Our History

Our History

Our History


Milners story begins

Milners’ story begins in 1883 when draper Christopher Milner, age 30, had a vision to bring everyday fashionable items to Wensleydale. The first Milners’ store opened in Hawes and Christopher spent the early years taking products to customers with his horse and trap, closely supported by his wife and five sons.

Picture shows the original shop in Hawes in the early 1900s.


First advertisment

Milners’ first advertisement read ‘New materials in dress goods, prints, galateas and skirtings’ with ‘Mrs Milner, having considerable experience in first class millinery and dress-making, intends making her first show of all the leading shapes in hats and bonnets’.

Further stores were opened by his sons in Kirkby Stephen, Bentham, Appleby and in Leyburn, up to the start of the 2nd World War Milners shop was where the current Co-op is and it ran its own tea room on the 1st floor. 

Original location in Leyburn circa 1930.


Third and fourth generation Raymond Milner and his son David moved into the present building in Leyburn in 1966 along with a shop and warehouse in Middleham


The building in Leyburn was three storey and had great potential for development which fit in with Raymond and David’s plans, first backwards and down into a basement, then further backwards and finally in the early 90’s they went up and created a showroom on top of the ground floor extension.  Over the years, Milners kept true to its origins of retailing anything to do with fabrics, from clothing (mens, womens and childrens plus nightwear and underwear), bedding and towels, blinds, curtains and haberdashery and wool.  It was David who introduced carpets, beds and furniture in the early 90’s, and so decked out the new 1st floor showroom.


Leonie and Keith take on the business

In 2006, David’s daughter Leonie and son-in-law Keith moved up from Reading with their daughters, to eventually take the helm from David who was wanting to retire.  It certainly wasn’t an easy transition, they even had a BBC4 documentary crew following them about for 9 months for a fly on the wall (tongue in cheek) programme about running a small independent department store and the handing over the reins from one generation to the next.


Once David retired in April 2008, Keith and Leonie were ready to put their own stamp on the business and move it forwards as their idea of the future in retail. They started with a new shop window and the 1st of 3 brand developments that would happen over the next 13 years.  There was plenty of work needed to be done to get the business running to the standard they adhered to, with the help of all the team (past and present) Milners of Leyburn had to be stripped right back to find its core values - Trust, Passion, Integrity, Customer Service and Teamwork, and with everyone singing from the same page, the business could re-grow.  


This idea is forever developing as the world around us changes.  In retail you have to be a chameleon if you want to survive, and Milners has certainly changed the way they look over the past century.  In 2020 with Covid and the pandemic, it was a prime time to once again find a way to move forwards to survive the unknown that lay ahead of us.  Leonie set up an online shop so that Milners could have a way of selling whilst the shop was shut, and to sit with that, Keith and Leonie invested in an EPOS system so that all the stock could be managed a lot easier from any computer and remotely - isn’t technology amazing!!


At the beginning of 2021 with the start of a second lockdown, it was time to re-develop the shop’s brand for the 3rd time, and hopefully the last for a long time.  The new branding was done to reflect how far the business had moved on over the years, dropping the ‘of Leyburn’ and identifying our longevity by adding Est 1883.  With an internal shop makeover and a new website not far behind ‘Milners Est 1883’ are still here and we will certainly be around hopefully for many years to come.


In 2022 we were delighted to be able to welcome customers back to the shop. Our team continued to grow with new members joining the Interiors department enabling us to offer our interior service to even more customers.