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The Fernhurst Society

Oral history interviews: shops

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Kathleen Bird | Margaret Cole | Maureen Duke | Tony West

Kathleen Bird

And your Dad worked at Coles?

Yes, he was a delivery driver for Coles and, I think, did it for about 40 years.  In those days they used to deliver bread, groceries, paraffin, meat - all mixed in together.  Not a refrigerated van in those days of course… and Tescos think they've got something wonderful going on which is modern but …[laughter].  But the week was divided into two lots of rounds.  Half the week, the days he would go up over Blackdown, back through Lurgashall and along the Lickfold Road, and the other days he would do down the Midhurst Road and into Henley Village, but was gone all of the day each time.  And there was another van driven by Ted Smith, who did the other part of the village and down Vann Road.  And of course the winters seemed to be a lot harder then.  The van often had chains on.  He used to meet the postman when they were both battling through snowdrifts.  I can't remember Dad ever missing a delivery, even though he came back exhausted and very late sometimes… He wouldn't let anybody down.  And everybody had their little order books, so they'd complete an order and he'd bring the book back to the shop.  They'd make up the order and of course he'd deliver it the next time he went out.  Mrs Cole worked in the shop as well.  Unfortunately, David didn't take the business on and it was sold, but it was in the Cole family for quite a few years.

Church Road is now almost all residential apart from the Church really.  When you were growing up there, that wasn't the case was it?

No, of course there was the post office at the top on the Crossroads, but just down beyond… of course there's the cemetery there and a few houses, but going down on the right-hand side there was a dairy, the big large house in front is still there, but what was the dairy behind is now residential.  But the milk floats used to go out quite early in the mornings and of course you could go across and buy your milk from the door at the side.  Next door to that was the butchers.  My mother, for a short period, worked in the office in the butchers.  Those were the days when they had someone to take the orders, hold the phone and take the money separately.  I remember Mr Edwards the butcher there and his family… his wife trying to teach me to play the piano at one stage.  She could play it beautifully.  I remember hearing her play at parties, but I didn't achieve such wonderful standard or anywhere near it.  There was a slaughterhouse down the back.  It wasn't used then although I do remember the butcher hanging up lambs from the hooks on the front door of the butchers and chopping them down the middle.  He had a delivery van and also a butcher's boy on a Saturday, delivering meat on a bike.  Very busy shop. 

And the dairy - you mentioned that milk floats left there, so did they do bottling there?  Do you remember milk arriving at the dairy or…?

I think they must have done their own bottling, but I can't remember.  But there was quite an area - working area - at the back, so probably yes.  I can't definitely remember.



Margaret Cole

What about the other shops at the time in Fernhurst.

Well there was a chemist opposite where Cats Whiskers were, there was the Co-op behind what was the paper shop and is now Blackdown Press, there was a little old wooden building further along the road, roughly where our new paper shop is, which had been Alex Dubbin’s shoe repairs, up where the Spread Eagle was. Just past the Spread Eagle somebody, I can’t think what his first name was, Smithers, used to sell fish.  We’ve had a butchers down on Church Road, we’ve had a haberdashery on Midhurst Road and all these things have changed haven’t they?

What was sold in the shop when you first came here?

All provisions, everything but meat in a way and then of course when the shop wasn’t required any more as accommodation because after J G Cole built Cherryland then the Newmans had it for a while until they moved somewhere else and then I think they built their Winter….  in about 1914 something. They hadn’t been there all that time but father-in-law had his sister also come and live behind the shop and when she departed then the shop was extended and her sitting room and upstairs bedroom were taken into the main building and so the wine department was extended.  Basically until l951-ish, as I said, all the baking was done there.

Who was the ghost?

That was another of his little quirks.  He bought the grocery property from a little old lady….called Cary Woodman.  When they had new staff there, especially the young impressionable girls…., they were always told you will be out promptly before we lock up because the ghost walks and that was Cary.  He used to tease them, it wasn’t true at all.

Nice little story.

One other little thing, during the war of course they kept pigs up the garden.

And that was all round the back?

All round the back of the grocery shop, we had a square acre there.  Then of course during the war too, going on to the 1940s, Ron was employed as a baker, he was employed as a grocer and he was also, because father-in-law had bought the Post Office and that string of cottages down there, he was Postmaster.  So poor Ron would have to be on duty on the telephone because we had the Telephone Exchange there; then, overnight and early in the morning come over to make the bread ready for the day’s demands, so it was quite hard work.  Then when you add to it the newsagency on the other side, getting up early for newspapers, there weren’t enough hours in the day.



Maureen Duke

Would you like to cover the shops in the Village and your memories of those shops?

In Vann Lane right at the end was Varns Shop – the Varns Shop was an ironmongery, largely, but it seemed to have a lot of everything and it was run by old Mr Varns and the two daughters both of whom were Cokelers, whom I am sure you know about. They wore the old black long skirts with high collars and blouses and so on.  It was a bit dark and I don’t remember buying much other than the odd, maybe, brush or black lead or something of that kind. 

Coming up to the Crossroads there was of course originally a little shop on the Crossroads which was ultimately made into Coles and Jim Cole he was coachman to the Dickensons at Hawksfold originally, and then he bought that little shop which was a newspaper shop and sweet shop. I can remember going in there and not being able to see over the edge of the counter….Even if you put your penny on the counter for sweets the lady would look over the counter at you. It was a little frightening and I didn’t like going in there very much.  I don’t think it was very clean as a matter of fact, but then maybe I was closer to it than other people. 

The Post Office was then the other way round and it came straight out onto the road.  On the other side from the Post Office was Hillier’s the drapers shop and latterly it was run by Mrs Pape who was a Hillier before she married.  On the other side of the road there were the two ‘snobbies’ – the shoemakers, Alec Dudman and Fred Dudman and I have no idea why they were side by side or why one went to one rather than the other but I know that we used to take our shoes to Fred Dudman...  Shaw’s shop was not only a haberdashers but also a tailor because old Mrs Shaw was a bespoke tailor and would make frocks and suits and so on to order and very good she was indeed.  Her daughter joined the services during the war and her granddaughter also went off later on into the Women’s Air force and became officer – Leslie was her daughter. 

Denyers the butchers down Church Road – old Mr Denyer was a proper butcher.  One of the things that used to happen to me in my teens was that we used to queue of course for meat because during wartime it was in short supply and when it came in you queued and I often had to queue with some of the older ladies and gentlemen of Fernhurst who would regale me with dreadful stories of my grandfather – of what a wonderful Doctor he had been and they all loved him dearly but they always explained to me in great detail how he had taken out their wisdom teeth or their in growing toenail or sewn them up when they had gashes. A lot of it was history but pretty hairy history and one realised just how dependent and what a tremendous amount of medicine grandfather covered and being a surgeon he had occasionally to operate in people’s houses because there was no other way of doing it.  In the original photographs of the Edward VII hospital my grandfather was there because he was Medical Officer for the Fernhurst and Milland area and so it was more or less on his patch. 

Going back to the shops they changed hands and generally changed a lot during my life in Fernhurst because of course Ron Cole took over the newsagents shop on the other side which was in front of the Co-op. Oh I have forgotten the Co-op.  The Co-op had green glazed tiles and we used to go down to the Co-op for all our shopping other than .. this is difficult to remember precisely. But what happened before the war was that the Army and Navy Stores sent a van down from London every week and our cook went and my Grandmother Eastwood would put together the order which was for butter and cheese and all those kinds of things and this was for the next week and it would be delivered the following week at which point it would be put into cold storage (no fridges in those days).

I can remember sitting with butter pats and my grandmother and a big bowl of cold water patting all the butter up into little rounds which then went into a big earthenware bowl to be  ready for the meal when we needed them. But should we run out of jam or flour or something that had not been ordered then we went to the Co-op and I can’t remember the Co-op number but I used to know it and knew it for years and years.  So I think people used to use the Co-op or Coles and sometimes both depending on what they wanted to buy and whose bacon was cheaper and so on. Of course during rationing you had to be registered with a specific grocer to buy all those kinds of things and Coles shop gradually got more important and then a manager was brought in and so on and Turners took over from Denyers – Dan Turner who ultimately ended up in Midhurst as butcher there – he also had a shop in Haslemere – I am sure there are a lot of people  who remember all these things – the latter part better than I do in fact.  We were talking earlier about some of the personalities who lived in Fernhurst – I can remember old Mr Larbey who had been the smith – all the Larbeys were small men – Sussex men, the real Sussex men were fairly short in stature and Mr Larbey was one of those but he must have been pretty hefty and strong as well but I only knew him as an old man.



Tony West

What other shops were in the parade?

Next door to us was Kimpton Kitchen and then next door to that there was a fruiterer and greengrocer. The first chap when we came he was not very good and then there was another couple and I can’t remember her name I think it was Carolyn but she was Canadian and they really raised the standards and they got good fruit in and they changed over to having fish and things like that and they made a lovely job of it. Then in the lower 3 shops there was George and Margaret who ran Homecare and I can’t remember their surname but they eventually sold and went down to Devon. Then next door to that Mrs Macdonald who ran the hairdresser and she had bought the hairdressing establishment just about the same time as we bought the dry cleaners and launderette. Then finally of course there was Malcolm Dudman whose been there….He’s the oldest tenant, been there ever since the buildings were built. I mean they were not by any stretch of the imagination lovely buildings but believe it or not the architect got a prize for it. What he got a prize for I’m never quite sure.
I mean its wonderful that we have those shops and those services.

Yes that true but they were not the best built. In fact …when subsequently we moved here we put in night managers and there was one occasion when I literally told Chichester District Council we were not going to pay the increased rent because the roof had been leaking. They’d categorically decided there was nothing wrong and then ultimately ten years later they had to re roof the whole premises and found that all the lead sheeting had been skimped and as a consequence our contention that it was leaking was totally right. But by that time all the wood had rotted.


Oral History Project




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The Fernhurst Oral History Project was supported by the Local Heritage Initiative. The Local Heritage Initiative was developed by the Countryside Agency and was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Nationwide Building Society.