Main Street). He’s got his white apron tied tightly around his waist – perhaps he’s ready to carefully extract a tooth – and he’s probably standing with his eldest son, Thomas, who was born in 1869.

And what a shop window! The picture shows that Mr Iley’s chemist’s shop doubled as a wine merchants, and he’s advertising all manner of products: Lingford’s Akala Saline, Koko hair treatment, Spratts Patent Chicken Meal and Fels’ Naptha.

The Northern Echo:

Fels’ Naptha is fascinating. You can still get it. It’s a laundry soap, introduced by the Fels family of Philadelphia in 1893 – only it no longer contains naphtha, as it did in Mr Iley’s day, as this potentially explosive hydrocarbon is now considered a cancer risk.

But at least it got the shirts of Shildon clean.

The Fels’ Naptha advert is a clue to dating the picture.

The Northern Echo:

Perhaps there are a couple more clues: there’s a large poster in the left hand window saying “Final, Play up Shildon”, and another advertising a “grand cricket match” between Shildon St John’s and Evenwood.

Tom Hutchinson’s research shows that Mr Iley himself was born in Wolsingham in 1846 where his father was a master shoemaker.

He married Catherine, from Grinton, and they had six children – one of their daughters was called Adelena. But Catherine died young in the early 1880s, and in 1885, Mr Iley remarried Sarah, from Stepney, who, at 26, was 13 years his junior. He died in 1913, aged about 67.

He did well in life: the 1881 census shows the family had a live-in servant, 16-year-old Jane Proud, living with them in Main Street.

And late 19th Century maps show that between Main Street and Garbutt Street there was a terrace of about seven houses called Iley Street – this must suggest that as well as tooth extraction, he dabbled in a bit of property development.

The area behind Main Street has long since been cleared, and although new homes have been built on the old street pattern, Iley Street has disappeared – it is now just a parking bay off Maughan Street.

Times have moved on, and so, thankfully, have dental procedures.