Last time we were walking through my home village of Woodville, down to the school and the church. Now, though, we return to the High Street, the most important street in the village. The first shop on the left was Ormes’s. Here they sold boiled ham, crusty bread, ice cold milk and cream cakes. Hot ham hocks were delivered to the shop, I think, on perhaps a Monday or a Tuesday, and there were also special arrivals of savoury ducks, which were very large meatballs, on a Monday and a Thursday. The manager here was Eric Boss, a man who could out-flirt and out-innuendo even the Co-op butcher. Here’s Ormes’s. As you can see, it too is nowadays derelict:
There’s one Eric Boss story that I cannot not tell you.
“On one occasion, my grandfather, Will was pushing his huge old fashioned wooden wheelbarrow up Hartshorne Road towards the Toll Gate at the top of the hill. It was full of clay, and weighed a colossal amount. This, of course, was of little concern to Will, who was extremely strong, having spent his entire adult working life carrying huge quantities of wet clay on his back at Knowles’s and at Wraggs.
Down the hill came Eric Boss, the manager of Ormes’ grocer’s and cake shop, and a middle aged “Jack the Lad”, a man with a great eye for the ladies. He was always chatting them up as he served them. When he met Will, he obviously saw it as a chance to show off, for he said to him, “Hold on there, old man, I’ll give you a hand.” He reached down to grasp the handles of the barrow and take some of the weight off my apparently frail old grandfather.
Imagine then his embarrassment, when he could not even lift the wheelbarrow legs off the ground.”
Next door to Ormes’s was Taylors’ newsagents, run by Albert Taylor and his wife. As you can see, it too is nowadays derelict :
Among many other products, Taylors’ sold magazines from America such as “Famous Monsters of Filmland”:
And I well remember having to go up to Taylor’s to pre-order my copy of the new British comic for boys, namely “Victor”, complete with free gift, a plastic presentation wallet full of postcard sized photographs of the great football and rugby teams of 1961-1962:
Next on the left was Renée’s fish and chip shop, with her fabulous fishcakes, made almost exclusively of potato, and her special batter, imported daily from Derby by special van in special plastic buckets.
Here is Renée’s today:
After Renée’s fish and chip shop, with her fabulous fishcakes, came the Viking Coach Company which took clubs, societies and just ordinary passengers all over the country. A holiday in Scarborough. A fortnight on the Isle of Wight. A visit to a show in London or off to Birmingham to see “Godzilla: the Musical”. Alas, the Vikings are no more. They are now a flower and furniture shop where business is so good that they are closed at eleven o’clock in the morning on a Friday:
Opposite Albert Taylor’s newsagents, was, I think, a dry cleaners, As you can see, it too is nowadays derelict :
Next door was Charlie Fowell’s barber’s shop. Strangely, it is also closed this fine Friday morning:
Further up on the right hand side of the street was Ashmore’s, a second newsagent’s. As everybody has now forgotten how to read, it is now a curry shop:
Then there was Whyatt’s the greengrocers. Today, it is a Vape Shop, whatever that is:
I can remember though, the days when this greengrocery business was further up the street, on the left, until it had to be demolished to construct an important car park, and they had to move their premises. Here is that vital car park today, keeping the commerce of the area ticking over:
Whyatt’s original shop was at the side of a little road which ran away to the north from the High Street, on the opposite side from the Queen Adelaide public house. Whyatt’s always had boxes made of bright, thin, cheap orange wood on the pavement in front of their shop, where they displayed their fruit and vegetables. It was in this part of High Street that the demolition of a number of buildings occurred and, in the ruins of an ancient terraced house, a vast tangled rats’ nest was revealed in the ceiling of the back bedroom. It must have been ten or twelve feet across, and the product, one supposes, of generations of work on the part of countless hundreds of rats. As seven year old children, we always stopped to look at this natural wonder as we walked up to the Infants’ School at the top of High Street.
Opposite these shops and houses, on the other side of the High Street to Whyatt’s the Greengrocer’s was Woodville’s third newsagent’s, namely Jones’s, perhaps the least successful of the three. Nowadays it has been converted to a vitally needed fast food shop, one of forty three million in the country:
Back in the day, the shop was a fine source of what we called “shilling war books”:
There was at least one other shop in this block, but I cannot remember exactly what it was. There are vague memories, perhaps, of a TV repair shop. As you can see, though, it too is nowadays derelict:
Further up on the opposite side was Smart’s shop, which was divided into two halves, both equipped with bright orange cellophane sheets in the windows to protect their goods against the sun. The right hand half of the shop sold, if I remember correctly, wool, knitting patterns, knitting needles and sewing requisites, while the left hand side contained ladies’ dresses and other clothing. It was a marvellous shop for middle aged women to visit, to buy everything they needed for their hobbies.
Here is the knitting shop today. It was converted into a vitally needed fast food shop, one of forty three million in the country:
And here is the clothes shop. It’s used, I presume, to store the uncooked ingredients for Kim’s Kitchen. It’s very pretty, though, and I take my hat off to the architect who came up with that conversion of the original shop, after only seven years of study:
Next time, my attempts to get Woodville twinned with Florence.
25 responses to “The place where I grew up (4)”
Has everything gone derelict or repurposed?
As far as I can see, they are all derelict. The original centre of the village seems to have just one small supermarket where the locals go, but there are no small shops any more. The population of the village has been increased enormously since I lived there. The newcomers are more or less exclusively commuters, who go to nearby towns to work in offices and so on. They merely have houses in the village where they return at six in the evening, eat a meal, watch TV and then go to bed. At seven or eight, it’s into the car and away we go.
For that reason, they have very little real connection with where they live, since both to buy food and for recreation, they also get into the car and go elsewhere.
I suppose it all comes down to the loss of the old industries such as mining and working in factories. This has occurred in all of the European countries and in the USA too, but it doesn’t make it any easier for people, especially men, who felt that their job defined who they were as people.
You have such clear memories, John. Great Eric Boss/grandfather story.
Well, the story of Eric trying to lift the wheelbarrow was told on many, many occasions by my Dad, who in his old age, tended rather to tell the same few stories on many occasions, rather than many different stories on a very few occasions each, as he perhaps should have done.
I often have to check myself, John. But he was justifiably proud of that one. 🙂
I know I’ve said it before, but most people I know go to Europe for the history. If this town you grew up in could be restored to how it was back then, don’t you think it could be a tourist spot? People “get into” nostalgia.
I had never thought of that, but it’s definitely an idea. You are absolutely right about “nostalgia”. People certainly can’t get enough of it. TV programmes about antiques, about tracing your ancestors and so on.
Perhaps we should be emphasising the “grandeur” of the men who did such difficult physical jobs and in such difficult conditions.
Just as a little anecdote, as part of our British recruiting mechanism during WW2, men were chosen by lot as ten percent of all male conscripts to go underground and work in the coal mines. It was extremely unpopular. A small number of men volunteered to be miners but it was extremely few, most recruits preferring the home comforts of trying to capture Gold Beach on D-Day, or crossing the Rhine.
I knew you’d ‘get it’. DNA research has opened up everyone’s thought of the past.
This is an amusing but ultimately sad post. Anyone of our age group will recognise your town – any town!
I’m delighted that a fellow Englishman understands what I am getting at. Charity shops, boarded up shops, kids with no prospects and a dead city centre without any ordinary little shops. Instead there are huge centres ten or fifteen miles from the town, so cheap that small businesses cannot compete with them.
I don’t think voting for Brexit was for many leavers anything to do with the EC. I just think that it was a chance for ordinary working people to make their voices heard, to tell the smug politicians that they were not going to do what they were told to and just wanted to give them a bloody nose.
For many years, we lived in Adelaide, South Australia. There is a suburb there, named Woodville. I surmise it was so named by English migrants/settlers.
Yes, it would have been. There are quite a few Woodvilles in the world, including Ohio and Texas. One way of seeing what they look like is to look for “Woodville postcard ” on ebay.
I remember Eric Boss. As you say, a man who could banter with three customers at once while slicing boiled ham. The shop next to Charlie Fowell’s was the ‘Elite’ dry-cleaning shop run by Mrs Parrans. There was also a shop next door to Whyatt’s (new) shop, a baker’s, if I remember rightly, owned by Mr Sutherns. The houses which were demolished were, I think, known as Blacksmith’s Lane. The other shop, near Belvedere Road, sold bikes, I think, once upon a time. I remember Renee’s fish and chip shop, always doing a roaring trade, the staff in white uniforms and its white-tiled walls always spotlessly clean.
It’s sad to see how a once vibrant High Street full of independent shops and other businesses can become so dreary and characterless. The economic tide has ebbed.
Yes, you are absolutely right. “Dreary and characterless” because there are no little shops where people can gossip, swap news and, in a word, be human. Instead they drive isolated in their cars to shop far from home, talking usually with other family members and nobody else. Supermarkets seemed great when they first started but we, the people, have paid a big price with the death of our town centres.
Whitehall had a long standing policy of discouraging employment diversification in all coal-mining areas: they needed a captive labour market to go down the pit. When the wheels finally came off in the 1980s, and the NCB could not continue its gross overstatement of economically recoverable reserves, the working people of Woodville and elsewhere paid the price.
And ironically, they have now found literally “trillions of tons” of coal between Newcastle and the coast of Norway. If only we could develop a cleaner way of using it.
The National Coal Board’s MRDE (Bretby) Research centre was developing ‘clean burn’ technology. It was closed, I believe, in the early 1990s.
I used to go for Russian conversation lessons in Wood Lane, Newhall with a Ukrainian lady, Mrs Yarmack, and her husband was a scientist at Bretby. They were Jewish and had been in a German concentration camp, a Soviet camp for “valued Ukrainian guests” and then a British camp in 1945. Mr Yarmack was a scientist through and through. In the concentration camp, he organised groups of fellow prisoners to evaluate what hitherto inedible substances could be eaten. They tried silver birch leaves, tree bark and even the green slime off the trunks of trees. Because he was a scientist, and ate the same revolting things himself, lot of people took part in the evaluation. It didn’t work, of course, nothing did.
One day someone will write their PhD on the disastrous effect of the modern supermarket on the social fabric of small towns and villages. It is the same here in Australia.
Absolutely right! It was nice to talk to the people behind the counter about the weather or the football. It was even nice to have to order a special magazine or newspaper. It made the process exciting. Nowadays the huge supermarket has six different magazines about chrysanthemums.
And those poor women who used to flirt with Eric Boss or the butcher. He used to make them feel young again. Pretty. Wanted. Who flirts with them now? Nobody. Like so many Madame Bovaries, they go home with their bags of groceries, back to their excitement free lives.
Where I live now in suburban Sherwood, we haven’t even got an Asian corner shop now, and if Mr Thiara couldn’t make the place successful, nobody can. The reason, of course, is that within a couple of miles, we have five large supermarkets.
Thank you for sharing that insight into your life. Like so many places it has become derelict and forgotten, what a crying shame! Sadly the way of many small towns and villages today, and even many cities too!
I suppose it all comes from the demise of the old industries. The village might have got through that, but then several thousand people turned up, looking for houses. They were would-be commuters from Derby, Burton-on-Trent, even Leicester and Birmingham. They live their lives separate from everyone in the village, because for so much of the time, they are either in a traffic jam, or in bed, exhausted from their way of life. They know none of the old villagers, and hardly ever meet anybody in the centre of the village to establish any continuity with their lives.
That I think is the problem today right across the country. People want the ‘country’ life but with the city salary and facilities. So few people know of the history of these places that they lose the atmosphere and ‘familiarity’ that they once had. A shame really but inevitable in today’s society.
Absolutely right. And I suppose that after work, most of those people are too tired or too busy to start researching the history of their new home town