A Vanished Past – Grocers

“History rarely repeats itself, but it often rhymes. …” Mark Twain.

Interesting to compare and contrast our “grocery shopping” experience now with then:

  • Home Deliveries:  First the shopkeeper had to visit all his customers to take down their orders (hardly anyone had a telephone in those days); then make his way to the town, buy whatever commodities were ordered, and then come back and make the individual deliveries. For all of this he made a modest charge. But to even think of him keeping all those orders separate in his head, in combination, of course, with some kind of record in the notebook he also carried, makes the mind boggle! All mental arithmetic; no pocket calculators.”
  • Village Shop: “At the same time the small grocery shops, whether in Banbury or the villages found themselves in competition with new large food outlets like Keymarket.”

Grocers

Alice Saunders and Maureen Eeles buy sweets from Mrs Oliver

Alice Saunders and Maureen Eeles buy sweets from Mrs Oliver, Photographs by John Saunders

During the war there was no village shop in Horley. Most people did best if they committed themselves to one grocer or another, and became a regular customer. Dossetts the Banbury’s ‘High Class’ grocers made pre-ordered deliveries to large households in the area.

Shortly after the war the elderly Mrs Roylance ran a little shop for a short while from her front room in Hillary Cottage. It was hard to keep going. Mrs Jack Oliver took it over when she left as cook of The Manor.

 

Mrs Jack Oliver serves Ann Saunders of The School House

Mrs Jack Oliver serves Ann Saunders of The School House

Mr Jack Oliver in the shop

Mr Jack Oliver serving in the shop and post office in The Square

In the 1950s the Gibsons of The Manor provided the village with a purpose-built Shop and Post Office in The Square which Mr and Mrs Jack Oliver ran and eventually owned, and which supplied all the basic non-perishable provisions that people needed. At the same time the small grocery shops, whether in Banbury or the villages found themselves in competition with new large food outlets like Keymarket.

Mr Jack Hobbs

The extended shop – below is a picture of Mr  Jack Hobbs of one of Varney’s Yard cottages, now Ivy Cottage, leaving the village shop. By 1965 the shop had closed and a Co-op van was delivering groceries on a Tuesday

Courtesy of Mrs E M Blakiston-Houston (previously Coles) & Mrs Margaret Coles of SheningtonCarriers to and from Banbury were very important well into the 1930s, bringing food and goods to many households. As late as the 1950s the Sumner family still provided a residual service for those unable to get to Banbury. Robert Pearson writes in more detail about the 1920s and 1930s: ‘….. there were other sectors of country life where horses still provided an essential service. The village had its own motorised bus service into the local town twice a week (on market day, which was on Thursdays, and on Saturdays), but the carrier service was still operated by a covered horse-drawn wagon, which was fitted up with shelving…This service also operated on the same two days, and in retrospect must have been a nightmare to organise. First the shopkeeper had to visit all his customers to take down their orders (hardly anyone had a telephone in those days); then make his way to the town, buy whatever commodities were ordered, and then come back and make the individual deliveries. For all of this he made a modest charge. But to even think of him keeping all those orders separate in his head, in combination, of course, with some kind of record in the notebook he also carried, makes the mind boggle! All mental arithmetic; no pocket calculators.’

Mr Philip Coles, the grocer, was a constant figure in the village on Tuesdays. He, his brother Ernest and his sister, Mrs E.M. Blakiston-Houston owned the village grocers shop in Shenington, and took their van round several villages collecting orders from each house and then after searching through the shelves stacked with groceries and boxes full of goods on the floor of the van, returning with a wicker basket full of the food. During and in the years following the war the Coles’ business thrived, but suffered with the arrival of supermarkets and their lower prices.

PS Since posting this one of the photo’s has been shared 2.7k times, you should be able to it

How many people remember when the local grocery shop looked like this?

Posted by Dave Matthews on Monday, 14 December 2015

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