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Florence Cole as a child

Greengrocers
in the early 20th century

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This page is based on childhood recollections of shops in Edmonton, north London in Edwardian times.

A typical greengrocers of early 1900s London, small image

This photograph of a greengrocer's shop is from the early1900s and is courtesy of Viv Nunn. It shows Eustances of 176 Tollington Park in Finsbury Park, about five miles from Edmonton. All greengrocers shops of the time were probably very similar. Eustances was owned by Viv's great grandfather and later by her second cousins.

Click for a larger version.

When I was a child on the Huxley Estate in Edmonton in the early 1900s, our local greengrocer was Mr Rice.

The 1911 census shows that my mother's memory was absolutely right: Thomas Rice, a greengrocer, age 32, lived at 81 Silver Street, presumably above his greengrocer's shop. He was born in Alresford, and lived with his wife Amelia Rice, 30, born New Cross, with their sons Thomas Richard, 3, and Arthur George, 1, both born in Whitechapel. Amelia assisted in the business.

Pat Cryer, webmaster

The person who helped in the shop was not Thomas and Amelia's daughter, but a young girl who was employed by them to help with the family and in the shop. However, Amelia probably treated her like a daughter!

The family did live above the shop.

Janice Mitchell (formerly Janice Rice), Thomas and Amelia's granddaughter


Mr Rice and his wife worked a flourishing business in Silver Street, and he brought his wares out with his horse and cart, leaving his wife and daughter to mind the shop.

Old shop till: large block of wood with hollows dug out for different coins

Early shop till, as described below by Bert Felgate. Photographed in Bath Postal Museum.

The till in the shop was a large block of wood with several hollows dug out for the different coins. Fixed to the block was a strip of metal so if a customer offered a half crown it was scraped against the metal to see if it was genuine and not home made in lead!

Bert Felgate
whose family owned a greengrocers

I remember Mr Rice mostly on a hot summer's day, when he would tuck a large cabbage leaf into the back of his cap to protect his neck from the hot sun, and the horse would have straw caps on his ears to keep off the flies. Mr Rice would put the tailboard of the cart down flat and place his scales on it to weigh out whatever his customers wanted. The scales were the balance sort with weights on one side and a pan for the goods on the other, and the women would come out to him carrying their baskets.

We children regularly spent some of our pocket money at the greengrocers, mainly on locus beans. They were often full of insects eggs but we weren't put off. I really liked them. When my mother brought gooseberries, we children had the job of topping and tailing them with small scissors. It was a horrible job. Stoning the cherries was fun though because there were often two stalks together and we would dangle them over our ears as earrings.

If you can add anything to this page, I would be pleased to hear from you.

Pat Cryer, webmaster

Horse-drawn greengrocers delivery cart, early 1900s London

This photo, which is also courtesy of Viv Nunn shows Eustances' horse-drawn delivery cart.
Note the gas lamp; the policeman's uniform and the blinkers on the horse's eyes to prevent distraction from other road-users.

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