A Memory Of Westbury Village 1 - a Memory of Westbury on Trym.

The two principal grocery shops in Westbury village, as it was still usually called, in the late 1950s and early 1960s were the Co-operative grocery by the corner of Church Road -- the Co-operative butcher on the left was adjoining though separate and actually on the corner (later the site of both shops became the Co-operative Funeral Service) and the smaller Mumford's facing. My mother always used the Co-operative grocery because it included a milk delivery with blue or red plastic milk checks (one blue check was the value of a pint of whole milk) bought in the shop, a grocery delivery usually on Tuesday afternoons and their dividend if one was a member as she was. Mumford's were rivals and struggled because they could not offer products at such low prices but did deliver too. My aunt favoured them because she had gone to them before the Co-operative grocery existed and knew they valued every customer. Eventually, about 1964, they were forced out of business. They employed four middle aged men who lost their jobs. The Co-operative grocery employed a middle aged male manager, an older man called Mr Cash who prepared and served cooked meats and cheeses, and two women -- one of whom was the cashier. The butcher in the next premises worked alone, was unmarried (he lived with his mother) and was called Arthur.

At the the lower end of the village facing the White Lion pub was Fisher's which sold leather goods and sports equipment and the pleasant old gentleman who owned it, Mr Fisher, was a busy cobbler. Conscientious by nature, he was of above average height, late middle aged, wiry, balding with spectacles perched at the end of his nose. The premises on the left of his shop was Buy And Try which sold timber and DIY materials. It was run by a man in his thirties who lacked a good businesslike attitude and only lasted a few years. On the corner of Henbury Road was Skyrme's which sold health products. On the other side of Henbury Road was Pratt's Garage which my father had often used in the late 1940s but not afterwards as they were rather costly and could be unreliable. They supplied petrol, oil, water, some vehicle parts and undertook repairs. Mr Pratt by this time was quite elderly, but fairly tall and slightly plump.

Opposite the garage was Morton butchers. The brother of the owner, Ernest Morton, had known my mother's friend, Louisa, as a youth in the 1930s as they had gone roller skating together at the Glenn by the top of Blackboy Hill. William Morton, who owned the shop, was quite tall, broad and very friendly and talkative. He had one daughter who was married to a handsome Frenchman, and lived in the flat directly above the shop, and a son, who the father would have liked to have worked in partnership with him, but the son was not interested. He employed about three men, and in his absence the acting manager was called Harry. Whenever there was prolonged very heavy rain the outside of the shop could flood from the adjacent river Trym. After my father died and the meat from his work finished (he was a butcher) my mother always went to this butcher. He was popular as his meat was always good quality (unlike the sometimes tough, inferior and mislabelled cuts in supermarkets) and very reasonably priced and there was often a queue outside his shop.

Further along the High Street on the left side was Townsend's chemist. He was a gentleman in late middle age of barely medium height, slim, wore glasses and very well dressed with a bow tie. His most noticeable characteristic was a Victorian business manner, being most severe to his staff but extremely pleasant and polite to his customers. As a 9 year old boy I was attended to by him as if I was a member of the old Royal Family! He employed about two young women and except for one, Diane Young, all the others came and went in a short time. The interior was most fascinating and on the shelves in the open backroom were very old horse medicines and a ticking wall clock dated 1860. There was also still a horse trough outside the shop on the pavement, another outside the Co-operative grocery and another outside the Post Office facing the White Horse pub -- the last two businesses still exist. One of the staff in the Post Office was Ernest Edwards, a most talkative middle aged man, who lived in Charlton Road where our home was. He, like so many men then, rode to work on a bicycle.

The traffic at this time I would estimate as being only a third of what it is now. Life was really much better -- especially for decent people. People generally dressed smartly and acted in a respectable manner, jobs were available for everyone -- though hours were fairly long and pay modest. Children were brought up generally more strictly, went to school on their own (parents tagging along was unusual) and were mostly sweetly shy and polite. The police were very much on the side of the respectable classes and riffraff mostly subdued. An immigrant was a novelty and one could talk freely about anything. If one went into the city in those times, even on a Saturday, there was only a moderate number of people. Businesses were old familiar landmarks and not as they often became later short-lived inappropriate fiascos. Cafes and restaurants were few and offered mostly traditional British meals -- the later restaurant mania offering often contrived foreign cuisines would have appeared most bizarre!

A memory shared by Timothy Purnell on Aug 20th, 2013. Send Timothy Purnell a message

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