Salon Thurloe My Aunt's Hat Shop - a Memory of Leatherhead.
Another reason that I liked to visit Leatherhead was because my Auntie Mag had a shop there and I was always guaranteed a welcome that invariably included a sticky bun or some similar magnet to a young child.
Opposite The Dukes Head pub in the High Street, (unfortunately just out of view in this shot) the shop was a millinery and haberdashery store that seemed old fashioned even then. I remember the pale blue fading and rather flaky paint of the shop front with its window containing a somewhat sparse display of ladies hats on stands and the name “Salon Thurloe” in darker blue script over the window. To one side the recessed door opened with a loud clang from the bell that always startled me even after years of visiting and once inside I remember that it seemed like a step back in time.
Not brightly lit, the shop had a vaguely musty smell laced with a hint of Mag’s ‘Lily of the Valley’ perfume. A long glass counter contained wooden trays in tiers with a range of goods including buttons, pins, packets of needles and reels of cotton in a range of colours more varied than you can imagine. Shelves and more glass cases around the walls contained fabrics and linings, rolls of lace and a hundred different styles of binding and trims while beside the counter a metal rotary stand displayed cards of buttons in more styles, shape and colour than you’d believe could exist.
If Mag was in the shop or if after a moment or two she emerged from the back room, the greeting was always the same, “Hello darling. How’s my favourite boy today? Got a kiss for your auntie?”
Then I’d be enveloped in a big hug which was nice enough although I wasn’t so keen on the kissing bit that always left a lipstick smudge on my face, nor on the perfume that was a bit overwhelming that close up. Overall though I liked going to the shop because the welcome was genuine and Mag was very kindly and always interested in what I was doing.
Behind the counter a faded blue velvet curtain covered an opening that led through to the back where Mag had her little workroom as she called it. Not that she did much work there as far as I could see but it was very comfortable in a pleasantly tatty sort of way. There were two old armchairs placed either side of a round cast iron stove beside which a tall scuttle of coke stood ready to top up the fire when necessary.
To one side of the back door a china sink and draining board and a very ancient gas stove provided a little kitchenette area where Mag made tea and from where she always managed to find one of those cakes. The room was never bright as the only daytime illumination came from a small high-level window and a half-glazed door with opaque security glass but somehow the room seemed cosier for its dimness. The door led out to a tiny back yard with a couple of rusting galvanised dustbins and to the alley or service road that ran along behind the shops.
There was little spare space as most of the walls and floor area was taken up with stock that just seemed to have been plonked down on the next available spot and there it remained. God alone knows how she found anything but I don’t think I ever remember her having a problem with it.
Mag’s husband, my uncle Ted also had a shop in the High Street. Wayside Cleaners was a tiny lock-up premises a few doors up the street on the opposite side to Salon Thurloe and whenever I visited Mag and she made the tea she would say “Pop over the road Brian and tell your uncle the tea’s made.”
A memory shared by on Jul 14th, 2015.
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