My family have been pawnbrokers for a very long time. In fact we have been in the trade for over 180 years and six generations. We began back in 1840 in Yorkshire and although that business has since ceased trading, the story continues and I have continued with family tradition and now have 8 stores across the north trading as Brown & Gold in Seacroft, Batley, Toxteth and Prescot and Christopher Brown Jewellers in York, Shipley, Liverpool and Pontefract.

Jewellery retail is a major part of the business and these shops sell Rolex and high value diamond rings as well as a great selection of pre-owned gold and diamond jewellery where there are some real bargains to be had.

The Pawnbroking business has evolved very little over time. In times gone by I remember my father telling me stories of lending on a penny farthing bicycle and a horse and trap and even a budgie in a cage! Most typically the small amounts borrowed were for everyday living and items pawned were blankets, ‘pit pants’ and Sunday best suits. Very little gold was actually owned especially as the country recovered from the effects of the two world wars.

Looking in the old pledge books you see entries like the following:

Monday 15th August 1938

Value lent 2 pounds 4 shillings and 3 pence (£3-4s-3d) Converted to today’s money and with inflation that’s £293.82.

Items Pawned throughout the day: 2 overalls, socks, a panty hose, stairs carpet, khaki shirt, 2 blankets a cap and some pit pants and a petticoat!

In fact it was only in the early 50’s that gold and silver became widely owned by the working man.

Today 95% of our loans are on gold jewellery, diamonds and luxury watches such as ROLEX. However we do also lend on electrical items such as smart phones, lap tops and game stations and will consider most things of value.

Today we also find people borrowing against carbon bikes and I-Phones and they can be just as valuable as a gold chain or a diamond ring, so if these are the greatest possessions of the new generation then the modern pawnbroker should move with the times. When you think about it, perhaps things just haven’t really moved on!

Probably the biggest change has been the reasons people wish to borrow the cash. More regularly than ‘making ends meet’ it’s to grab a bargain on a foreign holiday where customers may need to pay the balance immediately. Another need is for business loans to meet a payment schedule or pay that months wages when cash flow is short and every month we seem to lend money to help a family hold ‘the best wedding ever’. 

At the end of the day a pawnbroking loan is just a secured loan and as long as the item we lend against is worth more than the value of the loan, we will consider it as a potential pledge. If the customer cannot repay the loan only then do we look to sell it to recoup the money that’s owed. The loan is typically for 7 months and we can set up payment plans to help our customers repay their debt, so we are proud to have a redemption rate that is over 80% and its only vary rarely that items get left in our possession.  

I will keep the old pledge books on display in our 5 Yorkshire stores for this month at Batley, Seacroft, York, Pontefract and Shipley so you are welcome to come and have a browse through them. 

If you are an old customer from the earlier generations, pop in and make yourself known – I would love to hear your story and see if we can share it in next month’s diaries or on our website Or email 

Chris Brown


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