Sea-change: Wivenhoe Remembered - About Shops
Once upon a time Wivenhoe's small shops could satisfy the needs of residents
Page created by Peter Hill, copied from the earlier Wivenhoe Encyclopedia website
One of the changes in Wivenhoe life most regretted is the sharp decline in the number of shops, especially in the High Street, where there were twenty shops active in the 1930s, providing for all regular needs. However, then as now, there were also shops at The Cross and scattered elsewhere.
We had everything – Ellen Primm
My mother used to say, ‘I don’t know what’s happened to all our lovely shops we used to have.’ Because we used to go down shopping every Thursday and my mum got her pension at the Post Office and my younger sister and me, we all went down shopping, we went down and pay our papers and there were shops you could go to, the butchers, the bakers, and all that – you can’t do that sort of thing now. I think it’s a shame.
We had three butchers – Mr Rivens, Mr Everett, Mr King. Three bakers – Miss Franks, Mr Last, Mr Cracknell. And two lovely grocers shops –Jimmy Moore; and Stacey Woods, beautiful grocers. You’d go in and you could smell the coffee. That was always weighed. And then we had a household shop where you could buy curtains, towels, sheets, anything in that line. A chemist – Mr Corlip. Newsagents. Three sweet shops – Mrs Blutts, Mrs Barrett, Mrs Stewart. And of course Mr Green, the fish shop. And there was a cycle shop. Mrs Bailey sold clothes, shoes, anything to wear. And Mr Chaney, hardware, all nails and hammers and paraffin oil. Really you didn’t need to go out of Wivenhoe in those days. Now there’s nothing.
You had so many shops. You could really buy anything in the village when I was young and now you can buy nothing, except groceries. We always had a paper shop. And there was the radio and electric shop next to it. And there was a shop in Queen’s Road which went on for some time, but when I was little – it was the funniest shop out! I mean, hygiene standards weren’t observed at all in those days! You’d find sacks of sugar with little mice creeping about round them and nibbling holes in the bottom and that sort of thing! But it didn’t seem to affect us! We were all all right.
FAMILY SHOPS – Marjorie Goldstraw
I was born in Black Buoy Cottage, but they lived at the Tollgate and then they started the dairy at 1 East Street , and it’s called ‘Nonsuch House’ now. I suppose my granddad, he’d got an idea about starting a dairy. He had a good business head and that was progress. And it was a dairy and the milk used to come over the ferry from Fingringhoe. And they sold vegetables as well and they were measured not on scales, those days, they were bushel skips – half bushel and bushel. And one of the daughters, she used to stand on the bushel skip to serve the vegetables as soon as she was old enough. The bushel skip was a big round that exactly measured that weight, a bushel and a half bushel. The counter was so high she had to stand on the skip. And Granny Payne had 12 children one after the other, and ran a dairy as well. It must have been dreadful! They must have bought the vegetables in. But, mind, he had the big garden on the Belle Vue Road , with a well and quince trees, so he might have grown a lot as well. He was a real character. He had a pony and trap. The first job in the morning was to scrub the whole place out, because with milk…I used to scrub the outside step on to the East Street and then it was serving in the shop all day because it was a general shop as well, they had everything – brooms, glassware, pottery – and the dairy served as the main source of income. The dairy was 2 East Street .
Next door was the bakery where people took their dinners, because those ovens stopped hot and the cakes, and Christmas cakes, and every day people took their dinner there. Just stick it in the oven and it’d cook it, although the oven had gone off. Plenty of time.
There were no end of shops. The fish shop was opposite, and a hardware shop, that was opposite. There was a butcher’s at the bottom, a Mr Ribbons. And then as you go up Alma Street , there was a grocery shop on your right, and at the end of East Street was a sort of arty shop. And then you turned the corner where the Deli is, and it was a drapers and sold lino, rugs, the lot. And then right opposite that was another bakery, and two doors up from that was a little old lady with a sweet shop, and next to that was another bakery. The trade people didn’t go into Colchester , there was no need. Then further up, as you turned down to the school – Phillip Road – there was a, a really big grocery shop there. The Bartons had it in the end, didn’t they, but it was a big grocery shop when I was young. Then there was a cobbler next to that – Sloddie Walker. And just a little further up, next to the Greyhound, was a lovely drapery shop with lovely babywear and everything. And opposite that Mr Glozier, he was a barber and he kept sweets as well. And Joliffe’s Yard, as it is now, the coalman had. You’d go there and order the coal. And then there was a little Post Office. And further up from that was Lloyds Bank, well, that closed, and a milliner took that on, made lovely hats, so if you wanted to go to a wedding, you didn’t have to go into Colchester . And then I don’t think there was any more shops till you came to the Park Hotel, which is the pub, but there were 21 pubs all in that area. There were the Anchor, on Anchor Hill, and the Shipwright’s Arms down West Street, and the Yachtsman’s Arms, all geared to the river, and sailors used to come, you see, you know what sailors were like! And bargees, they all used these pubs.
The shopkeepers were the elite, weren’t they, if you had a business. I mean, all my mother’s brothers, they’d all got a business. We thought we were the poor of the place but Granny came to the Tollgate and then opened the dairy.
Shopping with a Ration Book – Olive Whaley
At one point, I used to go into Colchester , to the International, and I could go round the International and do my shopping, and then they would deliver it. I can remember bringing it home in bags on the bus, but they did used to deliver it, from the International. I used to go down to the butchers and, of course, we had Ration Books. We were still rationed until it must have been 1954 because I can remember I had a Ration Book for Lynn, and she was born in 1953 – that’s how I remember that – otherwise the years do seem to telescope, don’t they! So during the War you had to register with a grocer, and you couldn’t say, ‘I’ll go to Sainsbury’s this week, and the International the next, and the Co-op the next,’ you were registered with who you wished to be and that’s where you got your rationed groceries from.
All the shopping was done here – Halcyon Palmer
Nobody went to Colchester , so anything you needed you bought here. We had two wool shops – one which has now been made into a house, more or less opposite the Rollo Estate Agents, and then there was another one more or less two doors from Jimmy Moore, next to the newsagent, who was called Slaughter in those days. And there you could buy the odd little dress, I remember, and certainly shoes and Wellington boots.
All the shopping was done here, with very occasional forays into Colchester . One of the things that you couldn’t get here, for example, when the Wartime came, one of my brothers was a vegetarian, and my mother used to get things like dried bananas in Colchester . There were some things and better clothes, overcoats and that sort of thing, but for ordinary, everyday stuff, if she said she was going shopping, she meant she was just going to Stacey Woods or across the road to Jimmy Moore’s.
We had two hardware shops. We had Chaneys, who was on the corner of Queen’s Road and the High Street and he was a lovely man, he was charming. And the funny thing about him was that there was often a notice on the door, saying, ‘Back in five minutes,’ but, of course, nobody knew when he’d left!
Uncle Percy Chaney: An ironmonger with status – Dennis Sparling
There were various kind of shopkeepers which were important. They weren’t just shopkeepers, they were somebody in the village. They definitely had a status. The most highly prized man was Percy Chaney, and everybody used to call him ‘Uncle Percy,’ because he had the ironmonger’s shop which is now an estate agents, opposite the old Post Office, on that little corner. Well, that used to be his ironmonger’s shop. And he had a paraffin store round the back so if you wanted paraffin – which, of course, lots of the lighting was paraffin oil lights – you had to go and get your paraffin from Mr Chaney. And he had this kind of shop which had been stocked in about 1900 and never actually replenished! And I went there in 1954 and we were doing up the house that we lived in in the High Street, and I wanted a pair of two-way hinges. You couldn’t buy them anywhere. It wasn’t anything that was made during the War. And I went and saw Mr Chaney, and I said, ‘That’s what I want, Mr Chaney.’ And he said, ‘I’ve got some upstairs somewhere’ – and he had a loft to that place – and he went out and about 20 minutes later he came down with two pairs of these magnificent brass hinges that had been ordered for a yacht in about 1920 and he’d still got them in the loft, and he knew they were there but he didn’t know where they were, but he got them! They were actually fixed to a pair of doors in the kitchen of Appledore in the High Street in Wivenhoe, where we lived – so as we could go in through the kitchen both ways, without having to open it and pass the door. He had a telephone in the shop. So if you needed a telephone – not that we knew anybody with a telephone – Uncle Percy Chaney would use it for you. You didn’t go round the counter. But I can’t imagine anybody in Wivenhoe wanting to use the telephone, to be quite honest.
Home delivery – Olive Whaley
Mr Stickley the greengrocer didn’t have a shop. He used to come round with a horse and cart, he was the greengrocer. Mr Clarence, he was another greengrocer. Mr Newman, he came a bit later, I think, because I’m talking really, now, before the War, actually. And, of course, the coal was all brought by horse and cart. And the Co-op had a bread van which came. It was horses and carts very much after our childhood. The Co-op bread van, but the Co-op bread used to come from Colchester . And the Co-op had a coal lorry. And Jolliffe’s had a coal cart, and when I was very little, Mr Gladden had a coal cart. It was all coal fires, wasn’t it, so there was quite enough to keep four coal merchants going, even though the village was a lot smaller.
When we moved here in 1963 we had a lot of people who used to call twice a week, with a van or a lorry, so on Tuesday and Friday there would be greengrocery, and on Wednesday it would be the butcher…there was a lot of that. A lot of people used it. It was terrific service, really. You don’t realise it until you haven’t got it any more.
Shops on the Cross – Ray Hall
The shops on the Cross, as a kid there, what is now the Spar, was a little tiny shop, with a little wooden affair on the side, and the first people I remember in there, their name was Wilson, and that was one of the first places I ever remember getting an ice cream, and they were Lyons, I think she sold. And then Mr and Mrs Hart took it over, and after them, another people by the name of Wilson again. But the Post Office there, that was run by Nellie Wade, a dear old girl, really, and she had a sister, and another, I assume a friend, lived there at the Post Office. But she mostly did the Post Office, and they had a little shop beside it, and they sold anything from cottons to elastics, and notebooks and that, and sweets, of course.
A self-sufficient community – Sue Kerr
I think Wivenhoe was really a self-sufficient community, as regards shops, when I was a small child [in the 1940s]. My father’s wasn’t the only butchers’ shop in Wivenhoe, there were at least two others. One, the Co-op butchers, was in what is now a residential premises called Butchers, and near to the Black Buoy, run latterly by Terry Endean – another lad that used to go up to Colchester to school on the bus, I might say!
The Greens were in the fish business for many generations, so fresh fish and fish and chips from members of the Green family. Our milk was delivered by Mr Lennox from Vine Farm, that’s now a dwelling house lived in by Dr Durance (?), and the Vine Farm Estate is named after the farm. But he wasn’t the only milkman in Wivenhoe, his rival was almost exactly opposite – Mr Watsham! Where the new Fire Station is, that was the other dairy farm in Wivenhoe. And there was certainly one, if not two bakers – Mr Ennew was the baker that we patronised.
There was a Co-op in Wivenhoe, in the same place the Co-op is, but a much older building. My mother didn’t patronise the Co-op store in Wivenhoe but her groceries came from Stacey Wood, a general grocer, whose shop was then taken over by the Barton family. The shop was in the High Street, near to the railway bridge, right on the corner of Phillip Road . Quite old premises with cellars.
There was also the odd shop on Spion Kop. There used to be a shop there that sold until quite late, I would think, mid-Sixties/Seventies, I would have thought. Mr Raven used to run that. He took over, for a while the Moore ’s shop and then when he got older he moved up to Spion Kop.
Fishmongers? Well, we had Greens in East Street . Millions of sprats! We ate sprats – what I remember is sprats and shrimps, picking shrimps, which I love but perhaps that was just because it was the things I liked! We bought them from Green’s. Mr Green then had a big family, some of whom still live around here – quite a few of them. And the fish was frying every evening and it was really quite an asset to the village. I guess a lot of people used it. We didn’t have it very often but it was a great treat to us when we did!
Quite self-contained – Martin Newell
Wivenhoe was quite self-contained. There was Bartons, which was great! It was just a brilliant, all-purpose village grocery shop. This would have been about’75/’76 of course. What we call the Deli now I think it was called London Stores then, and it was a rather more expensive food shop, and that was run by Mr and Mrs Fish, I think. God, there was Peggy Wools. There was Carrington’s – this is typical Wivenhoe –a chemist’s that didn’t have a dispensing licence, so you still had to go up the top! They just never applied for it. That was Carrington’s. They had everything – sunburn cream, sunglasses, but still everyone always had to go up the top of the village! There was a carpet shop, there was a women’s hairdressers. There was Alan Hayes, the family butchers, although he never butchered my family! He burst into my room one day with a meat cleaver, ‘Ahhhh! Your granny!’
And where Pam Dan lives in Queen’s Road, there was a shop called Self’s. That was the kind of shop that would be open on Sunday mornings when nobody else was. It would have Mother’s Pride, tinned soup, dog food, bog roll, a bit of ham, not as exotic as the Deli, not as fully comprehensive and practical, but just a handy shop, the demand was there. There wasn’t a Tescos. People didn’t have so many cars. There were little shops all over the place, actually. They’ve gone. There was a shop on the corner where the estate agents is – Spicer McColl – and just along from the fish shop was an ironmongers run by Jack Mallett, and a jolly good one at that, that sold bits of 2×4, and nails, and pots of paints.
Change in the High Street – Pat Smith
Opposite to the Greyhound has changed [since 1979], where the estate agents is, because over there was Glozier’s, the barbers’ shop, so that bit has changed. But apart from that, the High Street hasn’t really changed a great deal. The shops have changed, I mean, what’s in them. We had Barton’s, there was a shop opposite called Talismans, which was a gift shop. The delicatessen, of course, is still there, although it’s become possibly a bit more upmarket than it was when we first moved here. It was a bit more of a general grocery shop really. It was run by a man who used to sail a lot, and I think he looked upon it as supplying the boats a bit, that sort of thing. We had Malletts, the ironmongers in Brook Street . What else was here? On Anchor Hill, there was a little sort of lean-to bit built on number 1, that was when we first moved here, a little boutique, and after that, I think it was Sue Ryder, it was certainly a charity shop. The Tea Rooms sold knitting wool and general haberdashery. And the little bit on the side, at one point, was an antique shop, and then became a greengrocers. The video shop was an antique shop. So, as I say, you know, the actual contents of the shops have changed a lot, but the actual buildings haven’t changed all that much.
Varieties of shop
Groceries and greengroceries
The Co-op – Olive Whaley
If you had your groceries, say, from the Co-op, you’d have your Order Book, and Mum would write down what she wanted this week, and she’d send me across to the Co-op, and then the boy would deliver it, and then she’d have to go across and pay for it. So it all worked all right. And if you did go to the Co-op, Mr Jenkins, I think he was the Manager, he used to wear these long white cuffs to keep his jacket clean, and an apron that was buttoned on to his top button of his waistcoat, and he was on the dry counter and they’d measure out the sugar in blue bags, and the same with the currants and sultanas, and the tea was all measured out. And on the wet side, of course, they all wore white jackets, and that’s where you got your bacon and that sort of thing, but you had to go each side and get what you wanted so if there were a lot of people you’d got to wait twice! Sawdust on the floor. That was the Co-op. And there were four or five butchers’ shops down at the bottom of the village, all the sawdust on the floor and lots of flies in the windows, but that’s how things were, wasn’t it!
Supermarket at Vine Parade – Lynda Edwardson
We came down to visit Gary and Christine one day, and Gary , being a very good friend of Richard, I asked him to speak to him, and they came back from their chat, and said, ‘We’re going to buy the shop,’ and that was it! That would have been 1987, we actually moved in on February 29th, 1988 – so leap year day! We’ve changed the shop. We’ve put the porch on with the sliding doors, which has made disabled/wheelchair access much easier, and we’ve had several re-fits, so inside the shop has changed. We moved the tills around, because they were the usual queue up type ones, and now it’s a sort of a long counter, so we’ve altered it in that respect.
When it was built, it was actually a big supermarket, the building was built in about the early 1960s. Of course, supermarkets, in those days, were quite a new thing, so it was a big building for that sort of shop. I’ve heard tales that it. At one time, part of it was a launderette – because the whole shop actually takes up three numbers, it’s 1, 3 and 5, Vine Parade. And I don’t know what happened, but history records that one part was a launderette at one time.
When we first took the shop on we employed probably about eight or ten people. We needed, at that time, a full-time butcher, and we had another chap who was a bit like a manager, he helped us enormously when we first went into the shop, because we knew nothing. And opening from eight in the morning till then it was only half past seven at night, so you needed quite a few staff to cover, and so Richard and I did about 12 hours each most days. And in those days, we only worked a half-day Sunday – those were the days! We’ve only extended till nine o’clock at night. We needed to, because we needed to get in more money because we were slowly going bust, and so we opened up and saw what time the trade sort of fell away, which turned out to be about nine o’clockish, and we’ve stuck to that ever since. In Wivenhoe, we were the first ones to open till nine, and then where we lead, others follow! No, not really!
Tescos is a different animal. People go in there for big shops, for big family bulk buying, and they come to shops like us for extras and add-ons, and small bits – you’re not going to queue up in Tescos for a loaf of bread, you pop into the likes of Londis. Londis is a buying group. Originally, when we first joined up, we bought a share in Londis, and every shop which has the Londis logo had a share, one share, in Londis, and Londis itself had warehouses and their own lorries, so they could then approach the manufacturers and say to them, ‘ We have 1800 shops, what deals can you do for us?’ The likes of Tescos, and Sainsbury’s, ASDA, they go on market share, they say to the manufacturers, ‘We have this much market share, we expect this much discount,’ and Londis were able to wheel and deal on a similar basis, not quite as well, but they did pretty well.
It’s leased with some lovely people who have been very kind to us over the years. It was originally owned by a lady called Mrs Wadley. They helped us out hugely. I mean, there was one time when we were really struggling, and they forewent the rent for about three months. And then they fixed it for quite a long time. Then when we put the porch on, we renegotiated the lease, because, obviously, the porch is adding to the property – it doesn’t do Richard and I any good, apart from the fact that it looks quite nice, you know. So they’ve been very helpful to us. The sons now have taken it over because Mr and Mrs Wadley have both died, unfortunately, but they’re very good as well.
Now we employ about 18 people in the shop, and we have a full-time manager manageress. I do the paperwork. Richard oversees the shop more now, which is nice. When we first took the shop over, it ran us, and now we run it. It was such a huge learning curve, and a very big adventure for us, and it was interesting to note, every now and again, you’d think, I’ve got control of that portion of the shop,’ you know, ‘I understand where I’m going with it now,’ and ‘I know how much to order,’ or whatever. So Richard does most of that now, and I do the paperwork.
Wivenhoe grows on you! I loved Galleywood, where we lived before. We had a huge circle of friends and acquaintances, and then to move to Wivenhoe was a very big culture shock because we knew nobody but everybody knew us, because they came in the shop. So you’d walk down the street, and you’d have to have a big smile on your face because you didn’t want to offend anybody! So that was nice, and people in Wivenhoe are very friendly.
Greengrocers – Pat Green
My parents took the shop on in 1948, 43 High Street . It was a butcher’s shop one time and Dad took it over as a lock-up shop because there was people living in the house next door to it, in 1948, and just as a greengrocers. It was just local produce and you had a job to get tinned stuff and that in those days. That used to be local produce from farms, and pick up stuff, like that. It was a case of a lady came in with her basket, weighed the stuff in, and you just tipped the things into the basket, or you wrapped stuff into newspaper. That was how it went. The house became vacant so Mum and Dad decided to buy the house next door and we knocked the front room into the shop, so that made it larger. We then sold ice cream, groceries, flowers, we done wreaths, which we didn’t make but we went over to somebody in Bentley who done them, bouquets and wreaths and things like that.
Taking over, and moving to the new shop – Pat Green
When I left school I went down and helped Mum and Dad full-time in the shop. Gradually helped Dad decide what we wanted to buy because we never went to London then, we relied on the wholesalers and still relying on local farmers. But as the years progressed and things become more modern my dad become a little bit ill, so my husband said, ‘Yes, we’ll take over the business’. We took over the business, I suppose that would be about 1970.
We were there for two years, and the property opposite the side of the road, near the school, was a off-licence, and that became vacant so we decided to buy it. We paid £20,000 for the property! That’s 48 High Street , right opposite. That was quite a laugh when we decided to move all the stuff over! We wanted more space and more expansion, and it was such a lovely premises, with the cellar down there where we could put the stock. There wasn’t no room to put stock over the other side, you see, nothing at all. We just said, ‘Right!’ That was 1973. Of course, then business was still absolutely fantastic then. There weren’t all these supermarkets. Supermarkets were only just starting to come in then. In them days, we just had ordinary groceries and things like that. Nothing was really modern. I had at one time, one, two, three, had four part-time staff, two on each time Saturdays, three on times, and we had a queue all morning. It was go full ahead and scrub out Saturday nights.
We used to have half a day on a Wednesday in them days, and Sunday mornings we used to open for a couple of hours, but that was before the law was about, before the supermarket law. In them days, you could open provided you didn’t sell any non-perishable goods like tinned-stuff and things like that. You could sell fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, but you couldn’t sell grocery and tinned stuff, unless you came off of a boat. So if anybody checked up on us, we used to open a tin of peas, and say, ‘Right, it’s perishable now!’ You know, that was quite a good trade, then, on a Sunday morning. We used to open from about 10 till one o’clock.
Then things got on and we decided that we’d start going to London market, my husband and me. We built a great big cold room downstairs, so we used to go up to the station. But now, it’s at Leytonstone, now, the great big new place. It’s beautiful! The alarm used to go off at quarter past two, and we used to leave here at quarter to three, we’d be in the market by four o’clock, we’d buy, get loaded up or go and buy first, and while they were bringing the stuff out, just to lay round the van, we’d go and have a cup of tea and a roll, or a sandwich or something, or some fried breakfast, come back, load up, and we’d be back hopefully by about quarter to eight, to unload. I had one of my girls, women, used to come in, I used to give her the key, just in case we had a hold up on the way there. Get back, unload it all, slide it all down the cellar, because there was a nice chute down there. Then we’d go and price everything up, what we were going to do for the price for the whole week, for the weekend. Well, my husband went and sat in the chair and had a couple of hours sleep, you know, because he’s been driving, and I had a sleep on the way up, so it weren’t too bad. And I used to put all the fresh stuff out, sort it all out, put all the new prices out, you know, arrange everything, and as I say, by Thursday, we were quite tired.
When we moved over, we were doing flowers, and we were still doing wreaths, we were doing plants, we were doing greengrocery, we were doing grocery – and that covers all the grocery lines – and the greengrocery was full groceries. You get some of these grocers, now, like the Spar, do greengrocery, but mine was full greengrocery, you know, it really was everything, down to some of the unusual produce. Well, there was all the usual stuff, and I used to have peppers and avocados, when we first started, were quite an unusual thing, but we used to have those, aubergines, anything anybody decided they want, we’d get – anything what we liked the look of in the market, we’d get, and try to sell.
All the fruits, all the different kinds of fruits, and always about four different varieties of apples, two or three different sizes of oranges, lemons, grapefruit, and pink grapefruit when they were in season, pineapples, melons, pretty well what the supermarkets stock today, we stocked.
Over to self-service
Then I think we fancied some new fittings, and we had ones like they’ve got in some of the supermarkets, that light up. So we decided to go over to self-service but then we didn’t want to completely go over, so we were at the door taking the money, because there were the groceries so we did half and half. We thought, by going over completely like the supermarkets by then, down Wivenhoe, it become not so personal. We wanted to keep it friendly and personal. I didn’t want so many staff, and I tried to avoid serving so much, because I wanted to be in the shop filling up, tidying up the bins and the stands and all that, and chat to the customers in general.
We done a delivery, by then, we’d got our regular customers, anybody who wanted to order, they could either ring it up and we’d get it up and we’d take it round, or we’d got our regular week’s round, Gordon would go and pick the orders up and come back, and get them up and take them the next day for them. He’d got a lot of old customers there where somebody would say, ‘I want an electric light bulb,’ so Gordon said, ‘Yes, I’ll go and get it,’ and he’d come back and he’d put it in for them, you know. Or, ‘I could do with a paper today,’ ‘Right, we’ll go and get it.’ Or, ‘I want some notepads,’ you know, and we’d do them kind of little jobs like that for them. We still liked to be friendly and personal.
Old and new vegetables – Pat Green
Going back to 1948, you never had much fruit, only in season. Just after the War, you didn’t have bananas and you didn’t have oranges. You only got bananas on green Ration Books. Me, the only child, I didn’t get many. But after about 1948 the produce started coming in. You didn’t get a lot, you may have got a few oranges coming in, but you never got the countries where they came from beforehand. You mainly got the English apples, because, in them days you had a lot more varieties of apples. People only know Cox’s now, but you got D’Arcy Spice, and Blenheims, and Charles Ross, plus the Cox’s, you know, and then you got the Bramley and Howgate Wonders, and then you got the pears, different kind of pears. You used to be able to get a little pear called a ‘Jolly Mount.’ It was a very small pear, not as big as a egg, hardly. We used to go over to Ardleigh, to an old place where there was a great big old tree, and they used to pick them in buckets, on about Armistice Sunday, and bring them back and store them in the shed, and then get them out about two weeks before Christmas, and they used to be beautiful. And you could get another pear which, when you put it in the oven, went pink, really pink. You got so many different varieties of apples which all died out now. People only know the foreign apples now.
You’d never heard of avocados and things like that. You got that, people used to come in the shop, ‘Oh, what’s that?’ ‘Oh, that look funny,’ and you had to try to explain to them what it was. They had what they called a Fruit Federation, we used to go to conferences, so you got people all over the Essex area and East Anglia, and London, used to have a two or three day conference at Harrogate or somewhere like that, and people used to discuss things, so then you could pick up recipe books and little titbits, and I used to buy recipe books and read about it, and try to explain to them what you done with it, and how you could cook it. And when the aubergines come in, you had to try to explain to them how you cooked it, and what was nice. And, of course, being in a small place like Wivenhoe, they’re all older people, it took a lot of them a long time to pick up new ideas. Or even try to try them!
Expanding the stock – Pat Green
Most of the stuff didn’t come in washed, like it do now, it came in just as it came off the field, you know, nice and natural. The housewife, now, has got to have it all washed and prepared. Towards the very start, we did sell biscuits and they came in the tins, all loose. A few tins of tinned vegetables and tinned fruits and things like that. And then we gradually diversified into doing a little bit more and a little bit more, and then we started on the soap powders, you know, and the toilet rolls, and then we realised that half of that shop weren’t big, so we had to take the front room, but then we started on more stuff. My dad was a rare one. He was still in business, he’d go up to Cash and Carry and bring some baking tins back, odds and ends like that, so we had to have a little spot for all them kind of things. And as I say, I always went and got some flowers.
Some people said, ‘Oh, I wish you’d stock this,’ and ‘stock that,’ and we stocked it and we found out it didn’t sell! So in the end we stocked what we thought people would like. You got somebody who would ask for something unusual and you’d get it for them and they’d buy one, and you’d have the rest laying on the shelf. So in the end we stuck to the general produce – lots of different coffees, lots of teas, and the sugars and the caster sugars and the flour, and the butters and the marge, OXOs and Bistos and all the soap powders, and the dog foods and the cat foods, and you stocked that kind of general stock what people wanted, but none of the unusual stuff in the tinned line.
[There’s] pleasure in stocking up and making sure it was all nice and fresh. And when we had the new fittings I used to make sure I never had a load of apples together and a load of oranges together, I used to put a orange and some lemons together, with an apple, then some oranges again, so I had a green apple, and then I’d do an orange and that, then I’d put a red apple. And the same with salad stuff, so one colour would contrast the other one. And there’s the Spar shop now, they just shove everything in there and they don’t keep an eye on it.
Health food alcove – Pat Green
And then my daughter – under Jolliffe’s Yard, there’s those shops and offices. Opposite the Post Office, that little arcade thing. Well, when that was first built, there was a hardware shop, and a pet shop, and my daughter had one of them as a health food shop, only a small one, but she was working over the Cockayne’s apple fields, so my mother used to go down and serve, but it didn’t really pay. There was more outgoing than what there was coming in. We’d got a little alcove in the shop over there, so I suggested why don’t she move over to us, and we’d manage her little quarter, she had her own till, and owned that, and she’d come and pre-pack the stuff up after she left off work, and somebody would come in and they’d want something of Linda’s, so we’d just go in her little alcove and sell that. Well, she’d always got loose spices, she’d got about 60 jars, and you could buy just a little pinch of something, and you only paid about 20 pence for a little bit, and you’d pay about 80 or 90 pence for a jar. And all the soya stuff, and all the pulses and tofu, so that was amalgamated with that then.
Suppliers – Pat Green
By then, there wasn’t a lot of what I’d call local suppliers going now. You see, now, you notice, you don’t see a lot of them. And people who grew their own stuff, you’d get a lot of these farm shops, which were a thorn in my father’s side, because when he was on that, he used to say, ‘They don’t have none of the overheads, they don’t have none of the rates to pay, they don’t have none of the overheads, none of the inspections,’ that was a bit of a thorn in my father’s side, and that became a bit of a thorn in my side as well. A farmer could just put a stall outside one of his farm gates, and just sell it directly. And he had no overheads, and that was a little bit of a thorn in our sides in the early days. But now it’s completely different.
When Mum and Dad first started out, a lot of it used to come through a wholesaler and they used to pick up the stuff. But we used to pick up cauliflowers local, and we used to pick up potatoes local. Carrots, well, they never grew down this part, so you’d get Bedfordshire carrots, that’s the best soil up there for carrots. The Fen country used to have the best celery. Devon used to have the best swedes. I mean to say, you could get local swedes, and they tasted just as nice, but the Devonshire soil made them nice and red, nice and pink, where ours were all pale, but they still cooked up the same. That was just the look of the thing! And, of course, the wholesalers used to go to the market because we weren’t big enough to go up the market then, and they used to bring a lot of the local stuff, and they used to have the lorries to go and pick it up.
We used to go and pick up our own potatoes or later on, when we were selling so many in the winter time, we used to have about two ton get delivered by lorry and put in our potato shed – we had a proper potato shed and I could always do a man’s job by picking up a 55lb bag of potatoes and putting it on my shoulder and taking it in the potato shed, and I used to be able to unload that. And if a lady used to come up with a car, and, ‘Oh, I want a half hundredweight of potatoes’ – which was a 55lb bag – I used to go, ‘Right, I’ll go and get it.’ I used to go in the potato shed, put it on my shoulder, and go and put it in the boot. But what went down the chute had to come up the hard way, up the stairs! So I had to bring 40lb boxes of apples up from the cellar and 28lb bags of carrots up from the cellar. I never thought nothing of it. I used to have a lovely flat tummy! But since I’ve retired now, it’s not! I don’t think I could do all that lifting now!
A real pleasure to be in business – Pat Green
But, yes, in the early days that was a real pleasure to be in business. You knew everybody and it wasn’t such a hassle. You just sold stuff and there weren’t all these rules and regulations and VAT to sort out because that became a bit of a headache. My husband always done all the books and I always done all the buying in and selling. It was a bit of a joke – he was the brain and I was the brawn of the business! Mind you, he was still pretty hefty, because he was over six foot and a big solid man, but we managed, and we used to enjoy it. I’ve known us to be, on a Saturday, to be in the shop by seven, to sort things out, open at eight. Shut up at 5 o’clock, scrub the shop out, which we always done, cashed up, and then in them days, we used to have our friends, and we used to go perhaps to a dance or something like that, and we’d get to the dance and I’d be dancing till 12 o’clock. I don’t know where I got the energy from, sometimes!
This is what I always say to this day, it’s not what you put on the outside of your face, and the outside of your body, it’s what you put on the inside. And I never smoked and I always had the best of the vegetables and fruit and things like that. What we couldn’t sell, we had to try to eat!
Grocery van round – Ralph Moss
1936, I think it was, my mother and father-in-law decided to move here, into this bungalow, 55 The Avenue, and I came with them, slept in a little room at the back. Hadn’t been built long. There was only that one and this one next door, and the next one, then there was a spot of ground where Graham Wadley’s father and mother built the house while we were here. Anyway, we moved here and I went bought a van and went round selling all my wares. I didn’t bother about towns at all. Mersea, East Mersea . Frating – all round the countryside, selling groceries and what I used to produce in the garden, and anything I could get hold of! Used to get it all at Ketleys in Magdalen Street , when there was a big wholesaler there. Had my rounds. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday. Down to Peldon, and all round the place I used to go. I didn’t do anything in Wivenhoe. It was a good job, really. Talk to people, meet people – worries and everything. I used to get on very well. People used to look forward to me coming. ‘Oh, I must have something off him,’ you know. All the older people, it wasn’t the younger people. Cup of tea, a chat, a cake – stale one at times, in those days! Sometimes I used to have a ten-hour day!
I joined the Army in about 1936/37, Territorial. It was part-time, I’d still got my round. In 1939, they called us all up. And I didn’t go. I couldn’t, I’d got all my rounds to do and I kept putting it off! Lasted till the Military Police come and got me! I went off in the Army and got married.
When I had my own round I had all this land on this ground at the back here, one and three-quarter acres, it’s all built on now. I used to cultivate that. Had a tractor. Pig sties. Ducks. Chicken thing. Oh dear me! I was a busy man then! Or busy boy, rather! Used to do all that myself. Then when I went to Cyprus in 1963 I sold it. Everyone can talk in hindsight but I was silly really, I shouldn’t have sold the land when I did. I should have kept it, hung on to it till I retired, then it would have made a bomb!
The smell of bread – Halcyon Palmer
There were two bakers – real bakers that made the bread, and there was Lasts, which is where Valentino’s now is. There was Cracknells, where the Bakehouse is. And if you went there in the morning all the bread would be warm, and that was lovely! It smelled lovely! And they had their proper bakehouse at the back, and it was real bread!
Bakers’ delivery boys – Walter Wix
I wasn’t a great academic achiever by any manner of means! But eventually when I did leave school, which was at 14, I first of all went to work for a Miss Franks who ran one of the small bakeries. I was a baker boy and it was a marvellous little job because there was only three bakers in the place at the time – there was her, Billy Cracknell, and Duffield who had taken over the Last’s business, where my father was. So the round wasn’t all that big but it was sufficient (she was a spinster) to bring her in an income to live on, and she had a particular chap who baked for her and all I had to do, once I learned the ropes, was to do the round and deliver the bread every day which eventually I managed to do by lunchtime, and every afternoon was my own! And for that, I got ten shillings a week which was quite good money at the time. And that enabled me to spend a lot of time on the Quay, getting to know the ferryman in particular, which was a Mr Sainty and, of course, I got interested in boats and things. Mr Sainty was a very genial old chap. He ran the ferry for a considerable number of years and he got me interested. He used to take me for rides in the ferry boat, and eventually, afternoons when he’d go for a sail, he’d say, ‘You coming for a sail, boy?’ and, you know, I’d go and enjoy a trip down the river.
So that worked out quite well until the situation altered, because Miss Franks’ baker had been ill with a recurrent problem and I was only there filling in. I forget who used to do her baking in the meantime, but he was a chap by the name of Harold Payne, and when he came back, of course, he did the baking and the round as well, so that put me out of work. But at the same time as that happened one of the other bakers, i.e. Mr Duffield, whose baker and manager was a man named Arthur Cork, needed an additional baker boy, so I went from one bakery to the other one and stayed there until I was 16. There was a time in Wivenhoe I knew everybody in the place and if a property became vacant you kept your eye on it until you saw somebody was going to take it over, and if you could be on the door first to offer your bread for sale, you were!
Miss Franks had a bakery in East Street , and I used to deliver bread on Saturdays for her up at the Cross/Rectory Road area. And the bicycle had a little wheel on the front and a huge basket, and when that was loaded with bread, that was as much as I could do to pedal that, and often I used to fall over and the bread would go all over the road! People would say, ‘The bread’s dirty.’ I’d say, ‘Well, that’s how it came out of the oven!’ Well, I got two shillings for that, which was a lot of money in those days, delivering bread. It used to take me all afternoon.
Cycled and cycled – Charles Tayler
I was 13 when I left school. If you’d got a job you could leave school in them days. I left school in the August, summer holiday, and I started work the next day for old Ernie Cracknell. He used to have the bakery down the church and the son took over, Billy. Six o’clock in the morning I started work, and sometimes you never used to finish till eight or nine o’clock at night. We were still on the round. I cycled and cycled and cycled. I worked there until the War started . I came home in 1945, and went straight back to the Bakery, and that’s where I stopped till 1956.
When I started work I earned five shillings a week. I used to give my mother three shillings for board and lodgings and had two shillings for myself. It was only three shillings, but three shillings was a lot of money in them days, that was. A loaf of bread was only fourpence-ha’penny, a large loaf.
I went round delivering. Bert Sawyers had the van and I had a trade bike and I used to go back to the van and load the trade bike up, and do all the country lanes, I did. All the outer places I used to bike away on this old bike. It was lovely until one day I was biking up the Cross, I’d got a basket full – a big bike that was – and I had a basket full of hot bread just come out the oven, and there was thick snow on the road and I hit a skid, and I went in the ditch and the bread and all! Well, I got the bread out, that was soaking wet through, weren’t it! I was so scared I didn’t know what to do! Because a whole basket of bread had soaked all the snow up into it! I had to take it, go back to the van. The bread had to be dumped, didn’t it! I weren’t very popular .
Christmas box – Charles Tayler
There used to be a lot of rich people in Wivenhoe in them days. I can remember when I was doing the bread round at that time, working for Cracknell, Mr Loveless and Dr Radcliffe’s wife. Mr Loveless give me a half-sovereign for Christmas once! Well, that’s worth more than one whole year in wages! But I always got five shillings off Mrs Loveless and Dr Radcliffe’s wife. I got as much money as I was earning at work, off them two, for a Christmas box! Oh, I thought it was great! To get five shillings! I was only getting five shillings for working six days a week! I always got Mr Loveless those little crusty Coburg loaves. He used to like them – had two a day. He loved his bread crusty! That don’t matter if that was burnt on the top, I always used to pick him two lovely crusty loaves out, and he used to love it! I never spent his sovereign. I saved it. I kept it for a long while and then I did sell it one day, for about four or five pounds. They wanted to make a ring out of it, or something.
Taking over the bakery business – Charles Tayler
When I came back from the Middle East [from the war] I got two pounds, ten bob – fifty shillings a week. And then Cracknell sold out and a bloke called James took the bakery over, and I went with him and done the same work I’d had. I drove the van then, and he give me £5 a week. He didn’t stop there very long, and then he said to me one day, ‘Would you like to buy the Bakery? Because I’m moving on.’ So I said, ‘I can’t afford to buy that!’ So he said, ‘You can,’ he said, ‘We’ll go up to Marriages Mill and sort things out up at Marriages.’ And I took the old Bakery over then. I had it right up until 1956/58. I had about five people working for me. I built a big round up, and I used to do outside catering, weddings and dinners – I used to do all the dinners in Wivenhoe, and all the weddings in Wivenhoe in the Fifties. The Bakery is called ‘The Old Bakery’ now, right opposite the church.
Mr Mortlock the miller – Sue Kerr
The Mill House, on the corner of Rectory Road and Belle Vue Road , was still being run as a grain and livestock feed merchant, Mr Mortlock – a little tiny man with little bandy legs. I think his family had been in that business for generations. And their goods were delivered in a little pony and trap. Mousy was their little brown pony’s name, and Mousy, from the Mill, would deliver the animal feed and grain. They had great big scales to weigh the sacks of grain and animal feed stuff, and that was where I went to be weighed, to keep a check on my health and growth. My mother would say ‘You go up to Mr Mortlock’s to be weighed’ and it was a little occasion. You went up and behind those two rather ugly houses in Belle Vue Road , sort of triangular shaped, there was a long, low series of barns which smelled lovely of grain and flour – just a wonderful countryside smell. I used to stand on the scales. They were huge – huge sacks of grain could be weighed on them.
Butchers and Slaughterers
High class butcher – Sue Kerr
My father was Cecil Amos Everitt, and my mother was Kathleen Grace Everitt, formerly Harvey . My father had a butchers’ shop at 93 Crouch Street , Colchester , and my parents lived above the shop until the new house, Meadowcroft, was built in Wivenhoe. They chose Wivenhoe because my mother’s family, on both sides were very old Wivenhoe families – the Pullens and the Harveys. My father had come from the Colne Valley , also an Essex boy. I’m an Essex girl through and through! His family had been butchers and graziers in the Colne Valley for generations. But he was persuaded, I presume by my mother, to migrate from Chappel to Wivenhoe, to their new house.
In his youth, working with his father in the water meadows in the Colne Valley , they had grazed the cattle and slaughtered them in the butchers’ shop, or in barns beside the butchers’ shop in Chappel. The traditional style butcher had great respect for the creatures – the animals – they had to be well treated, both from the moral point of view because the meat was poor if the animals had not been well treated.
My father kept the shop in Crouch Street and opened one in Wivenhoe, in Station Road . After it closed as a butchers’ shop it was a junk shop-cum-second hand shop. I think it was Bill, the ex-train driver, who ran it. And it’s now been converted into a very elegant private dwelling.
I can remember the Wivenhoe shop very clearly. It was a double-fronted shop – a window on either side. The big walk-in cold store was on the right-hand side. I was always rather frightened of these big walk-in fridges, which had a door like a safe-deposit, almost! And I was rather frightened that either somebody, or myself, would get locked in. Straight in front of the door was the cashier’s desk, and the working block and serving counter was on the left-hand side. My father had a manager called Bill Rule, who lived in Anglesea Road . He actually lived in the house that I moved back to – number 11 – in the early 1980s. I think it was quite the thing, in the thirties/forties, if you put a manager into a shop, you provided accommodation as well. I think my mother bought the property where Bill Rule lived, because, certainly, in the early eighties, I bought that off my mother. But, of course, by that time, my father was dead anyway.
I didn’t see very much of my father, he was very busy. He went to market in Middleborough early in the mornings and, of course, in butchers’ shops, there was a lot of preparation work to do before it opened to the public, and so he was always off very early in the morning, before I ever got up ready to go to school.
He bought local and he knew the business through and through, because his family had been in the business for generations. He’d learnt the retail side of the butchery business from his father, and his father sent him up to Smithfield Market, to learn the wholesale side of it, as a young man. He did try to interest me in the business. I think he was a little disappointed that his first child was a daughter, and that I wouldn’t be able to follow in this very long tradition of the family business. But nothing daunted, he still interested me in it, perhaps hoping I would be on the administrative side of it later on.
My father traded under the name of C A Everitt. Neither he, nor my mother, liked his two Christian names – Cecil Amos – and my mother called him ‘C’ as his nickname. He bought his meat from Colchester Cattle Market but he also went to local farms and bought direct from farmers, and I remember him taking me to the Stour Valley , a farm in the Stour Valley – Goldings Farm – to buy cattle, which, I think, was once owned by John Constable’s father, and still called Goldings, after that family. He also bought from the Smithfield Show. He went regularly to the annual Smithfield Show and usually bought a prize-winning carcase, which he displayed in the window of the shop at 93 Crouch Street , complete with the rosette which the beast had won. And that was quite a prestigious thing to do, to buy a prize beast.
Knowing anatomy – Sue Kerr
My father’s knowledge of anatomy was second to none. He used to bring home, for instance, a hip joint of a creature and say, ‘Feel this. This wonderful smooth cartilage. Feel it. Look how it slips one bone against the other. Isn’t it wonderful?’ And when he chopped the foot off the dead chicken he would pull on the tendons to show how the chicken’s foot was articulated. He would sometimes bring home an eyeball and take out the lens – it was like a biological dissection really – and he’d pop it on the newspaper, and say, ‘Look at that. Look how it magnifies the print on the newspaper.’ And so I was never squeamish about either animal or human bodies. My interest in anatomy stayed with me and I think it laid the foundations of my own career as a physiotherapist, and anatomy, the learning of human anatomy, was paramount in my career.
It was high class trade because he served the Lexden area and that side of Colchester , where all the doctors, consultants lived, and that sort of thing. As part of his wholesale training at Smithfield he’d visited Belgium to see how the Continental butchers ran their trade. And that was the only time that my father went abroad. And my mother never travelled abroad. She never left England, and that was the only time my father ever left England, which is quite unusual these days, most people have travelled quite a lot.
My father was sometimes paid for the meat in kind, not only the poorer folks would pay him in kind but also some of his customers in the more affluent part of Colchester, who were perhaps down on their luck or lost money, perhaps in the Depression, or something like that. My mother had a lovely Persian rug in her bedroom which had been a payment for a meat bill, and a set of very dainty little silver coffee spoons which had also come as payment!
Slaughterhouse – Glendower Jackson
The slaughterhouse is down the bottom of Blythe Lane , which is opposite the church. As a matter of fact, it’s still got the rings in the wall where they used to tie the bullocks up before they killed them. And on Saturdays, always Saturdays, about lunchtime, cattle trucks would come to Wivenhoe, maybe one or two, and they would have these little gates on the back, they would open them up, and the drover would, with his stick, go in and drive off maybe for our five cows or bullocks. And invariably they knew – cattle aren’t daft – they knew they were going down to the slaughterhouse. Maybe they could smell the blood from the slaughterhouse. And you’d always get one says, ‘I’m not going down there!’ and he would turn and run through the churchyard. That was great fun! All the boys down on the Quay, all over the place, chasing the bullock along the Quay, up through Anchor Hill, and round by the station, and up Station Road , to bring the bullocks back to the slaughterhouse, you know! And the drovers would give you maybe sixpence for bringing one back. It was great fun! Yes, great fun! Mind you, sometimes the bull would turn round and start having a go at you! Then you had the pattern in reverse, you were running away from the bull!
Selling and smoking fish – Ken Green
When I came out of the Army and I’d got no boat to go back to, I decided that I’d go into the retail trade myself. And so, eventually, a shop came up in Eld Lane in Colchester and that’s where Father and I opened up. Father was selling fish in Colchester again from the van around the streets. He sold fish in the mornings and shrimps in the afternoon., so he’d come back to Wivenhoe and pick up shrimps and off he’d go again. When we opened the shop that was another adventure which really did us all very well. It became a family partnership and eventually we built a new shop in Colchester , purpose-built. By this time we’d got a smoking kiln and we were buying first-hand at Lowestoft most days, and turning over a lot of fish.
When we started there we were buying the Wivenhoe fish, but you can never rely on any one source for fish because fish is seasonal in certain areas. Seasonal in that they’re always on a spawning cycle, and they’re moving round from one place to another. Eventually we decided to buy a trawler of our own in the late Sixties/early Seventies. We got Ernie Vince, who was a local fishing and yachting skipper, lined up for that job.
Wivenhoe smokehouses – Ken Green
We had a smoking kiln in the new shop that we built in Colchester , and the interesting thing about the it is that it was what was called a ‘mechanical curing kiln.’ It has all the benefits of the traditional chimney style smokehouse, with added benefits of control of temperature, for instance, which is crucial in curing, and control of temperature, and control of the density of the smoke, which also is crucial. And the interesting thing was that the prototype was built in Wivenhoe, by North Sea Canners, by Lewis Worsp, in conjunction with Torry Research, and they built the very first mechanical curing kiln, as it was called then. And I use that method today. We still use the curing kilns which are manufactured in Hull . But I have smoked in the traditional manner as well. In fact I’ve even burnt two smokehouses down in my time! One was by brother Douglas’s back garden and another one, you’ll never believe, was in the middle of the river! You might wonder how you get a smokehouse in the middle of the river but we had a concrete barge, the Cherry, which was in Mr Worsp’s Dock, and Golden Dawn, at that time, was coming and going from Wivenhoe, and the ship’s store was the concrete barge. I built a smokehouse out on the end that stuck right out in the middle of the river. Because down below the decks, up to the top deck, was quite a distance, I built a smokehouse there, so that you worked under the deck and the vent came out at deck level. And we smoked a lot of fish out in the middle of the river like that!
I’d got two kilns in West Street , Wivenhoe. I moved down to West Street in the late seventies and I came away from the family business then, to go out on my own, because I wanted to get back to fishing boats again and not all the family wanted to do that. I was intent on doing that and to do that I realised that I’d got to leave the firm, and that’s what I did. And we did own what was the cold store here, at Wivenhoe, then, and part of my share in leaving the firm was to take that. And I think I had the Transit pick-up truck – well, it wasn’t a pick-up, but a two-ton lorry, and came down here and started on my own. Charlie Tayler drove the lorry and he went to Lowestoft every day.
I started to accumulate trawlers again, in conjunction with two other fishing skippers. And brother Douglas was with me as well, but not working on a day-to-day basis with me, but he was in what we called ‘Sea-free Trawlers,’ and we had three ex-Dutch [steel trawlers]. We set up Sea-free Trawlers around from here so we marketed their catches in Lowestoft , kept what we wanted here to sell, and I started wholesaling and retailing, and curing, in West Street , with two smaller kilns I had down here. And so that was the beginning of actually working down here in West Street . I think I was here working, about 27, 28 years.
Smoking the Yarmouth herring – Peter Green
By far the best flavoured herring was the Yarmouth/Lowestoft herring, second to none. The local herring, which are a smaller breed round here, certainly haven’t got the same oil content and are certainly not as flavoursome as the Yarmouth herring. But because of the method of plunder those shoals didn’t last long after the War. Great tragedy, because that type of herring were superb. They’ve been fished out and do not exist. So you can say the East Coast for fishing of herring are now gone. And in Wivenhoe, when we used to import direct from Lowestoft, the Yarmouth herring came already salted. We would do our own bloatering – that’s smoking the herring whole. And the smell of everyone cooking those bloaters all over Wivenhoe, the smell was superb! Because everyone had their own smoke hole of yesteryear. And that gradually died out but as we kept our own smoking going, we were the last family which did our own smoking. We smoked our own haddocks without dye added. We smoked our own bloaters, they were buildings built on [Station] Marshes – that’s the Rowhedge Marsh, curing houses, and as a kid I used to play in the sawdust. It had to be oak sawdust, not pine, not softwood. Hardwood. Elm was okay. Never pine, otherwise it would be the wrong flavour. And those buildings which were large, were smokehouses, built by the Green family. The marshes were for cows grazing and the salt oyster pans are still there. I walked there a few weeks ago just to see if they were there. They had oyster beds and if you walk down along the Rowhedge wall you’ll see the remains of the oyster beds of yesteryear. I never knew them in my lifetime, of producing oysters.
Fish round the curtain – Olive Whaley
Green’s, the fish shop, I think you could get wet fish from him but it was mostly fish and chips, but you had to jolly well queue for it then. And during the War, of course, there was a problem because of the blackout and you had to get round the curtain and don’t show any light so that was a bit tricky, but of course, they managed to find a way round it. You could get a piece of fish for sixpence and a penn’orth of chips, and you’d got a good meal.
Greens had always been a fish name – Brian Green
I had a picture of the smack, Elise in the fish and chip shop, but I didn’t let that go when I sold the shop, because that had got quite a family history to it. That belonged to my grandfather, the Elise, and, oh, she was broken up about 60, 70 years ago.
I left fishing when my father died and took the fish shop. But my father had a stroke just before we packed up and we had the chance to take the shop. He’d worked there as a boy, he knew the fish trade and that sort of thing backwards. And he said, well, he can take it easy and I can do the graft. So we said we’d sell the boat and take the shop. Well, we sold the boat and he died. So I was then left with the option of taking over the shop – which I didn’t know much about, and didn’t know if I wanted to know that much about it, not on my own. But, anyhow, I started the shop going and I thought, ‘Well, stay there for six months,’ just get it up and running and get another boat and go back to sea. But then the fishing got worse and I was making a living where I was and I was beginning to enjoy what I was doing there. I stayed there for 36 years! But I only went for six months! I met Carol and we ran the shop for years and we sold up about five and a half years ago now. I miss the regularity of going to work. The getting up at six every morning. I still find it easy enough to get up early in the mornings, and I hate laying in.
The shop was a struggle in the early days, because I didn’t really know what I was doing. I can remember, when I was a kid, thinking, ‘Cor, I’m glad I haven’t got to work in a shop!’ because I knew nothing about the money side. I suppose I took to the cooking because I quite like cooking, actually, and I think if you like something, you can make a job of it. But my father had worked there when he was a boy – it did belong to the Green family. That was my uncle who, inadvertently – none of the rest of the family knew it – sold it to a Mr Dickerson of Brightlingsea. So really, we were quite pleased that we thought we could get it back and put it back into the Greens again. You know, I suppose we were a bit big-headed or something and we knew Green’s had always been a fish name in Wivenhoe. Grandfather and all of that, like, had had boats, and that was fishing. There was no other shop that done the same sort of thing. When I started there was no restaurants in Wivenhoe, so by the time the restaurants had opened up I was fairly well established, so we got by without anyone taking too much of the trade, I suppose.
Milk delivery from the ferry – Marjorie Goldstraw
The milk came from a farm over the ferry and they came over the ferry with it twice a day, because nobody had milk, just a lot of milk for one day, they had to go round with it twice, and measure it out with a can. They used to put the jugs out, and measured it out with a can, a half pint or a pint, just whichever you wanted. We delivered it. I had to do Alma Street , with a great big can. My uncle who owned it had a cart and his son-in-law – Ennew – after the War finished, he had been a steward on the boats and he took him on and he went round with a trade bike and two cans in the top of it, all round, right up on the Cross and everything. They used to come in soaked to the skin. And then you’d got to scald all these churns because even in those days you’d got to be hygienic. They had a big copper – got it absolutely boiling and filled it full of soda. Oh, their hands! He was very energetic, my uncle.
The milkround – Ivy Knappett
I delivered milk for a person name of Payne, and they had a little shop in Nellie Gates, the fish shop down there in East Street . The Paynes only had one child and she was the daughter. Her mother and father was getting on, and they couldn’t go round. They used to get their milk from Fingringhoe, so Mr Payne used to have to go over there by the little boat. They had a kind of a trolley with the milk in, in a van, see. So we used to go up about four o’clock, every day, to people’s houses and give them the milk and they would leave the money on the step for you. Some of the people who had money gave us an extra sixpence. I remember there used to be a lady up Park Road , she was a nurse who looked after children, and she used to leave some buns out there for us, wrapped up in paper! Cor! We used to think that was lovely to have a home-made bun. That was lovely!
Two of us had to hold the trolley to push it and it was ever so heavy because they had a lot of milk in those churns. And, of course, I was going up, bottom out, pushing it. One day all the boys was whistling! And I thought they were whistling me. They wasn’t, they was whistling Gracie really! And so I turned round and waved to them and they called out, ‘Not you, skinny! We want somebody what’s got some meat on!’ Would you believe that! Oh, did that worry me! I went home and told my mother. I sat down and I ate and ate, my mother say, ‘You got a worm? Come on, let me have a look up your bottom and see if you’ve got worms up there!’
Bottling milk – Glendower Jackson
In Belle Vue Road there was a shop called Reg Beckwith. He had a little sweetshop and a milk shop. Well, I lived next door but one, number 8. And my brother, who was a year and eight months older than me, used to go to Lennox Farm, up the Cross, which is now the Fire Station, and he would milk the cows, and bring the milk down in a churn. And at the back of the shop, in the garden, he had a little dairy, Mr Beckwith, and I used to go in there every day and bottle the milk. I think I drank half of it, actually! Pour the milk in the top and it ran down, like, a radiator with cooling water in it, into an urn at the bottom, and I would do the bottling – pint, and half pint, and two pint bottles. And they had a waxed disc top on them, in those days. I’ve actually got a couple of the milk bottles, from Wivenhoe, in my collection.
Mr Sainty’s ice cream – Olive Whaley
Mr Sainty had a shop, a wooden little hut. That was on the left-hand side, a little before the turning to go up Manor Road , and he sold all sorts of things. Well, these little shops did all sorts of things. He didn’t sell greengrocery as I remember, but he’d sell biscuits and groceries and sweets and the most wonderful ice-cream! You’ve never tasted ice-cream like Mr Sainty made! You talk to anybody who’s old Wivenhoe and talk about Mr Sainty’s ice-cream, oh yes! He made it himself. It was sort of custardy. Oh, it was lovely! In the back room of the shop he’d got the machinery to make it, it crushed up the ice and it used to make a noise, and you said, ‘Oh, he’s making ice-cream!’ And there used to be a little three-wheeler van that delivered the ice.
Ice cream maker – Ray Hall
We used to have Mr Wombwell come along with his ice cream van in the afternoon and stand at the end near the school. He used to do Brightlingsea Secondary Modern at lunchtimes and then get here in the afternoon for when this little school turned out, and I should think he was one of the few people who I can remember selling ice cream. He first started to manufacture it in Alma Street , in Bill Wood’s sail loft, actually. Old Bill was a fisherman and he had quite a big room, a sail loft, in Alma Street , and he hired that first of all to make his ice cream and lollies and things. And then he rented part of the London House Stores, which was Starnes then, and he had the little end bit, which is on the corner of East Street , and he used to sell ice creams from there. And he also used to take in blackberries in the season, I think he paid about threepence a pound for blackberries!
The Pharmacy – Peggy Carrington
How we come to have the shop, my in-laws were Clactonians, and they evacuated from Clacton during the War, and bought the shop. It was a drugstore. And that’s how I met my husband. In the War – he was on munitions at Masons in Colchester . Married in 1944. Because the War was on, you see, well, it was either that or go into the Land Army, I’d got to be called up. My mother didn’t want me to go into the Land Army! And I was engaged. We lived with my mum and dad until the end of the War, and when the War ended my in-laws went back to Clacton , because they kept their house on, you see, and so we moved into the shop. Forty years we were there.
Van round – Peggy Carrington
After the War my husband came back into the shop, but we found there wasn’t enough trade to do two families, because there was two families then, you see. So he decided to buy a van, take the products out to all the outlying district. Alresford, Tendring, Elmstead. That was unique, because nobody had ever thought of that, I don’t think! All what we sold in the shop. We were a chemist, but not dispensing, so we couldn’t call ourselves a chemist, we had to be a drugstore. I was almost looking after the shop, because my father-in-law used to come backwards and forwards to Clacton , you see, to the shop, and while he was out, I was in charge. Then I used to go with my husband as well, different days. That was nice. Met such nice people. We got to know our customers and where to go. And everybody was so nice, you know.
A lovely old man used to come in the shop after his pomade for these whiskers that used to, you know, go out there! That was to make his whiskers stiff! Like hairsprays now, I expect. They used to stick out like that! He used to come in with his bowler hat on! Pomade on his hair as well, you see. We used to sell it in a jar. We used to keep it in for him!
Artistic windows – Peggy Carrington
My husband was very artistic with his windows, and we had all these lovely dolls, the Cabbage sort of dolls, he filled the window absolutely full of those! Absolutely full! And sold all those. People kept coming in and bought them. ‘Would you save me that one?’ ‘Would you save me that one?’ Oh yes, we had good fun! And he done a window once, decorated the window for Christmas, done Father Christmas coming out of a chimney. Yes, it’s a blow-up one. He comes out every Christmas, except for two or three years back we lost him, because, you see, Den went off so quickly, he’d put things away and I didn’t know where they went. And all of a sudden, we came across it, or one of my grandsons did. And he had a model railway running in the window, and the kids loved it! All looking in the windows. Yes, that was nice.
Haberdashery – Freda Annis
For my first job when I left school, I went into Mrs Lily Parker’s drapery shop. My mother had always known Mrs Parker and, unbeknown to me had said to her if Doris, this other girl, is leaving any time, ‘I’d like my daughter to come and work with you.’ ‘Oh,’ said Mrs Parker, ‘I’d like it.’ And as soon as she knew this other girl was leaving she saw my mother and said could I start? And I got on ever so well with her. It was quite a biggish shop, really. It sold clothes, socks, children’s socks, knickers and underwear, and wool, and materials, almost everything, because people didn’t go in to Colchester to shop very much in those days. If anybody wanted anything special Mrs Parker would get it for them.
And the first thing she said was – it was about November time, I think – ‘Can you knit?’ she said, ‘Well, I know you can, really.’ I said, ‘Yes, I can knit.’ So she started me off knitting these bed-jackets and that, for Christmas. But I took to it all right. I still like my knitting.
Lily died during the War, in about 1940 – she was only 46. She had a bad heart. I carried it on for nearly three years. I got my papers to be called up but Mr Parker wrote in. I would have liked to have got out of it but I felt that I’d had a good job with them and I thought it wasn’t quite the thing to leave him in the lurch. Well, then a cousin of his, that lived in Wivenhoe, decided she would take it on. But she didn’t keep it very long, and another young woman took it on and made quite a success of it. But she didn’t carry on with it, so a woman from Tiptree had it and had quite a nice shop but that went eventually, like the way of all of them now.
Coal merchants – Betty Govan
I had two uncles, and they ran the local coal business, it went under Jolliffe, and they lived in the arch in the High Street. The coal used to come in on the train, where they call the Engine Shed now, it used to go in along there, and it used to be unloaded out, and they used to take it down and store it on the marshes. I can remember, being a little girl, going to Colchester Court with my gran, because this man – silly fool – had gone when all the snow was on the ground, hadn’t he! And pinched a bowl and, of course there were finger, footprints, everything.
Mr Gladden was a coal merchant. Eventually Mr Waite was the coal merchant – John, who’s got the shop, his father was a coalman. But Mr Gladden lived in East Street and he was a coal merchant for years and years. Had a horse and cart.
Hardware, TV and electricals
Hardware shop – Jack Mallett
My first job was in a land agent’s office in Colchester, Mr Girling, and he used to look after people’s property including Sir Charles Rowley’s land at Nayland, and I was there for about a couple of years. And then I got a job at Paxmans, in the Drawing Office, in 1939, and I was there until about 1964 when we bought the hardware shop. We were living in Wivenhoe all that time. I got married in 1952 and I met Joyce on the tennis court at Paxmans. She had a shop in Colchester selling baby wear and ladies’ underwear.
When we bought the hardware shop it was an existing business. Mr Newman, he kept it, and before that was a Mr Chick. So it had been going a few years. I was always interested in tools and do-it-yourself, they had a few bits and pieces, but it was a lot of household ware when we bought it, even cleaning goods and coffee and vinegar and things like that. But we gradually changed it over to hardware and timber and tools. It was here, in Corner House where I live now. The whole of the downstairs was a shop and we lived upstairs some of the time. We eventually finished up, as I say, selling timber and tools, and used to sell a bit of everything in the hardware line. In fact I was just looking up some of the old orders which included wallpaper and glass and all that sort of thing. I did wood cutting and things like that. The shop ran until 1986, which was the year that Cook’s Shipyard closed, but we had quite an interesting time. Met lots of people and even dealt with the Shipyard as well. They mainly ordered things that they’d run out of – tools and things like that. We sold paraffin and paint and wallpaper and most of the things that the big shops like B&Q sell now. The shop closed in ’86 because I got to retirement age. And when you’ve got a business you don’t get much time for leisure, so we thought we’d live it up! We converted the Corner House – originally we converted part of it and still kept the shop for a year or two, and then we converted the whole lot to living accommodation.
In the TV trade – Tony Allcock
I’ve been in the TV trade all my life. I started in it at 15 years old, served my National Service, and then came out and went back to it again. After I came out of the army I married Carol, a local girl, and came to Wivenhoe in 1959. Manor Road was my first married home. I worked for a company in Colchester for 11 years and then decided time was for me to have a go at my own. So I found a shop in Wivenhoe, 29 High Street . Then we took over number 31 and joined the two to make one large one.
I started off as a one-man business on December 1st 1969, but after a few months I got so much business I needed somebody to give me help so I took a partner on, Mr Stevens, another TV engineer. That’s where we got the ‘Allcock and Stevens’ from. We also employed another two engineers, plus a salesman for the shop. We’d been together about 20 years and then Mr Stevens decided he’d like to take early retirement and then I ran it on my own – right up until today. And now I’m back to where I started – which I’m quite happy with. We’ve still got a very healthy business but in a much smaller, compact unit.
In the early days, of course, people were still listening to radios. I started when accumulators were still around. I remember the ‘Cat’s Whisker,’ that was the first one. When we started we were nearly all black and white TVs – there were very few colour sets around. The boom times were a couple of years ahead of us, and then we were selling an awful lot of colour TVs because once mass production got going our business took off, and this ran along right into the early Eighties.
We had a rental content, which was very healthy, but as TVs became more reliable rental went into decline quite a bit. We did diversify – we tried hardware after our local hardware shop closed down but that wasn’t us. So we done what we knew best, and tried to stay with it all the way.
Today my wife Cynthia after 20 years has got used to these odd hours I work, and she knows that possibly I wouldn’t be the same person if I didn’t. And it’s not easy for a woman. This is why, now, I’ve retired at the grand old age of 66. I’m trying to compromise if I can. With my type of business I can get away with that because a lot is done on the telephone – people phoning in, wanting me to go along and look at their TVs. It’s become more workshoppy as the years have gone along, rather than shop, but we still sell TVs and all the batteries and bulbs. After all, when I go into the house, if someone’s TV is past it I’ll suggest buying a new one! So you sell yourself and sell the product!
Attitude to customers – Tony Allcock
Running a business like we run you do get to know an awful lot of people. When I go to someone’s house I go to their lounge, into the heart of their home. So you do get an opportunity to talk to people, and they get an opportunity to talk back, so you do get a lot of friends out of it. I don’t class all my customers as just customers where I go to make money, I like the people, that’s very important to me. Some people just call in to have a chat and it’s rather nice they do that. I would hate that to stop.
You always get a few problem customers. You’re never in business without them! But generally speaking, any problems we did have, we got over them smoothly. We made sure of that, because the last thing you want is an argument with a customer – over anything – and you must listen to what they’ve got to say first and then sort it out afterwards. That’s my approach to customers. Don’t fall out with them, go face-to-face, and bring them to your level, rather than you go to their level at that time.
I never wanted the business to get big – we were always going to be happy with a small business. Sell yourself first, the product second, and you’ll get there. I think you can be the hard businessman but it doesn’t always work for you if you are, because you’re going to be a very lonely person at some time or other. If you can be friendly to everybody – and it doesn’t take a lot of energy – you generally find the public respond to you.
Early on in the business we did have tremendous support from Wivenhoe, from local people. Without them, we would never have existed. But as time goes along people change and more new people move into the area. Lots of people have said, ‘Well, it must make a big difference when you get all these people moving in.’ Well, yes, it gives us extra work, but nowhere near as much as anybody would think, because most of the people bring their own TVs with them. They are not going to be buying new TV’s. But if someone moves in and they call you round to connect their TV up, we go and do that. I like to think that you give a good first impression. And with our trade there’s always been advancing. We came into the trade with loads of colour TVs selling well, and then videos were introduced so we moved on into them and hi-fi equipment, and CDs – compact discs – came in, taking over from the records and the tapes. Everything was advancing very very fast – and still is.
We’re a local firm, we’re here to help you if we can, and advice comes free. This applies not just to me, but also to Waites, the other TV shop in Wivenhoe. We’ve always worked side by side. After all, they were here before we were! They’ve always been more on the electrical side – we’ve always been TV, but we’ve always got on well together.
Starting as Postmaster at the Cross – David Burrows
Immediately we were made very welcome, and we thought, ‘Well, this could be the right place for us,’ and it was! We started at the Post Office on 31st January, ’86. We had a trainer with us for one week, and he shew us a little bit of the things that crop up, but the training was hit and miss and if it didn’t crop up, you didn’t know anything about it! We were fortunate, I suppose, in that having two brothers with Post Offices, I could always get on the phone and say, ‘How do you do this?’
The first Thursday I can always remember, and it was something I hadn’t quite bargained for, in the pure number of people who came for pensions on a Thursday morning! I’d spent a couple of days in my brothers’ Offices, and it wasn’t quite like it was here! This enormous queue built up, obviously we were much slower at dealing with everything, in those days, because we were so new to it. The queue went out of the door, and past what was the hairdressers then, and we just worked our way through it. And one of the funny things – funny now, I didn’t think so at the time – but this great big voice at the back of the queue said, ‘New Postmaster’s taking his time! Does he think we’ve got all day?’ I thought, ‘Whoever’s this?’ And in actual fact, in later years, this whole thing carried on, and he used to stir me up, and I could stir him up, and we had a great relationship. In actual fact, we found out our birthdays were on the same day as well! I didn’t know how to take it to start with, I suppose, and he was just winding me up, which was fine! But in later years, I could reciprocate and wind him up, just as easily!
One of the nice things, on the very first day that we opened on the Saturday morning, I suppose it was about 11 o’clock, a little old lady came in, Aileen Style – she used to live in the Ropery House just along here – came in with her tin of cakes, and just said, ‘Welcome to the Cross,’ which was really nice! And that made us very very welcome. In later years, when she was on her own, we could reciprocate by taking her a Christmas dinner when we dished them out.
Friday night was always a traumatic night for the first few weeks because you had to balance the books on a Friday night, ready for the next week. We were taught the official way, which means you didn’t start anything until after the office had shut, so at half past five, you then started to count everything down to the last penny stamp, to make sure that everything tallied and what have you! So I suppose it was about ten o’clock by the time we finished, so having not having had any food, the fish shop down here was always shut, so I’d nip over to Alresford fish shop to get some fish and chips, something to eat, and then that would be it for the night!
Getting ready – David Burrows
Jean used to get up first, take the dog out. I am not very good first thing in the mornings, I’ll tell you! And she knows best not to talk to me! I’d get up, have a little bit of breakfast, cup of coffee, have a shave and a shower and get ready for work. We used to get everything out of the safe, get all the cash out, make sure everything was done ready for opening time at nine o’clock, make sure we’d got enough notes, coins, and fill up the coin hoppers, make sure all the paperwork was up-to-date, ready to go, and we used to get all the forms filled out, as far as we could, for each day, before we started, all the blank forms, and wait for the nine o’clock panic! And every nine o’clock was a queue on the doorstep!
Pension clubs – David Burrows
And after a few months/years, I suppose, you virtually knew who was going to come in, in what order, because it was like a club out there, particularly on Mondays or Thursdays, in the old days. In the old days all the pensions were paid on a Thursday but in the latter years, anybody new coming on to a pension was paid on a Monday. So you had almost two clubs – the more elderly were on a Thursday and the younger pensioners were on a Monday. And they were like a Thursday Club and a Monday Club really! And you could almost tell who was going to come in next because they came in in the same order virtually, because they’d been chatting outside, came in to do their bits, get their pension, pay the bills and buy stamps, savings stamps, in those days you could buy stamps towards your telephone bill, your gas bill, electricity bill, TV licence, all sorts of things, so this is how a lot of them budgeted because none of them had bank accounts as such, they just had the cash and allocated it for the various bits and pieces.
Diversifying – David Burrows
Pensions was a great percentage of the business. I would guess probably about 25 per cent of the business to start with, when we first came here, and that was really one of the reasons why we bought the place, because we had a look at the books and knew that there was this good steady flow of customers coming in. When we bought it the shop was virtually empty, they didn’t sell anything at all hardly, so we knew that we could start something, and we thought we would go into greetings cards, because, there again, two brothers in the business, they could help us out with where to buy stock, and what to buy, so we went into greetings cards and stationery, and it proved the right thing to do. And there wasn’t much point in going into groceries because we had the Spar shop next door. We could have gone into anything, because the three properties next door – the Spar Shop, what is now the Bicycle Shop, and the Hairdressers – are all owned by the same owner, so their leases are so tied up that they cannot cross-sell anything between them, but because ours is freehold, and it’s our own, we can do what we like. We gradually built up our stocks and everything we took in the shop, for the first few months, just went back into stock, and gradually we built it up.
Community spirit – David Burrows
Very often we might be the only people these customers saw, so we tried to give them time, and help them if necessary. Its a bit frustrating at times when you’ve got a queue to the door and somebody wants to talk, but at the same time we felt we owed it to them because, as I said, there might not be anybody else they’d seen all week. Plus we often used to get forms to fill in, ‘Can you just help me do this form?’ Which was fine, we were quite happy to do it. We saw it as part of the job, I suppose, trying to retain the community spirit, because I know the people previous to us, they were quite the opposite, they said, ‘We’re not customer-orientated at all.’ They had all sorts of strange rules and regulations like, ‘You can’t post parcels on a Thursday, because it’s pension day’! But fortunately, I’ve always been in a customer-orientated business, I like people and I like dealing with people, so it was good. And Jean used to work in a school, so she was used to dealing with children. And that’s really the way we saw it, as our chance to give something back into the community as well. I don’t say that boastfully, but that’s the way we saw it, we felt we ought to try and do something. We tend to be very private after hours, I suppose, we tend to look for our own company and close friends, but in business hours, we’d try and give it everything.
Happy times, sad times – David Burrows
My memories are of people, people, people all the time, and, I mean, such lovely people. Happy times. Sad times as well. Sad times, when you’ve had a couple coming in for the pension for ten years, and all of a sudden, one of them’s no longer there. Very sad. Happy times as well, though, because we’ve been privileged, I suppose, to share their happy times like Golden Weddings, birth of a grandchild or a great-grandchild. And, of course there’s things that we could share as well, we had a grandchild, or two grandchildren. We retired in June 2003. I shall never be a Wivenhovian. But, you know, we’re accepted, and I think we tried to do a professional job, and I think we did it. Yes, we retained the customers, let’s face it, so we didn’t lose customers.
Hector Barr, sailmaker – Freda Annis
Mr Barr, that had the sailmaker’s business on the Quay, he used to have the tan sails, when he did them, and they used to be tanned and they were hung where they’ve built the new flats there now. You went up the steps to his sailmaking loft there and they used to be hung right down from there, on the Quay, and used to see them with these great big brooms putting this stuff on. It was fascinating! It was hard work. They used to work very very hard, I think. But there was a lot of trade went on, it was all down the Quay, really, that the trades went on there like that.
Hector Barr was sail-maker in what is now the Nottage, and I remember one of his orders was for 80,000 kit bags! That’s a piece of order! He must have nearly fell over – but this was Wartime, and that was for the Navy. And most of the men had gone off to the War and so he employed the ladies locally, and some from Brightlingsea used to come up here and work, and I think that’s why he packed up, in a way, because before the War a man’s wage was about £2-10-00 a week, and when they come back from the War, they wanted £5 a week, and they naturally thought there was going to be a slump at the end of the War because there’d been one at the end of the First World War, they thought there’d be one after the end of the Second War. Yachting had diminished a lot, and there was no people sailing yachts at the end of the War, so he actually packed up. He thought he could never afford the wages, he’d never earn it back again. So he packed up as a very fit Naval sail-maker. And I think he was sorry for it afterwards because he then used to come to Colchester and work on our barge sails at the Hythe, and just a single-handed sail-maker, but a very very good one.
Rope makers – Peter Green
The Durrell family, originally, were rope-makers in The Avenue. Dad was born in 1905 and he mentioned that the ropes used to stretch all the way down The Avenue. The Brown family, I believe, were latterly the rope-makers, but earlier years the ropes were made for the sailing ships by the Durrell family. Somewhere along the line the business went out of their hands. The Ropery is almost opposite Tower Road , on the other side. There used to be, before it was built in as it has been done, an area where it was open but that was the Ropery. The Ropery Cottages were the cottages built for the workers. But that went up in flames.
Learning hairdressing – Jan Frostick
I went to a hairdresser’s in town and I worked there for about two months but all I was doing was really fetching and carrying and doing nothing in particular. And my father was quite concerned about this and so the proprietor asked, and he said I’d never make a hairdresser in a hundred years. So when I got home that night he said, ‘You’ve left.’ I got a job in an office at Cullingfords, in the High Street in Colchester , as a junior, for six months, until another job came up. And then I was apprenticed to a couple who had a hairdressing business, on the Maldon Road , and they had a new salon built in St John’s Street , and I did my apprenticeship there. And when I was 18 I left and went to work as ‘improver’ for two years, in Witham. It used to take me, oh, about an hour and a half to get there today, because although the traffic wasn’t bad, it wasn’t frequent, and I used to go on the bus. And if it was foggy, they didn’t run! And then after that I worked as a manageress of a shop in Aldeburgh, but I was only there for six months, because by this time I had met my husband-to-be, and he was in the Army. I realised I would never see him, so I worked at Severalls, as a hairdresser, for about a year.
The wages from my first hairdressing job were £1 a week – which didn’t even cover the cost of my bus fare and lunch so my parents had to put some money in towards it. I was sweeping up, answering the phone, making appointments. Cleaning. Cleaning and cleaning! Meths still brings back the memories of cleaning all the mirrors and the windows, and all the Venetian blinds and things. And gradually you learnt to shampoo, and then you learnt to set – didn’t have blow driers! And then you learnt to perm and colour, and cutting was the very last thing that you learnt. I think, those days, your aspirations were a lot less than they are now, when you first start work. You’re still a child at 15. I think my father was a bit annoyed, he thought I was being exploited. But they were both behind me, my mother and my father, a hundred per cent. Although they’d both had grammar school educations, they wanted me to do whatever I wanted to do, and I was determined to do this.
Bouffant, French pleats, what they called an ‘Italian,’ which was swept back a bit like the Queen wears now. But I used to go to quite a lot of the fashion exhibitions for hairdressing, they used to hold them in Colchester and London . And when I first did some training, when I first started, I was sent to London to do a week, just perming, because that was the really old-fashioned way of perming with spirals, and you were plugged into a machine, so it really wasn’t much good, but it was an experience for a 16-year old to go and live in London for a week, from home. I loved it all! I used to read it, sleep it, dream it, I just loved it! Going to all the exhibitions and studying it all – I really loved it.
A freezing start in Wivenhoe – Jan Frostick
I had my own business down in the village. We got married the 15th September, 1962, and I signed to take over the business the day before we got married. So a month after we got married I had the business, and it is now where the bookshop is now. And I kept it for two and a half years, until I was expecting my first child, and then I sold it. The shop was a hairdressers before. I bought it from Gay Tomlinson and her husband but it wasn’t very modern, even by those standards. I don’t think there was a shelf that you could stand anything on, and it had got a little poppy gas heater which I could only wash about two or three people’s hair an hour, so that’s why we changed it all afterwards. The shop was very tiny. I had three washbasins and a drier bank with three driers and a separate drier, and what they called a ‘Dressing Out Station,’ an extra one, and a little tiny desk, and that was it. And so you had to be very methodical. And it was quite hard work because it was quite an old shop.
We modernised it about six months after we bought it but the first winter was very hard because it was the winter of ’62-’63, and all the water froze in all the pipes because the shop was built on the top of a basement and the old boy that had it before me had done all the plumbing himself and it was like Spaghetti Junction! There was copper pipes draped everywhere and they just all froze, so we were having to get buckets of water to heat up on my father’s gas ring in his shop, which was about two shops away, and carry it down and wash people’s hair. That’s the only way we could carry on for quite a few weeks. But after that, we semi-modernised it.
Young businesswoman – Jan Frostick
But I found it very difficult for people to take me seriously. Because I was only just 22 – I had to really stick up for myself and make them realise that I may be young but this was my business. I found it, as I say, quite hard – people really didn’t want to take me seriously, especially if I had travellers come in wanting me to buy a lot of stock, and I’d say ‘No,’ and they wouldn’t… ‘Would you like to go and fetch your father?’ Or, ‘Who’s the owner?’ and I said, ‘Well, I am,’ and it was quite difficult to make them realise.
The customers – Jan Frostick
The customers were mostly older. The women that had gone out to work after having their children, that were coming in and having their hair done – as a majority. And so they all knew my parents, knew me when I was a child, and were actually working in Wivenhoe or in Colchester , and then coming back. It got quite busy. I think I doubled the takings after about a year. People say things that they wouldn’t dream of saying to even their best friends. You learn an awful lot and you have to keep very quiet. I suppose I was flattered, in a way. But I’d sort of grown up with it, and knowing that’s what everybody did, you know. And a lot of the time you didn’t really take it in, you didn’t think about it afterwards. It wasn’t so much that they were asking for advice, they were just using you as a sounding board really. Most of my customers were regulars, and I think I knew almost everybody.
There were occasionally ones that perhaps felt they couldn’t afford it every so often, and they would come in, and I’d have to rescue them, and sort it out a bit. But the same thing happened with colours. But, on the whole, they were just regulars that came in every week. I did Joan Hickson’s hair, which was quite an experience, because she’d sit there and let you do it all, you’d get it just right, and then she’d run her hands all the way through it and say, ‘Lovely, darling!’ and put her hat on! Well, it was just Joan!
I think it was about six old shillings for a shampoo and set. I can’t remember a perm, I think it was about £3. Even though I was the owner they would tip me. I think that’s gone out a little bit now, but yes, they always did, and they always gave something to the junior, and if they didn’t give it to the junior, then I gave my tip to the junior.
I love meeting people, the conversations and I suppose knowing all the gossip. I missed it dreadfully when I had sold it. That was the one thing I really missed. But I didn’t miss the hard work. I think I’d really worked very very hard for about two and a half years, and I’d really had enough. So, yes, I think it was just the company I really missed, towards the end.
The pub ladies – Jan Frostick
I used to do what I used to call all the ‘pub ladies’ hair. They all used to come down and have their hair done, so I made it a point of every so often going in and just having a drink in the pubs. There was Mrs Cabuche from the Black Buoy, there was the lady from the Station Hotel, there was the lady from the Horse and Groom, and the Brewery, that was the sister-in-law of the lady that worked in the Black Buoy. The Rose and Crown – Mrs Sparrow. So I just used to go around and just have a drink with them occasionally, just to feel that, you know, they were kind enough to give me their business – not that they’d make a lot out of me, though! But we all knew each other, that was the point. And now, I don’t think people do so much, in the village.
So tired I went to bed – Jan Frostick
When I was really busy I was doing a shampoo and set every quarter of an hour. I had my junior washing one while I was setting another one, and I would do that from nine o’clock in the morning until I went home at lunchtime, at one. And then I’d start again at two, and I’d work right through Thursday and Friday evenings until seven or eight, and then I’d work Saturday mornings. And then, Sunday, I used to go down and clean the shop. I can remember being so tired when I finished work – by this time my husband wasn’t in the Army and he used to come and fetch me on a Thursday evening, and I used to go to bed as soon as I got in, and have my tea in bed because I was just so tired. You came home and washed all the towels and you’d go down on a Sunday morning and clean the shop right out, clean the windows and what have you. And I very often used to be there and Reverend Gaye, who was then the vicar, used to come in and sit and talk to me while I was cleaning, just before the Morning Service.
Two hairdressing salons – Helen Douzier
I was in Colchester for a few years, and I left school as soon as I could because I didn’t enjoy school in Colchester so I left when I was 15 [in 1947] and then I trained to be a hairdresser. And then as soon as I finished my training we heard that a hairdressers was going to be for sale in Wivenhoe and my father managed to buy it for me. He had to put his house as surety for the money and I think he paid £1,100 to buy the hairdressers, which is where the Bookshop is now in the High Street. We just had the one little room. And at the back and upstairs was a private dwelling. My husband was stationed in Colchester in the Army, and we met in a coffee bar in the town centre because in the Sixties we went to coffee bars. We decided to marry and then we came back to Wivenhoe! I married at 19 and because I went into hairdressing at 15, three years training, bought the shop, bought the business from Janice Frostick.
My mother used to do the books for me and my father was very helpful, obviously, and my husband was very helpful as well. But in the meantime I bought another business on Vine Parade, the hairdressers up there. We were so busy, so for a little while I was running two salons. I ran both of them, which was a bit difficult, so I only did that for about a year. The one down in the village was called ‘Flair’ and then the one at the top, I think we called it ‘Helen’s.’
Hairdressing was very hard work but we had a very busy salon and it was very enjoyable. We didn’t make a lot of money, we didn’t charge a lot of money as they do now, but I got a little wage from it.
Hairdressers: starting in 1969 – Penny Lear
My parents, in the meantime, I think they wanted me to stay at home, so they’d been looking around for vacant premises, suitable premises, and found somewhere in Wivenhoe – at the top, next to the Spar, where the bicycle shop now is. And it was owned by the grocer next door, who owned the Spar. It was a slightly different set-up then, he was an old-fashioned grocer, Mr Humm, and Mr Pettit, a little kind of grocers where you could sit down, with a counter, and have your things in paper bags. That was ’69, and I opened November 27th, 1969. And I was at that premises for 18 years, and then the landlord gave me notice to quit, which was very panicky. Actually, he gave me notice to quit because he wanted to put the rent up. But he tried it, and I called his bluff, and found a premises that I bought, further down in the village, in the High Street. It used to be Carringtons. It was a chemist shop, not a dispensing chemist or a pharmacy, but a chemist shop that sold anything that a chemist was allowed to sell without dispensing, and toys and what have you. And it rather stood on its own, just below the Park Hotel where H2O is now. So I sold that two years ago in April. So in all, 34 years in hairdressing in Wivenhoe!
There was another hairdresser, a woman hairdresser called Helen Douzier, who lives three doors away, we’re good friends now, and she actually had a business at the top of the village and at the bottom. So it’s where Hair Technique and it’s slightly below, near where the bookshop is, it was there. So there were two hairdressers owned by the same person. And we were virtually the same age, and very much in competition then. But no nastiness. You know, we’ve all got a living to earn! I’d been in Colchester, in hairdressing, for quite a long time, and my parents were well-known in hairdressing, so I was lucky that the name was known, and I gained a few customers for that alone, also although I’d been away two years, I still had old customers that came back to me, so I, luckily, made money from the first week, which was a good job, because after we’d paid for the salon set up, I think I had about a fiver in the bank!
I started off with one junior, and we built up. But it didn’t take very long. And it was the time, in the late Sixties/Seventies, where people went to the hairdresser every week. Hairdressing was different. It was glamorous. You had long hair that you put up for an evening out. You had your hair shampooed and set every week. It wasn’t like it is now, where you’ve got a cut and blow dry that you only want to go every six weeks, or you can do a hairstyle yourself very easily. If you wanted to be smart, you went to the hairdresser every week. So it was a very very good time to start.
A job I never regretted doing – Penny Lear
As long as you know what you’re doing, it’s a very easy job really – you go to work and chat to people! It’s very nice! And I was lucky with the last girl I had working for me, we worked together for 15 years, and she came to me as a Saturday girl and then started an apprenticeship, and she stayed with me until I gave up. Now she’s working freelance, and doing very nicely.
I had a lot of those clients all the time I was in hairdressing, which to have a customer for over 30 years is quite surprising really. Obviously some when I started were a lot older than me, and they died off, and some were the same age as I was, and they’re the ones that, obviously, I kept, or a few years older than me, perhaps ten years older than me. But, of course, you start off when you’re young and very enthusiastic, as the girls in H2O are now, and you get older with your clients, so your clientele changes, it’s not so exciting, but then you know them very well and you have a very nice time at work. It was a job I never regretted doing and enjoyed until the day I retired.
Giving up – Penny Lear
I’d just had enough. It’s funny, I thought about it the year before I was going to retire, and I thought, ‘No, no, I don’t want to give up. I couldn’t bear it! Going out to work every day, I really enjoy it.’ And somebody said to me, ‘One day, you’ll wake up and think, “Right. That’s enough. Had that.”’ And I did. Also, my husband’s a bit older than me, and he felt that he’d been retired for five years, and he felt it was a bit silly that we couldn’t do things together – we wanted to do a bit of travelling. And also, it was the right time to sell, so all in all, there were several reasons, but I don’t regret it. I enjoyed working, and I enjoy retirement!
Impecunious but aesthetic? – Halcyon Palmer
[Margery Dean] became interested in making a little business selling antique furniture. The reason that she started this little business was that, at the end of the War, and during the War, everything was rationed, including furniture, which you had to buy with coupons that were issued to you. And all these people, all these soldiers coming back, and either meeting up with their wives, or getting married, of course had needed a lot of furniture, which they weren’t able to get. And if they could get it, it was not, perhaps, particularly pretty. My mother had the idea of starting a mail order business for the people who wanted something that looked a bit pretty, but didn’t cost the earth. So she used to go around all the local salerooms, and stately house sales, and she would buy very country furniture, which didn’t have a huge intrinsic value because it wasn’t fine antiques, it was simple cottage furniture, but was very inexpensive, and very attractive. And that is how she started her business.
She began by advertising in the New Statesman, a little advertisement which I can remember perfectly clearly, which said, ‘Impecunious but aesthetic? Write to Margery Dean’s catalogue for antique furniture at…’ and that. And she had these catalogues printed, and she would list all the things that she knew that she could get – if she’d sold that one, she could go out and buy another set just exactly the same – six chairs, you know, a drop-leaf table, a mahogany chest of drawers, all this sort of thing, all antique – all now worth a lot of money. But that is how she started. And a lot of people came down from London , by train, and all the rest of it, and she used to meet them by appointment.
She used to keep this furniture, first of all, in our playroom, and then as the business got bigger and bigger, she hired what has now become the St John’s Ambulance Hall, and when it then became bigger than that, she moved into the old chapel, which had originally been the jam factory, and before that, the Swedenborgian church! By this time, we were ten or 15 years on, and she’d learned a lot, more and more about antique furniture, and particularly about Continental antique furniture, which the local dealers, on the whole, weren’t interested in, and in the end she went and exhibited, for several years, in London at the Chelsea Fair, and the Grosvenor House Fair, and was a member of the British Antique Dealers’ Association. So it was quite amusing, it had started in a very small way, but really took off. And she was actually very knowledgeable.
Wivenhoe Bookshop – Penny Bell
We moved to Wivenhoe, into a house in Belle Vue Road – lovely old Victorian house. And then Jean and I had this crazy idea about opening a bookshop, and this house came up in the High Street, so Martin and I bought it in 1976. And that started as the Bookshop – the Bookshop was our front room, virtually, and we lived in the rest of the place.
Living on the premises I found myself working up until midnight and the local policeman – when we had a lovely local policeman – he used to knock on the front window and pop his head round the door, when I’d gone to open it for him at midnight, and say, ‘Just making sure you’re okay!’
I had no particular urgings all my life, to run a bookshop, or to be involved in books; I was much more interested in the theatre. But after a time spent in India , my first time away from family and children, my eyes were opened to what there was out there, and I became terribly interested in all the different religions. After which, one of my sons suggested that I might go to Essex to study Comparative Religion. In fact, I followed his advice but took an Open University degree, and that really set me going, to reading, to studying the wider views of life, thought, and religion and art and so on. It was towards the end of those five years that Penny and I got together. I was quite ready to do something different, and to use all the knowledge that I had acquired in the OU. This was a perfect start for opening a little bookshop.
Martin hadn’t even finished the house in Belle Vue Road, he wanted to do all sorts of different things to it to make our living very spacious, and then one day I said to him, ‘Martin, there’s this house for sale in the High Street. I think it would make a wonderful bookshop.’ So he, bless his heart, agreed that we should move out. It had to be that way, because I had two children, and they were both at the Boys’ High School in Colchester , and it was quite important that I was there when they came home from school.
The house wasn’t very large. It had a wonderful basement from the front to the back. Apparently, once upon a time, it had been a butcher’s shop, and there were still hooks down below, and the brick floor had an indentation, where presumably the meat would drip down, or be washed or something. On the ground floor, there was the front entrance, which we turned into the Bookshop, and a back room, with a nice great big inglenook fireplace. The house was probably built in the early 17th century, I should think. And we used the room at the back of the Bookshop as the lounge. And there was a sort of lean-to kitchen that had just been built on, with wooden steps going down to it as well, so there was a tiny little kitchen at the back of the living area. And that was how it was, to start with – which was a bit of a shock after our house in Belle Vue Road !
The importance of the University – Jean Harding
[The University] was a very important part of it. It came to be much more so than we had realised, later on, because the Library was wonderful in giving us quite large orders, right from the beginning. These included a lot of very difficult academic titles from remote publishers whom we’d never heard of. Although most of them were far too erudite and expensive to buy for our stock, nevertheless, it did open up areas which we might not have dwelt upon or thought about, helping us enormously to develop our range of publishers and our stock. Sometimes we did duplicate the orders if we found them appropriate for our type of bookshop. Michael Sommerlad, in particular, was very helpful, and it was a good experience for us. Although we had a very small mark-up on academic books, it gave us a solid basis to the stock, and of course, it encouraged the academics to come to us, which was just what we wanted.
The Launch – Jean Harding
We went invited some useful and some notable people to the first party to launch the Bookshop. Christina Foyle was one, with whom my husband was working at the time, the owner of Foyles Bookshop, which claimed to be the largest bookshop in the world. So Christina Foyle very kindly came over from Maldon to open what we described as ‘probably the smallest bookshop in the world’! And we had, obviously, a lot of people from the University, and any literary people that we happened to know, and the odd publisher came, I recall. One of the first to come, so keen, was Hilda Taylor, who was then the Headmistress of Broomgrove School. She was wonderful, so supportive, and from there developed our interest and involvement with schools later on.
So we sent for the catalogues from all the publishers, and each of us made our selection. It was a relief to find that our separate choices coincided largely and our ideas on strategy. We hadn’t realised how important it was. It would have created real problems otherwise in such a small selective bookshop. Having opened accounts, we started ordering within our limited means. Small amounts of money would be spent on each publisher, until we were bold enough to spend perhaps £40 an order, which no doubt compared with nowadays, would be quite remarkable. I’d borrowed a thousand pounds from my mother to stock the shelves, Penny and Martin had provided the premises. Less than a month after we started, Michael Parkinson happened to be in the village staying with George Gale, so he came down and signed a few books of his – on football I remember, our first author!!
Local authors – Penny Bell
In March 1977 we had a local author’s week. We had Michael Frost, John Leather, and Alan Watts, all of whom were sailing people. John Leather used to come in very regularly and check the shelves, to make sure we’d got a full complement of all his books! We had a very good stock of maritime material. Frederick Raphael, who was actually living at Langham at the time. Hervey Benham, of course, who everyone must know. David Brook, Roger A. Freeman, and Bob Fisher. Well, that was a mixture of sailing and flying, actually, because Roger A. Freeman’s books are about The Mighty Eighth: the US Airforce in Britain in 1942. And there was Jessie Hickford and her guide dog – she was local. And there was C. Attfield-Brooks and Ingrid Gibb. And Philip Gifford, who was a local historian. Robert Malster from Lavenham Press: he wrote about wherries and life on the Norfolk Broads. And then we had Margery Dean. And Isobel Warman. And then there was Jack Cross, who was a local author. And Leonore Davidoff, from the University. And then Celia Jennings and Paul Jennings. And so these are all our local authors. Each of those authors had to have their own special pile of books available for signing.
Book signings – Jean Harding and Penny Bell
Beth Chatto, who was also local, of course, came on several occasions to launch her plant books, as did Elizabeth Jeffrey (Olive Whaley) with her well-researched local historical novels. Welcome too was Ronald Blythe, a friend whose books were always notable. Hugh Brogan, a very familiar figure, came several times as his books appeared, while Nicholas Butler’s well-known history of Wivenhoe was always kept in stock. Phil Redmond came down, who was, at that time, famous for Grange Hill but he went on to do Brookside . We took him to the Senior School in Brightlingsea, to give prizes in the evening, but he was in the Bookshop in the daytime. He was very popular in the several schools he visited, leaving lots of original drawings, snapped up by the children. Mike Rosen came once – of course, he’s very well known now. And John Ryan, the Pugwash man, used to come regularly, which was lovely. And there’s Dr Simon Mitton the astronomer. We took him into a school, but again, he came into the Bookshop. He was a Cambridge chap. And Paul Langfield, who wrote books on chess; Anthony Burton, the industrial historian, because he had a book tie-in with a BBC programme.
We went into schools a lot, because we felt that this was what books were about, taking them to children, you know. And we actually had a number of school bookshops, in the little school in Brightlingsea and Millfields as well.
The two times I remember real queues, once was Delia Smith. People in Wivenhoe didn’t seem to be very interested in cookery books but they came to see Delia Smith. Of course, she was always on television at that point. And then later on, when John Ryan, the Captain Pugwash writer came on several occasions, and I’ve got pictures of crowds of people gathering, waiting outside the Bookshop for John, for Captain Pugwash!
Retiring – Jean Harding
I continued for ten years after Penny left the Bookshop, expanding it through into a back room, increasing the staff. I became the Chairman of the Eastern Regional Booksellers Association which was a new challenge and widening my spheres. But when it actually came to leaving, although I still loved it, it was high time. I was getting tired. It’s very hard work, and I also realised that I was needed at home. And what did I miss? I missed the people. The hurly-burly of the Bookshop life was so different from my country life. But the Bookshop has survived and flourished and in many different ways, which is a great delight to all.
Over the Sofa – Annie Bielecka
Ginny Walters, who runs the Bookshop, has decided to have this little gallery called ‘Over the Sofa Gallery.’ It’s quite a small space but for the last two years she’s invited local artists to hang their work there for a month at a time, and she’s had a retrospective – she’s had two now and she had one at Christmas called, ‘The Seven by Nine Retrospective,’ where we all had to produce a piece of art no bigger than seven by nine inches and there were about 20 of us there. Tessa Spencer-Price, Jamie Dodds, Robina Taplin, Eliza Kentridge, Dale Devereux Barker. I hung a large painting there called, ‘The Suffering of Women at a Time of War,’ and I didn’t want to sell it, but I hung it for the month when we went to war in Iraq and it had a lot of response. It’s quite a dark painting and it’s been picked up on the Internet – it just shows the power of the Internet – by San Antonio University in Texas , who are using it for their War Studies Course brochure! And that all came out of it hanging in the Bookshop in Wivenhoe!
Trading lives: children and the family
Schoolboy rounds – Peter Sainty
I was always brought up to do a paper round, and my paper round consisted of High Street, Stanley Road, and what we know as the ‘24 Row’ across Spion Kop. In those days you did the round in the morning, and the Standard paper was a special delivery at, say, 4-5 o’clock on Friday afternoon – so you did it all again. I also had a job at the butchers, and I would do a butchers round till ten o’clock and then go and work for a grocer, name of Yoverts shop, which is where the delicatessen is now by the Video Shop, and I would have six or seven special deliveries which took me out as far as Alresford Grange. I would be in a hurry to finish this, because I wanted to get to play football at two o’clock.
Delivery boy – Alan Green
When I was 14 I was a paperboy during the War, on a Sunday, and I used to go to the Shipwrights’ Arms to collect my papers, and go and distribute them afterwards. I used to be quite an industrious lad! I used to be a paperboy in the mornings, during the week – Monday to Saturday. A paperboy on a Sunday, for a different person – the Shipwrights’ Arms, and then eventually to Hall’s, in Queen’s Road. Then I used to also deliver groceries for Jimmy Moore. I was Jimmy Moore’s grocery boy – on a bike. And that was an hour every afternoon, except Thursdays, plus Saturday mornings. Who did I deliver to? I hate to say the word ‘class,’ but a few of the uppermost paid people, school teachers, the Curator of Colchester Castle Museum. He lived in Wivenhoe. Old ship captains and suchlikes. One captain lived where the dentist’s is in the Avenue. One lived along Belle Vue Road . One lived in the High Street, near Malting Yard.
Helping as a child – Pat Green
As a child I used to have to help in the shop, going out the back trimming cauliflower. The celery used to come from the Fens, with all the tops on and all the bottoms on, just tied up with string, and that was my job Saturdays and any spare time, to trim all the celery, trim the cauliflowers, help Mum in general. I started when I was about 10-12 years old, just help lightly. And after that Dad used to have a van where it was all set out, where he used to go around door-to-door, see what they want, come back to the van and weigh it up, and then go and take it to the house. When I was at Brightlingsea Secondary School , when I come home from school I had to go and help my father on the round. My dad was quite a jovial man and that used to be a case of he’d go in one place to get an order and sit down and have a cup of tea while I finished all the rest of them! That was my job.
We did everything – Lynda Edwardson
We did everything in the shop. You serve customers, you wash up, wash the floor, clean the loos, cut up liver. It’s disgusting! At that time we had a fresh meat butchers counter, so I’ve made sausages. well, I don’t think there’s any job in the shop that I haven’t done, or Richard, that we now ask staff to do! Quite early on we kind of went our own ways. Richard did most of the ordering for the shop, and I would order, like, the frozen food. I did the paperwork, which I don’t mind, I’ve always enjoyed doing that, and I’m the queen in the counting house, I count out all the money! So we kind of found our own paths within the shop quite early on and stuck to the demarcation lines, really. I’d been a Saturday girl in a shoe shop when I was 15, but that was a long time ago! But, no, Richard worked in a bank, and I was a nice happy little housewife, doing a little cleaning job for 12 hours a week, came to Wivenhoe and started working 12 hours a day! So it was a bit of a culture shock. It’s like another life.
Family fish and chip shop – Barry Green
Dad owned the fish shop, so we lived there. Must have lived there for 25 years, I should think. Yes, that was open all day, or mostly in the morning for the wet side of the fish shop. Yes, he done his own bloaters in the back garden, yes, and smoked haddock, when it was available from Lowestoft . I done quite a bit of that sort of work, and splitting up herring.
Husband and business partner – Pat Green
We tried to sell the business for five years. And the people who came and had a look were husband and wife, and they said they’d never been in the greengrocery business before and he used to think, ‘Oh, that’s simple, you know, just buying and selling,’ and the wife would run the business and the husband would go out to work. It weren’t till we show them around and told them about what the potatoes was, and what they had to do, they realised that it is a two-man job, it’s a husband and wife – it’s a partnership. My husband and me have always been like that. It’s been partnership, give and take, and we’ve always worked together.
My husband was very very placid. Honestly, in the 46 years we were married, I honestly don’t remember him losing a temper. We always just agreed – he was the most placid man a-going! Yet he never lost his temper. We just got on in business. Yes, a lot of people said, ‘How can you both be working and living in one another 24 hours?’ I said, ‘Well, we just did.’ We just got on, worked round one another, and we were just suited to one another. He gave and take and I give and take. It wasn’t a case of ‘Me, me’ all the time, we were proper business partners as well as husband and wife. It worked out ideal.
Chandlers : a damn good thing when he was young – Pat Ellis
My father had a ships’ chandlers shop, and he was on a damn good thing when he was young and all the yachts were about. But it fell through after the First World War and he sold the shop and he worked in an office in a sand works at Fingringhoe after that. The shop was a corner shop, with steps right on the corner and Mr Bowes’s cows used to make a mess on there every time they went round! It was a small shop – double-decker, you’d got a store room up top. Used to sell paraffin and paints, ships’ paints and screws and – well, everything. My grandfather was a skipper on a big steam yacht and so of course all the yachts used to get the paint from Dad’s, to please grandfather I suppose! And they were Masons, I think!
Business rivalry – Jan Frostick
There was another hairdressers, Cyril Brown’s, he had the shop on the corner of West Street , which is now a gift shop, I think. There was Gloziers, that was a gentleman’s hairdressers, which is now where Anne Quarrie is. He had a little sweet shop as well. I think Cyril Brown took it quite hard that I started near him. I used to have an extractor fan in the window, because I’d got no opening windows, and no back, so I had an extractor fan, and he’d walk past, and I’d hear him saying, ‘Flash in the pan. Flash in the pan.’ Well, I only lasted for two and a half years but I sold it as a going concern. I didn’t want to have my children and have the shop.
Egg lifter – David Burrows
One of our old pensioners used to toddle along to the butchers for his weekend joint. Now, the butcher always had trays of eggs on the customers’ side of the counter and this pensioner, he used to slip a couple of eggs into his pocket, unbeknown to the butcher. Till all of a sudden the butcher latched on and once he had, he sauntered out from his side of the counter and he accidentally nudged this particular customer in the pocket! And needless to say the eggs stopped disappearing after that!
Hard winter – Charles Tayler
In 1947 Wivenhoe was completely cut off with snow. The Colchester Road was about eight, nine foot of snow, and there weren’t no way in or out of Wivenhoe. We had a good supply of flour and things at the bakery. Still used to get round with the old van. Used to put dog chains – because people used to have kennels they used to have dogs on chains. Used to go out and get all the chains and wrap round the van tyres so you could get a grip. Wherever they lived they still got the bread. We got to them, walked across ploughed fields for miles to get bread to poor old Cadogan and Garn, those people down the bottom of the University there. The trouble is now, all the fields are open. There used to be banks, every field used to have a hedge. Now they’ve cut all the hedges down. That’s the wind that make it drift. There never used to be those – that used to drift into the hedges, and the hedges used to stop it.
Armed raid – David Burrows
In the first week of our existence here, we suffered an armed raid. It was almost closing time on a Wednesday, because we used to shut half-day on a Wednesday then, and I think it was about ten to one. We were both behind the counter, starting to count up stuff, and all of a sudden, a couple of characters burst in with masks and hoods and great big holdall, and what appeared to be a gun. At the time you think, ‘Oh, this is not happening to me really!’ Everything seems to go in slow motion, so I’d got my back to the counter, and Jean was facing the counter – and they came over to my side and said, ‘Hand over the money,’ and I thought, ‘Well, this is not happening to me,’ and I turned around, and all I did was pushed the panic button, which sent the alarms off, and they scarpered. But it doesn’t do your heart too much good at the time! So that was my experience of an armed raid! Fortunately, nothing happened. But it could have been a lot worse, I suppose. As a result of that, eventually they were charged. It took a long time, it must have been about 18 months, a couple of years, before they actually managed to tie it up. They pleaded guilty to that and several other offences as well. I know we didn’t have to go to court on that one. They were from Broome Grove! So, there we are! You just don’t know, do you?
Then the other one, another armed raid, we weren’t exactly involved in, but the money van that comes round to the various Post Offices was actually held up outside our back gate. Oh, it was probably about five or six years ago, maybe more than that now. They got some money, I think. There was a tip-off about it, because the place was swarming with police and that’s about as much as I know of it. I know the whole thing was parked right outside and it was actually outside our back gate when it all happened. Unfortunately, that’s the way Post Offices are, they’re rather vulnerable. Whatever you do for security, you’ve just got to be on your guard all the time, but not get neurotic about it.
Supermarket bread – Charles Tayler
There used to be three bakers in Wivenhoe, and now there’s not one. All the bakeries finished in this area when the Home Made Bread Company and all these companies come in, supermarkets and that. I call it ‘flour and water’ what they made – we was getting about a hundred and odd loaves out of a sack of flour, they’d get about 150, and they could undercut your loaf. You couldn’t make a loaf of bread for the price that they sold that. I feel bitter about it, in some ways because if they’d got large families, like some of them have in Wivenhoe, they’re not going to buy a loaf of bread off a baker and pay about a pound a loaf for it when they can go up the supermarket and get one for about 40 or 50p.
New estate agent – Ann Quarrie
A little shop came up in Wivenhoe and I decided to go for it, and then hit the worst recession that the housing industry had ever had for seven years! So that was an absolute nightmare for several years. I opened in February ’88. It was freezing cold. There was no heating in the shop. I’d got one really crappy old desk a friend had given me with a twizzle chair that I fell off every time I turned round! The phone wouldn’t reach the desk and I daren’t move the desk to where the phone was because I thought people won’t see I’m there. And I had the door open all the time so that people would come in but nobody did. I was sitting there in my sheepskin jacket and gloves and woollies because I’d never been so cold. But after a couple of weeks I got four houses – they were friends of mine!
The Co-op came and our takings dropped – Peggy Carrington
The big Co-op came, and our takings dropped. And we thought, ‘That’s no good.’ And my father-in-law, had died, so Den said, ‘We’ll try and sell it, shall we?’ Because he was 65, ready for retiring, and I was 60, and he said, ‘I’ll try and sell it.’ We tried and we did, we sold it, but they didn’t keep it as we did, for long. They sold it to a hairdresser, Penny Lear.
Struggling and closing – Pat Green
The last five years of our trading we were struggling. Supermarkets being allowed to open on Sundays was one of the nails in the coffin. Trade dropped a lot. And then the last nail in the coffin was when Tescos opened at Hythe. After that our trade went down. And when we actually retired we never had no capital by us but the shop belonged to us. We tried to sell the business for five years and in that five years we only had about ten people come and have a look. We couldn’t sell it as a business and we just said, ‘Right, we’ll put it up as a house,’ and that went the next day to a cash buyer!
Wivenhoe Traders Association – Tony Allcock
We had our own trade organisation, Wivenhoe Traders’ Association, which had a meeting once a month. We had a Chairman and a Committee. It was very good for us all, in the early days, because that was the only contact we had with other business people, basically because we’re, so we used to take an evening and meet upstairs at the Greyhound. Among the members were ourselves, the local hairdresser Penny Lear, Ken Green, who was the fish merchant, Brian Green, Pat Green from the grocery stores, and her husband. At one time there was about 30 members. The main things we used to be concerned about was car parking, to let customers park. We had all the double yellow line problems come and hit us so there wasn’t a lot we could do about it.
Christmas events – Tony Allcock
At Christmas time all the businesses used to take part in decorating the street and providing a grotto for Father Christmas, raising money for the Mayor’s Fund. The grotto was held once outside my shop, in a passageway, and next time in an empty shop on the corner – Grosvenor Hotel. We organised stalls down from the railway bridge into the Square, right down to the quay, but now they have it in the churchyard. Each shop used to do their own thing; shops like the Delicatessen used to give out home-made punch. We had lucky dips and a draw. Restaurants would be giving out mince pies and wine. It was a terrific evening. We had the Father Christmas in the grotto – a gentleman named Stan Thurgood. He moved away from Wivenhoe but I suppose I could call him a figure of happiness because he would volunteer himself and he used to love doing it. And he was the ideal man because he had the white beard.
A lack of support – Tony Allcock
Wivenhoe Traders’ Association ended about seven or eight years ago, I suppose. Mainly it was lack of support, in all honesty. Sometimes you grow out of things. You can understand that people couldn’t turn up to meetings because they were doing other things. And, after all, business doesn’t just stay in the shop, business carries on after the doors close – with bookwork and things like this.
Trading hours – Tony Allcock
One thing we did get straightened out was to get our shops opening and closing at the same time. But, of course, that is still not right! We did get it in line once but individual shops have to work how they feel is best for them. Some local people would say, ‘We never know when the shops are closed or open.’ Well, I agree with them to a certain extent. I’m not perfect in any way, over this, because I’m now closing on a Monday. What we’re trying to do, at the moment, is do a four and a half day week. I hope it works out, in one sense, and so does my wife. I suppose a lot of people think, ‘Well, cor dear! He’s four and a half days a week,’ but I’ll still be working most probably six because after I close the door I start work because I don’t always get enough time during the day. I never mind that, mind you, I’ve never put a stopwatch on the time I work because I don’t believe in the eight hour day – I never have done. I always believe if a man wants to work 14 hours a day – if he’s self-employed, that is –that’s up to you. But it would be nice if we could get these opening hours correct somewhere along the line!
Business Association – Colin Andrews
The Business Association goes way back. Chevy Semprini was the first Chairman I believe, when he had the Talisman Arts. We got together and formed the Business Association. Tony Allcock was also a member, myself, and Mr Bolton, the dentist, and the Manager of Barclays Bank at that time – we were the founder members. We were trying to promote business in Wivenhoe. Some people were trying to join us using two hats though, some were politically minded which I didn’t favour much – I’m a bit single-minded that way. If you’re going to wear a hat you can only wear one hat, in my mind, so there was a bit of dissent from time to time. I suppose that’s healthy in it’s way, but it hasn’t helped at all in the long term, in hindsight. I think they still promote the Open Evening around Christmas time, when the Christmas lights are switched on. There’s still a little bit of harmony, I suppose, but we just don’t have a balanced shopping atmosphere here any more – with another estate agent opened. Once we lost the bank it did a lot of harm. If people visit to go to the bank then they stay to go round the shops.
Wivenhoe First Project 2000 – Peter Hill
I was Mayor in ’95/’96, and aware, then, that the traders in Wivenhoe were having a rough time – the recession in the late 1980s/early 90s hadn’t been kind, obviously. Wivenhoe’s never been an affluent community, the shops have been, I suppose, in their own way, well supported, but the loss of Barclays Bank, as the banks rationalised a lot of their smaller branch activities, was a negative step for the trading community. A lot of people came to Wivenhoe from outlying places, because they could park a car and nip across the road to the bank, and pop in and buy a loaf of bread from the bakers, and do one or two bits of shopping. So that was a bit of a death knell. And the building of Tescos at the Hythe meant that a lot of people no longer used the local Co-op. So the traders felt very much under threat. I guess the other thing which had happened was that a lot of the shopkeepers in Wivenhoe don’t own their own property, they have a landlord that they pay ever increasing rents to, so their costs were going up – Council Tax, rents were going up, Business Tax – so their cost base was growing and their revenue was decreasing, even though the size of the population had grown.
So when I was Mayor in ’95/’96, for the second time, ‘Wivenhoe First’, or ‘Project 2000’ as I called it initially, but we then, working with the Traders Association, called it ‘Wivenhoe First,’ with the idea of getting people to think about checking out the shops. First of all, to recognise that there are shops and businesses and Wivenhoe. It’s not just the shops, there are lots of businesses as well – today, there’s probably more than 120 different businesses in Wivenhoe, but they’re all small – and people tend to go, very naturally, to Tescos and the other places. And we tried to encourage the idea that at least go and check out the local shops to encourage the shopkeepers, themselves, to smile a bit more – even though it’s difficult at times! But to encourage the idea of quality of service, so we’re pushing things for the shops.
We were doing a number of campaigns – people might remember we got 50,000 green plastic carrier bags, with a picture of Wivenhoe in gold on it, with the logo, ‘Wivenhoe First,’ and people still see the ‘Wivenhoe First’ logo around on various things, so this concept of ‘Wivenhoe First,’ to try and get people to use the shops more, and to try and do things. I think we had, under this ‘Project 2000,’ the overall project, I think we did 54 mini projects. Like investigating whether we could get more car parking spaces, whether we could free up some car parking spaces that could be rotated, so that people knew they could pop down the village – a lot of the people at the top felt every time you went down to the bottom of the village, you couldn’t find a car parking space, so why go down there?
The Landscaping Project came out of Project 2000 – ‘Let’s make Wivenhoe more attractive.’ Ever since ’95, we’ve had planted tubs around the village – that came out of Project 2000. A number of areas of Wivenhoe, I think ten in all, with an interest in gardening, so let’s make some of these places more attractive. So we planted boats outside the William Loveless Hall, and so the Landscaping Scheme is run to make Wivenhoe more attractive, bring more visitors into Wivenhoe, build up things like the June Market and December Market – those are very good trading days for people at the bottom of the village.
So it was a whole range of initiatives, as I say, about 54 in all, and bring the attention of people to what’s on offer in the shops. I created ‘Wivenhoe Orange Pages,’ which competed with the ‘Wivenhoe at your Service’ booklet, but it was trying to get across to people just how many – not just the shops, but how many businesses were present.
Really, in a way from that, stemmed the idea of the Wivenhoe Website, which I created in May 2002, run under the name of the Wivenhoe Town Council, but I built it on my computer here, with the help of Paul Alden, who’s been my technical support. There’s a trade section on the website, and I’ve been happy to build pages for the local traders, to try and help promote themselves, and use the web to get things across. In a way, it’s quite gratifying. In the last two weeks I’ve had two people ask me to remove their entries off the website, because they’re just getting too many inquiries, they can’t handle them! One is someone who runs a bed and breakfast in Wivenhoe, and the other one’s a decorator, but they get too many inquiries to deal with! But I know lots of the traders have got business out of people doing a search. It’s good to see that Wivenhoe has a new florist. The new owner of the business said to me, last weekend, that she’d got a wedding booking out of it, so, someone searching for a florist who will do weddings, and that’s one of Jane’s specialities, so that’s been gratifying. But that really, in its own way, came out of my interest of doing something to help support the people in trade and business, who I’ve known over the years for various reasons.
Certainly anyone who runs a small shop here is at a disadvantage, because they generally have rented premises, and that gives you an immediate overhead of paying rent to a landlord. For example, the hairdressers, I suspect, have quite a few customers that live outside of Wivenhoe, because one advantage Wivenhoe offers is that, unlike Colchester, where it’s difficult to park in Colchester, and you can’t pop into Colchester, if you come here, either to the one men’s hairdresser’s or to the ladies’ hairdressers, there’s some parking around. So you can park, without charge, and pop in to meet your appointment without having to go to the appointment an hour beforehand. If you look at Sharon Crickett’s operation with the health care services and sun bed centre that she offers, again you’ve got that advantage, she’s by a free car park. It’s difficult, in this country, these days, to find a free car park. I think my colleagues and I on the Town Council will fight to make sure that the Wivenhoe Car Park remains a free car park. But the businesses that can survive here are people that need an office or somewhere where it is attractive to work. The one thing you’re not going to get here is passing trade. The rates in Wivenhoe, the Business Rates are a lot lower in Wivenhoe than the centre of Colchester , and so the Business Centre does moderately well. There’s usually a few units that are vacant there, but people who don’t need a passing trade, can find Wivenhoe a welcoming base to work from.