When I was very young, from four to thirteen, we lived in a village. There was a village shop and Post Office which was also the village telephone exchange. Ours was not a nucleated village, it was a scattered one. The centre, not a centre as most would know it, was on the main road passing through the village. There was the shop, a chapel next door, a church 50 yards away and a pub 100 yards away. The school was half a mile away in the other direction. Every other house or farm was dotted around a one-mile or so radius.
The shop was a 15 minute walk from our house but we loved it! Being a child at the time, my main memory is of the sweets. Sherbet Fountains, Flying Saucers, Spangles, Love Hearts, Refreshers, aniseed balls and pear drops. I could go on! The shop was small and stocked with a limited range of tinned goods, packets and toiletries – as well as sweets. There was a small Post Office counter at right angles to the shop counter. The switchboard was in their sitting room which was next to the shop.
For things which couldn’t be grown in the garden or bought in the village shop there was the town, five miles away, and regular vans which drove around the countryside selling their goods. The fish man came on Tuesdays and Fridays, the butcher came mid-week and also on Saturday. Our Sunday joint was always bought from ‘Arthur the butcher’. There was also a bread van, a pop van and a general grocery van.
The town, although a small market town (two thousand people), it had a few banks, loads of pubs, two chemists’ shops, two newsagents, a shoe shop, two butchers, two bakers, two drapers, two grocers, a greengrocer and an ironmonger. it loads of pubs, two chip shops and a cafe. The drapers and the shoe shop provided most of our regular needs – underwear, school uniform, school shoes. The brands I remember are Clarks, Start-Rite, Ladybird, Cherub, Banner and Trutex.
For ‘big’ shopping such as Christmas shopping, new summer clothes, new winter clothes, we went to Swansea (an hour and half drive) or Cardiff (a two hour drive). In between there was catalogue shopping – Marshall Ward, Littlewoods, Kays – essential in that sort of area and in those times.
We now long to have local merchants again to rely on solely, don’t we? Your description of shops (although your area was truly rural) is quite evocative of the various shops in Beeston at the time that I lived there. They supplied most of our needs. The little “corner shop” with its jewelled array of sweets in jars was very alluring and also handy for all sorts of items. We went by bus into Nottingham for “big” shopping also.
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Ah! The sweet jars! And the paper bags which held 2oz or 4oz.