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Ledbury Shopping In The Late 1930s - Page 2 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Pip Powell   
Thursday, 15 November 2007 20:52
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Ledbury Shopping In The Late 1930s
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The Scene is Set

Saturdays and Tuesdays were the main shopping days in Ledbury.  Always busy on market day, Tuesday.

Farmers' wives accompanied their husbands to town to do their weekly 'shop' and most did their worker's and workers' wives' 'shop' too.

The other heavy shopping day was Saturday.  Before working hours per week were radically reduced, the only shopping day for workers was Saturday and for some, only Saturday afternoons.

Oliver Howe ran a private bus company, which served the country areas on Saturdays and Tuesdays.  Their rear-loading Morris commercial small coach parked outside the Seven Stars.  Arrival and departure times when the passengers were good and ready.  The driver was the ever amiable Mr Davies.

There were No Supermarkets

A quick description of the town of my youth and childhood.

All shops boasted the traditional shop-front, gleaming windows and neat displays, food shop staff didn't wear the twee uniforms seen today, but wore white, crisp aprons and jackets.  In each establishment staff and owners vied with others to provide expertise and courtesy.

It seems inconceivable now, but one could possibly complete one's shopping in an area from the Cross to the Old Hospital.

There is no time to individualise (except later in a couple of cases) but just imagine this: In just the space of the High Street, New Street, Bye Street, The Homend and the Southend there were:

12 Grocers
14 Pubs
5 Butchers
5 Cobblers and Bootmakers
5 Cycle shops
4 Cafés
4 Hairdressers
4 Bakers
3 Stationers
3 Banks
3 Haberdashers/Drapers
3 Tobacconists
3 Ironmongers
3 Electrical/Radio Stores
3 Garages
3 Builders
2 Dentists
2 Tailors and Outfitters
2 Fishmongers
2 Furnitures Shops/Makers
2 Saddlers
2 Clothiers
1 Blacksmith
1 Post Office
1 Optician
1 Delicattessen
1 Dress Maker
1 Drug Store
1 Sculptor
1 Ladies Outfitters
1 Reporter
1 Jewellers
1 Cinema
1 Wine Store
1 Co-op
1 Farmer's Co-op

All within 10 minutes of one another.

Shopping Nostalgia

Mr Basil was cheese and bacon.  Behind the counter in general groceries, a whole bank of wooden drawers containing all the dried herbs and spices, of which you could buy any weight you required.  When you walked in, the affable Mr Basil would insist you had a taster (free of charge) of cheese.

Mrs Brace, owner of quite a large establishment in Bye Street, also ran a Market House stall personally on Tuesdays and Saturdays; a very good business lady, down to earth, more than a match for any smart Alec who disparaged the goods.  A Brace broadside was very much to be avoided!

Crossleys, a smallish, but distinguished fishmonger, was also proprietor of the once splendid cinema.  Always up-to-date programmes.

Mr Shirvington, who not only repaired shoes but made them too, specialised in riding boots for the well off and people with odd size feet!
Mr Ford in New Street, a brilliant saddler and harness maker, was a retailer and manufacturer of leather goods.  His ex-apprentice, also a brilliant craftsman, John Kington, is still in business keeping this splendid ancient skill alive with his son, near Dymock (Four Oaks).

Devereux the Greengrocer grew his own goods.  The shop was in the High Street, the growing premises now Queen's Court, Bye Street.

So too Manghams, who grew most of his own.  He had a shop in Church Street and growing premises at Upper Hall Nursery, next to the old grammar school.

A splendid premises in my childhood was Mrs Chadd's Ice Cream Parlour (Second Thoughts).  She made her own product; I remember the circular wafers.

In the early 30s we had a foretaste of the superstore, Woolworths (Ed: following the demise of Woolworths nationally, the shop became the independent Well Worth It).  This occupies what was once Austin Maddox, corn and feed merchant.  Woollies advert over the shop was 'F.W. Woolworths 3d and 6d Store'.  Inside everything cost no less than 3d and no more than 6d.  To us a new innovation.  Between the doors inside there was a monster ice cream fridge.  You could purchase a vanilla/strawberry cornet or wafer.  These were ready-formed, not scooped.  Also for sale were freshly roasted peanuts and broken biscuits.

When in need of sustenance or company there was Sherwood's Café, over their drapery store; Bruton's in the Southend, Clift's Café (near TSB) and of course a 50s addition, the Milk Maid Milk Bar, situated where the café is opposite the Market House.  There was a branch of this outfit in every sizeable town in England.  An American style set-up, one could purchase practically any refreshing drink or snack imaginable.  Also a strategic position for us callow youths to sit on bar-stools and lech through the large windows at passing talent.  Much later, when we thought we had lost it, an ex-navel Commadore and his wife took it on and ran it for many years.  An absolutely lovely couple, Mr and Mrs Furness made brilliant sarnies, milkshakes and soup.

In New Street was Davies' Ice Box, homely nourishing and I swear they invented the ice lolly!  Above them, next door to the former Ring of Bills pub, was Short's Café.

Up on St. Katherines Terrace, operating from her home, an old lady, Mrs Wetson I believe, ran a shop supplying pins, needles, cotton and fabrics.  Also on St. Katherines Terrace, a Mr Jimmy Smith, a notable and well known photographer, plied his trade.  As well as making his living this way, he would go out in his own interest to record many of the changes occurring at the time, including photographing the varying stages of the building of the Clock Tower.  His son Roy Smith continued the family business, but sadly is now retired.

A well known butcher, Mr Bill Summers (now Llandinabo Farm Shop) specialised during the war in producing sausages and faggots.  Comprising chiefly of offal, these were unrationed.  From very early each Saturday morning, Mr and Mrs Summers and daughters, Sylvia, Ruby and Pearl and their boyfriend/spouses would work flat-out producing these goods.  There was always a queue 2-deep all the way down the street until they ran out.  So popular were they that they attempted to be fair by selling only 2 pounds to each family.  This was overcome by sending the kids as well as Uncle Tom to buy more!

As well as these strictly localised shop, these were many more serving the nearby area, such as Maddox on Victoria Road (bakers and grocers); Jones on Victoria Road (the Post Office) and Norwich House in Oatleys Road, and so on, as well as self-employed seamstresses.  One I can remember well as a child, who made me and my brother Paisley blouses, was Miss Goodacre; and Mr George Bosley in Church Street, who was responsible for teaching piano and music to probably thousands of local and not-so-local kids.  He also accompanied the Ledbury Operatic Society (of which I was a member) at our rehearsals.

I must mention my cycle shop.  Dad started it in 1923.  Sadly, he died in 1960, and I have carried it on since - eighty-four year in total, of which my total is 47 years.  In the 40s there were five cycle shops serving a population of around 3,500!

Ed: Thanks to Mark Broadbent for transcribing this article.

Last Updated on Thursday, 04 March 2010 15:03
Comments (3)
Pip Powell - a great guy
3 Thursday, 25 February 2010 18:14
Steve Glennie-Smith
I first knew Pip Powell in 1976, the year I moved to Ledbury. Although I always have done my own bike repairs, he was always very helpful - nothing was too much trouble for him - ordering obscure parts, etc. I always respected his considerable knowledge of bicycle engineering and bike history in the pre-Shimano days. He was always willing to give customers (and window shoppers) the benefit of his knowledge - even to the point that it was often said - "Don't go to Pip's unless you've got an afternoon to spare." Yes - he could talk the hind legs off a donkey, but it was always interesting stuff. What that man didn't know about Ledbury wasn't worth knowing.

Thanks for re-running the article that appeared in the only (so far) printed version of the Portal. I just remember Bebbingtons - a delightfully quaint grocer's shop that closed a few months after I moved here.

Pip mentioned there were five cycle shops in Ledbury in his article. There were three until last November, when Pip had to close to go into hospital. I'm glad I was able to visit him in Ledbury Hospital about a month ago. Although he couldn't speak, owing to his throat operation, he had a pad of paper with him on which he wrote 'I'll be back'. Sadly this was not to be, and with the closing of Saddlebound Cycles last month, Ledbury is now down to just ONE bike shop - Clements at the bottom of Bank Crescent.

Update on Pip's funeral - it will be on Wednesday 10th March at 12:30 (NOT 2pm as advised earlier), at Ledbury Parish church.

Ledbury will be a lesser place for your passing, Pip. You were a great guy.
Pip Showed Me A Few Tricks
2 Thursday, 25 February 2010 14:22

What can I say about Pip Powell?  Well I didn’t know him for long but on the many occasions I did pop into his shop with annoying adjustments or minor repairs to my bike he always replied with a comment like “that’s not a problem” or “that’s easy” and with a fairly simple explanation he would talk me through the job at hand and send me home to do it myself.  I will always remember Pip as the friendly and helpful old boy sitting on his stoop playing with some bicycle part but always had time for a chat or put a bit of air in struggling mothers' pushchair tyres.  Cheers Pip!  Another local character that made Ledbury what it is will be sadly missed.

The Brawl and The Copper
1 Thursday, 25 February 2010 12:28
John Eager

Pip was a great story teller and had an amazing memory. When he wasn't working he'd rest up on those shop steps and watch Ledbury unfold from one generation to the next. I remember Pip telling me about a fight that broke out in the 1950s between some locals and travelling gypsies that had come into town to do the hops. It had started in the Horseshoe (where else?) and spilled out into the Homend. The way Pip described it the fight turned into a mass brawl that stretched right down the Homend. Pip told me how the local police officer (I forget his name, Pip had not of course) walked casually up the road through the melee. I remember Pip saying how puzzled he had been by why the fighters stopped as the copper walked through them. And then as the copper approached nearer, Pip could see what was happening. The copper was giving a low whack with his truncheon to each of the men who were fighting as he casually walked past them. He didn't even break sweat. Pip was amazed by how one policemen had broken up a mass drunken brawl so effectively. The richness of the telling by Pip put the story in my head like a video of the event. I hope my brief re-telling does it justice.