logo - Join me in the 1900s mid C20th
The webmaster, Pat Cryer, as a young child

More shops in 1940s
and 50s Britain

YOU ARE HERE: home > shops > types of shop, mid 20th century

Newsagents

I don't think we ever had newspapers at home when I was a child in the 1940s. All the news was on the radio anyway. Also we went to the cinema, known as the pictures, and there was always a Pathe News between films.

There was a W H Smith newsagents shop in my home town of Edgware. It was essentially a bookshop, but it also sold newspapers, magazines and stationery.

There were always street vendors selling newspapers at the entrances/exits to the station to catch commuters.

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

Pat Cryer, webmaster

W H Smith newsagent and private library, mid 20th century

W H Smith newsagent. The notice above the entrance shows that it was also a private subscription library. Screenshot from an old film.

to top of page

Bakers

Spurriers was another bakers just beyond the railway hotel, opposite St Margaret's Church.

Tony Woods

In the late 1940s I had a bread round between Edgware and Burnt Oak. It was a Saturday morning job and paid the grand sum of 2 shillings - a fortune for me at the age of 9-10.

A small green van, labelled Avery Bread Co, would pull up outside the Gaumont cinema and I would get in. Then the old geezer who was the driver would start driving round the streets. He would pull up outside each house on the round and yell out to me what bread I was to deliver there.

Dave Miller

There was only one bakers shop in the group of shops close to Edgware Station which my mother frequented. It was known as Brills, so I suppose it was run by a Brills or Brill family.

The shop did deliver, but nevertheless, it did a roaring trade in over-the-counter sales. What I remember more than anything else was that the queues often stretched outside the door and into the street - but of course this was wartime.

to top of page

Tobacconists

Lewis the tobacconist shop can be seen close to the corner on the left in the Edgware photo. My mother's visits there were not only to buy cigarettes for my father who, like most men of the time, smoked. She would also buy pipe cleaners in the form of cotton-padded pliable wire which she used to curl up her hair overnight.

Over time, tobacconists combined with newsagents.

to top of page

Department stores

department store 1950s

The Edgware department store, Stanley J Lee. Photograph courtesy of Tony Woods.

Flying fox paying system: inserting the money and sending to cashier

Flying fox paying system. The sales assistant unscrewed a canister and put the money and the bill in it. He then screwed it up and pulled a release mechanism, upon which the canister flew along a cable to the cashier. The change and receipt came back the same way. Screen shot from an old film.

The only department store in Edgware was Stanley J Lee which was owned by the Lee family and, as far as I know, had no branches anywhere but Edgware. The people of Edgware seemed to be rather proud that their town boasted a department store. So it could not have been common.

The department store, Lees as it was called, was on two sites in Station Road: one sold haberdashery, fabrics, underwear, etc and the other sold clothes.

There is a photograph on an Edgware page.

The flying fox

What I remember particularly was how the customers paid. The sales assistant sent each bill and the money in a special container along a cable to a central till. Then the cashier sent back the change the same way. I understand that the device was called a flying fox. I also understand that it was widely used in various types of shops including some Sainsburys.

to top of page

Sweet shops

Inside a typical 1940s and 1950s UK sweet shop, where most sweets were weighed out for each customer from large glass jars

Inside a typical 1940s and 1950s sweet shop, where most sweets were weighed out for each customer from large glass jars. Photo courtesy of Send and Ripley History Society.

Our sweet shop was Maynards, a chain store. I remember it from the late 1950s and suppose it was also there earlier. However sweets were rationed until 1953, so it couldn't have done a particularly good trade. It was next to the cinema to capitalise on what seemed to be a normal expectation: that going to 'the pictures', as the cinema was called, was a treat and therefore deserving of sweets.

There is a photograph of the Edgware Maynards on the cinema page.

The end of sweet rationing

The day after sweet rationing ended, my mother took my brother and me to a sweet shop in Edgware High Street, as it was rumoured to have a new delivery of sweets. By the time we got there, though, all that was left were a few sticks of liquorice flavoured wood chews such disappointment after all the build up!

Richard Ouston

Every sweet shop and shops selling sugar sold out of these products by midday of the first ration free day. I was too late to spend my meagre pocket money on sweets, except for an unfamiliar packet of Maltesers. My two older sisters quickly polished off what I offered them but I left enough for myself.

Albert Smith

to top of page

Furniture shops

There was only one furniture shop in Edgware, which I remember. It was called Times Furnishing and looked very grand to me, as a child, because it had large windows and a large shop floor. That must have been well after 1945 when the Second World War ended because during the war many furniture shops closed because they couldn't get the stock. Times Furnishing closed in the late 1950s and the Green Shield Stamp tower was built on its site.

There was another furniture shop which I don't remember because it had to close shortly after the beginning of the Second World War. It had been called Oustons, and had been owned and run by the Ouston family. My mother always bemoaned the fact that it had had to close. When she and my father married in 1938, they had used it a great deal to set up home.

to top of page

Dolls hospitals

"My brother sometimes rode up front with the dustman on the his horse-drawn cart, helping him down our road. One day he brought me back a discarded doll with no arms. That was no problem as it got taken to the Dolls Hospital (a shop down at the Fleece on the main High Road) for new arms to be fitted."

Vera Harding
born Vera Eaton

Although to the best of my knowledge there was no dolls hospital in Edgware while I was growing up, I certainly heard parents, aunts and uncles mentioning them. Vera Harding writes of her childhood in Edmonton.

to top of page

Chemists

There was a Boots chemist in Edgware and an individually owned chemist called Derek Clarke (no relation to my Clarke family).

The chemists were little different from the Edwardian chemists that my mother described.

I can add something though, as I had a holiday job in Boots. All goods had to be wrapped goods up in brown paper parcels and tied with string. This was extremely labour intensive, but it did teach me how to do up parcels.

I also had an experience with the flasks of coloured water that had to be shown in the shop window. The permanent shop assistants were getting bored with the task of making them up to change the window display and let me do it. There were two of them of different colours, and I labelled one as the prescription for me and the other as the prescription for my then boyfriend.

to top of page

Photographic studios

There was a photographic studio more or less opposite W H Smiths. The photographer's name was Mr Dixon, and we had several photos taken by him there. (I still have a couple of photos with his stamp on them). Later on, the studio slowly turned into a camera shop. It was the first shop in what is now the major Dixon camera-shop chain.

Tony Woods

to top of page