More Village Rambles

Sweet shops and ice-cream!

Mickleton was quite an industrious village back in the 1950’s. No doubt there were more shops than the few I remember as a child.

Let’s start with Mrs Timmins’ sweet shop, pretty Vine Cottage today. The front door would creak open, setting off the attached bell. Mrs. Timmins’ slow progress from her sitting room gave me time to ponder over the array or sweets. Her creamy white face, skin like alabaster, appeared round the door. Wearing a wrap-around pinafore, her ample girth easily filled the narrow space between the counter and the shelves behind which held the numerous old traditional sweet jars. What a choice for my handful of halfpennies and pennies. She was always so patient while I carefully counted out both coins and sweets!

Further on, at the black and white Garden Cottage lived Mr and Mrs D Yates, a big family of fine sons and attractive daughters, some of whom still live in the village or locally. On the pavement a small table displayed baskets of pears, apples, etc. Older gardeners will know them as 12lb chip baskets. The strawberries are remembered most vividly. My mouth watering, I’d dreamily choose one, always mindful never to touch. Through the gate, to the door, always open, leading into their large grey flagstoned living room, from where Mrs Yates sold fresh produce, a big set of scales on a table in the centre. All the vegetables and fruit were grown by the Yates’ family in the fields opposite (Ballards Close now) and in their adjoining walled garden. I would buy a bottle of cherryade and Mrs Yates handed me the change with a cheery smile, along with an apple and a strawberry or two. Over the road to the left of the fountain was Mr Arthur Roberts’ black timber building, where he repaired boots and shoes to a very high standard. His bike, propped outside, next to a snowberry bush, indicated that the shop was open. Inside, a delightful smell of leather filled the small room. A line of shoes would await repairs, dirty and dusty. Along the other side were shoes ready for collection, all mended and polished like new. Each sole was hand cut, every stitch in a belt, strap or shoe, he did painstakingly. This gentle man, Mr Roberts, took great pride in his work. How fortunate we were in having our own Cobbler; how different today when shoes in need of re-heeling are often discarded.

Next door lived Mrs Glover and her son James (Jimmy). She was a quiet, refined lady who had a haberdashery shop in a room downstairs. It was handy to pop there for a yard of new hair ribbon, or elastic, buttons, etc.

Cross the road again to Mrs Dolby’s, a hard working lady, despite being lame. I can picture her now, carrying a bucket, hens round her feet. She raised plants, mainly flowers, which she sold from her back door, along with free-range eggs. Those houses between Garden Cottage and Alveston Grange all had very long rear gardens then.

On the site of today’s entrance to Alveston Grange, stood Rosamund’s Garage with workshop at the rear, later taken on by Peter Smith, and then Dave Struthers. The petrol pumps were on the edge of the pavement, no forecourts then! The Office was tucked in on the right, close to the alley there. For a time, the doctor’s surgery was here too.

On to Sherwin’s Cafe, today’s Post Office. People could enjoy a cup of tea and cakes, tables set out on the left of the shop. They sold all things useful, just like today’s shop, plus lovely ice cream cornets. My mother talks about me in the pushchair (must have been about 1950) asking for “a nice keemee please”. It became Mr Sherwin’s nickname for me!

The Post Office then was at Richmond House, the very efficient Ethel Pearce giving everyone a cheery greeting. Feeling bored, I’d struggle to read the dire warnings about a huge insect, obviously magnified in the poster. It was the Colorado Beetle, threatening to devastate Britain’s potato crops around 1954-55.

This article was first published in the Parish magazine, October 2011

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