Welcome to my blog, where I take pleasure in words and pictures, be they my own or those of others. I'm a creative individual, and the crafty side I explore on my 'other blog', Picking Up The Threads, which I hope you'll visit too. I'm sure you understand that I have sole copyright of my original work and any of my contributions, so please ask if you want to use them. A polite request is rarely refused. So, as they used to say on the BBC's 'Listen With Mother' radio programme, many years ago: "Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin."

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Open All Hours

The very detailed pictured provided as a prompt for this week’s Sepia Saturday, shows a shop doorway in Sydney, Australia in 1934. This sent me delving into my father’s side of the family, where I knew that at least three of them had been shopkeepers. It’s amazing what a little research for a blogpost will nudge, quite literally, into the frame. I had always been aware of a blurry sepia picture of my great-grandfather Sydney (Dad’s Grandfather on his mother’s side) standing in the doorway of his fishmonger’s shop in Nottingham. My older brother knew a few more details but also provided me with three new pictures I had never seen before. The first of these is the one I like best; the nonchalant pose is not one I’ve ever seen adopted by a 'sepia shopkeeper' before!


Now, I know this isn’t a fishmonger’s, it appears to be a grocer’s, so we have a bit of a mystery. Could it be two windows of the same premises? Behind him, in the shop, can be seen tins of biscuits and other dried goods which would have been his stock-in-trade. A second picture appears to confirm this, though he doesn’t look quite so dapper here; waistcoat off and sleeves rolled up. The child beside him is a friend of the family and the other youngster just happened to have run in front of the intended subjects, as small children so annoyingly can when a shot is being posed. No digital cameras then, and films were precious, so once the shutter clicked it would have to do. This picture seems to pre-date the next one as my Great-grandfather looks a little younger, but it’s interesting to note the price of bread is the same as that in the Sepia Saturday prompt. The shop reminds me of the one kept by Arkwright in the TV series ‘Open All Hours’. I wonder if it had a similar lethal till (cash register).


I talked to my 90 year old father about the fishmongers on Manvers Street, Nottingham. Dad remembers his Grandfather also sold rabbits, and my Grandmother (one of his fourteen children) as a girl, had the job of skinning them. There was sawdust on the shopfloor to catch the blood .

Here’s the picture of my Great-grandfather which started me on this quest. Now we see him in yet another working outfit, complete with striped apron, from which he would produce a halfpenny when my Dad visited as a child. The window advertises cod and crabs. I’m told this was Jubilee Day 1934, and the bunting can just be seen above the window and door.

My Dad, who was a travelling salesman, also inherited the selling gene from Lydia, his Grandmother on his Father’s side. At some time around the turn of the twentieth century we know that she had what Dad called a ‘Bread Shop’, but I don’t think it was what we would now know as Baker’s. It was more likely a corner shop, typical of many a street in town and village at that time. The shop would provide those commodities needed by people with little income, who had only to walk to the end of the road where they lived to buy a loaf or a packet of tea.

The last picture is of yet another member of the family. The lady in the doorway is not Lydia, who died in 1910, but her daughter Sarah (born in 1885). This picture was probably taken in the late 1920s or early 30s. She was my Dad’s Aunt ‘Cis' who would later run a sweet shop in Delta Street. Cis would have given up her original skilled job, which according to the 1901 census, was that of a lace-hand in Nottingham’s famous lace industry. I like the way the children in the street have engineered to be in the photograph; it makes it all the more interesting. The little chap is being given a ride on a bike which is far too big for him - he could never reach the pedals. On the other hand it seems too small for his older sibling. There’s another smaller bike on the right, face on to camera. What do we think the youngster on the left is doing? And no, he’s not sending a text!
I asked both my parents about the sweetshops of their childhood. Dad recalled Pontefract Cakes, Marshmallows,Tiger Nuts, Turkish Delight and Barley Sugar sticks. Mum remembered that when she was a little girl in the 1920s, she would visit a shop run by the Misses Mackintosh on Tealby Terrace, Nottingham, where 2oz of sweets would cost one penny and a bar of chocolate would be tuppence. There would be fruit drops, dolly mixtures and liquorice sticks. Mum loved walnut whips (a rare treat) and sherbert fountains. “Do you know, she said, I haven’t had one of those in years. I wonder if you can still get them. I’ll look out for them next time I’m out shopping.” Mum will be 91 in November, with a wonderful memory for the small details of her childhood. "Aniseed balls,” she said, “We used to suck them until they changed colour, and we’d keep sticking our tongues out to each other to check.” She also recalled her friend Tommy who always gave her the little toy from his ‘Lucky Bag’ for her Doll’s House. The simple pleasures of childhood.

27 comments:

  1. These are stunning images! Such a beautifully written post and it has been so nice to read about Nottingham and it's history! I spent 6 years living there through and after university so it holds a special place in my heart :-) I actually lived in the Lace Market area for several years!

    Jem xXx

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  2. Love these! And history and family behind them all. Make sure to document and keep these notes tucked away with your photos for future generations! And the candies all sound so yummy!

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  3. They're great. They almost tell the story on their own. I know by the twenties or thirties that camera technology had moved on so pictures could be taken quite quickly. I am however, wondering if we have been a little mislead into believing that all poses were stiff and proper.

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  4. You can still get sherbet fountains last time I looked!

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  5. Loved this post - photographs are great. There's a fantastic site called "a quarter of" that sells lots of retro sweets.
    Liz @ Shortbread & Ginger

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  6. This brings back memories for me too - I still remember well the dour face of the Italian shopkeeper who ran Helen's Cafe. I always thought he was a miserable sod until one day I was short a cent for a roll of wine gums, which I think must have been priced at 3c. Without a word, or a smile, he put his hand in his pocket, took out a cent, put it in the till and handed me the wine gums. Of course I paid him back the next time I was in, but he still didn't crack a smile. I've never forgotten him though, and that was 40 years ago.

    Thanks for the evocative images, and the very well sleuthed story. Isn't it extraordinary how many memories these photos can bring out? Liquorice strips and apricot gobstoppers were my favourites.

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  7. I think it must have been lovely to buy fresh produce locally, and have a chat to the shopkeepers. Not so sure about giving birth to 14 babies though, or skinning rabbits!

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  8. Lucy that’s an approximation. Mum and Dad could remember the names of about 10 and said there were definitely a few more. It was two different wives.

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  9. When my brother went off to war he left me a pile of pennies so that I could buy a gobstopper a day until the money ran out.
    I followed you to Nottingham Nell! Trent Bridge and British Rail.

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  10. What great photos! I love photos of the everyday scenes of life...it gives us better insight into our ancestors days. Thanks for sharing!

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  11. Those are nice photos, especially the last one. All those sweets sound intriguing, and none of their names are ones I have heard of in the U. S.

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  12. Thanks for the wonderful trip through a world I've never known. Each image a stunner.

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  13. Lovely post. Have you noticed how alike the child on the bicycle and the one running (uninvited) into shot, are? Spooky.

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  14. Everyone In All The Shots Seem Very Relaxed....Maybe Shopping Was A More Easygoing Process Than It Often Is Today?

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  15. Fabulous character study in that first picture.

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  16. The first photo is my favourite too - a shopkeeper with Attitude :-) Such lovely details in these photos - and memories of all the sugary goodies you could buy with a couple of pennies :-) Jo

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  17. Oh my gosh ... you come from a long line of retailers! How awesome to have all of these great photos and stories at hand. I wonder if the boy on the bike is looking at his pocket watch?

    Thanks so much for visiting me today; I'm so happy that you enjoyed the posts.

    Happy SS,

    Kathy M.

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  18. A super collection on the theme and wonderful story! The first is indeed a great photo too.

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  19. Now if in any way Sepia Saturday has been responsible for you putting together that quite excellent post, it makes everything worth while. It was just a beautifully crafted piece of micro-history which was a pleasure to read.

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  20. I love seeing some of the brand names that are still going strong, such as Atora and Brasso. Rinso I remember but I think it has disappeared. I've never heard the name Monk & Glass custard powder though. I looked it up, and the business was owned by Bob Monkhouse's grandfather.

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  21. This is amazing! We are so fortunate that you took the time to share these with us - the incredible photos as well as the narrative. I am bowled over. I would so like to step into that last photo and take a look a closer look at the bicycles and the inside of the shop if Cis would let me. Thank you!

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  22. great pics!!
    i remember a candyshop run by two german sisters, where i had my first taste of marzipan. i remember it was a pig with a coin up its butt... i could barely understand the sisters, either in french or english, because they had still such a thick accent!! but they were very nice.
    :D~
    HUGZ

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  23. These are incredible pictures. My grandparents used to run a corner shop/newsagents in Kent but alas we have no photographs of it and it's just a house now.

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  24. Fantastic images and it has to be great to have that connection.

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  25. wonderful pictures - and such an interesting commentary! I really love the nonchalance of the first one.

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  26. Those are fantastic shots! I love looking at old photos - life then seems a million miles away compared to how it is now. Does us good to remember the days when we didn't have life so easy, though.

    And the first photo is definitely my favourite!

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  27. I remember buying all those sweets when I was a nipper. There were other sweets I liked - floral gums, cherry lips, cinder toffee, pear drops, licorice comfits (my mouth is watering at this point). And I did exactly the same thing with aniseed balls :o)

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