Shopping in the 1960s

Memories of shops and shopping when I was growing up in 1960s Twickenham (London UK)

Everything on this page is based on fallible memories or personal opinion, even if presented as a statement of fact. If you see any errors or can fill in the gaps, I’d be glad to know – email me at tony@greentram.com. No responsibility is accepted for the content on linked sites.

Top . Strawberry Hill . Twickenham . Past times . Discounts

Strawberry Hill

From memory, these were the shops at Strawberry Hill in the early 1960. For more on this see the SHRA paper A history of shopping in Strawberry Hill
Tower Road west side. This group was destroyed by bombing in WW2 and rebuilt (Rochester House 1953)

  • On the corner: Martin Gale & Wright: Estate Agents – one of the proprietors owned a Daimler SP250 which impressed me immensely. During this period they shrunk their office into the corner half of the ground floor and the other half was taken over by Wallis Car Hire; later Wallis occupied the entire ground floor. This building was replaced by Lexington Court in 2003.
  • Wallis Car Hire: Initially they occupied the yard behind the Tower Road building, adding the office (above) later. There was a driveway between this and the greengrocer’s where they had a couple of petrol pumps. I remember from walking to school that early 1960s petrol was 4/6 a gallon (5p per litre. The business was operated by two brothers and one of their wives and they had an all-Ford hire fleet. During the day they would park unhired cars along Strawberry Hill Road, though not outside our house – although my dad had no right to do so, he would stick gummed labels on their windscreens asking them not to park there – they soon learned not to!
  • Greengrocer – according to my mum, one of those who put the best fruit and veg on display and served you inferior goods from the back. Like the other food suppliers they would run an account for you, take phone orders and deliver (by bicycle) – the precursor to today’s online shopping.
  • Framptons Butchers: Like Wallis, a two brothers and wife business. The door was to the right with a long counter on the left and cash desk facing you. Your goods would be weighed and priced and the amount shouted across to Mrs F. at the cash desk (shades of Mr Jones in Dads Army)
  • Baker: No memories

Tower Road east side north of station from station – Wellesley Parade, built 1934

  • L.M.Barrett Newsagent: I remember Mr Barrett for his ‘noddy bike’ – I delivered papers for him during a school holiday
  • Bon-Bon confectioners and tobacconists – another husband and wife business, Mr & Mrs Stevens. They sold large bottles of Corona fizzy drinks with 6d refund on return of the bottle and also held a licence to sell postage stamps – useful for when the post office counter was closed.
  • H.G.Osborne Pharmacy: run by Mr and Mrs Osborne, always in immaculate white coats. As was the norm, they took films in for processing – a B&W film would come back a week later, a colour film took two weeks.
  • Burfords Grocers: Memory a little hazy here, but IIRC they originally occupied a double shop. Apart from dry groceries they would slice you ham or bacon as required.
  • Butlers Hardware: Run by Mr & Mrs Butler – I was at primary school with their children. They later expanded into the shops that were previously Burfords. In the days before discounters and out-of-town warehouses, they had a good business selling paint and wallpaper with sample books available for loan. They also sold paraffin in the days when this was still commonly used for house heating.

Tower Road east side south of station from station

  • Minty’s sweetshop. A childhood favourite with the shelves of sweet jars from which your request was weighed out.
  • Estate agents – I remember nothing of this. Much later it became Bells, then Rawlinson & Webber, but in between I vaguely remember it being a women’s clothes shop.
  • Shoe repairer: run by ‘George’ for many years.
  • Yardleys off-licence (corner of Stangate Mansions)
  • Drapers, later Kennedys grocers
  • Ladies hairdressers
  • Post Office: run by Mr Forrester. Like Bon-Bon, they also delivered newspapers, but only in the morning (Stevens’ delivered the Evening News and Standard). One key memory was the board of around 20 different Platignum pens next to the PO counter.

Top . Strawberry Hill . Twickenham . Past times . Discounts

Twickenham and Teddington

In no particular order

  • To serve a pre-car era, small shops – often on street corners – were everywhere and if you look hard you can still see traces. There were several shops at the corner of First Cross and Hampton Road, including a butcher on the corner(third picture from bottom) – in earlier times they kept animals on the hoof until ready for slaughter.
  • Several shopping strips have disappeared – there was one at the end of Waldegrave Road next to the railway bridge – an electrical shop there used to fix my less than reliable Verdik tape recorder – and another along Station Road, Twickenham – I remember a large car part and accessory shop.
  • TV rentals: 1960s televisions, especially the first colour sets, were expensive and unreliable so renting was the choice of many. DER (Domestic Electrical Rentals) occupied what is now Kestrel House, on the corner of Radnor and Heath Roads.
  • One of my boyhood passions was Meccano. The two local suppliers were the Teddington Model Shop at the top of Teddington railway bridge and Beazleys Model Shop, Twickenham (later the home of Alberts Music Shop, RIP 2014). Every part was available separately, prices starting at twopence, and there were around 300 different parts. I’d save my pocket money and my dad, who worked in the careers office on Teddington Bridge, would be asked to exchange my sixpence for two #83s or whatever. The Teddington Model Shop had a working model railway in the window: you put a penny in a slot in the window jamb to make train run.
  • My other childhood hobby was stamp collecting. Woolworths sold packets of assorted stamps for sixpence or a shilling aimed at schoolboy collectors: I remember the ‘six reigns’ packets including a penny black. Others would include bright colourful stamps from places like San Marino and Herm which were really of no value whatsoever.
    The other way of acquiring stamps was from ‘approval books’ – you were sent a book containing several dozen stamps, kept the ones you wanted and returned the rest with a postal order for the ones kept. The best known were sent out by a stamp dealer in Eastrington, Goole who traded under several names More ….
  • Twickenham had a number of new car dealerships. Fords were sold by Willments on Chertsey Road, where Currie Motors now are. Now all disappeared, in Twickenham town centre, Tamplins (Triumph) were where the Civic Centre now is, and along Heath Road Obey’s and Spikins – my first car, a 1962 Mini, had an appetite for parts that provided good business for the latter. The Houdaille garage on Hampton Road (where Grace Court now is) was a NSU dealership until the late 1960s when it was redeveloped as an Esso service station. Ferden Birch, opposite Radnor Gardens sold Citroens. There was a large Triumph? dealership and service workshop in High Street, Teddington.
  • Industry: What is now the trading estate to the north of Twickenham Green was an Automotive Products factory – they made pistons. Next to ‘the dip’ there was a Scalecraft toy factory which made snap-together cars and other battery-powered models – they always generously contributed kits to school and charity fetes as prizes. It closed after a massive fire in the late 1960s.

Top . Strawberry Hill . Twickenham . Past times . Discounts

Nearby

  • Or not … I built my own home in Twickenham between 1976 and 1980. Amazingly Twickenham was without any DIY stores until much later and more than once I drove to Harrow to take advantage of a Wickes offer. Now there are two Wickes, Toolstation and Screwfix all within easy reach. Other suppliers I used then were Richmond Lime & Cement in Lion Road, Twickenham, Seccombes at Osterley and Rover Transport up near Heathrow.
  • My first job was as a Saturday boy, selling shoes at Hounslow Coop (under a great boss inappropriately named Harold Sainsbury). During the lunch break I would often stroll across to C.W.Wheelhouse to see what their latest offer was. For many years prior to its closure it had just become a general household store, but back in the 1960s sold all sorts of mechanical and electrical items, motors and refrigeration spares, often bought in as clearance or liquidation job lots, so you never knew what to expect. The Delglo Mexicana radiators and Opella plastic taps in my home were two such specials.

Top . Strawberry Hill . Twickenham . Past times . Discounts

Past times

Things that are now just memories

  • Half day closing on Wednesday.
  • Small quantities: in days when people had less money, shops would sell you just what you needed. I remember Strawberry Hill PO selling typing paper at 4d per dozen sheets, carbon paper by the sheet and single fountain pen ink cartridges, whilst Butlers would sell you single batteries and Osbornes, single flashbulbs (remember them?).
  • Fixing things: now, for economic and practical reasons, we tend to treat smaller electrical goods as disposable. But there was a time when everything could be fixed, and was. I remember the annual ritual of removing six or seven valves from our home radio (we only had one, of course) and taking them to be tested on a Mullard valve tester – Transcar Radio in Heath Road, Twickenham, and Watts Radio in Kingston Apple Market both had one. In the early 1970s I remember going to Philips at Purley Way, Croydon and being able to buy a replacement piano key for my tape recorder, cost a few pence: try this today and you’d get funny looks.
  • Putting a holding deposit on something: This survives today in Australia as ‘lay-by’, but disappeared in the UK with the advent of credit card ‘takes the waiting out of wanting’. You paid a deposit and the retailer put it to one side until you could pay the balance.
  • Petrol everywhere: filling stations within a mile or so of my Strawberry Hill home were: Wallis (as above); Mercury Motors, Strawberry Vale; Ferden Birch (opposite Radnor Gardens); Green Service Station, Hampton Road; Waldegrave Motors and Heron, Waldegrave Road
  • Small department stores (shades of ‘Grace Bros’): I don’t remember Twickenham having one, but Dale’s had a two storey store in Causeway, Teddington, likewise Edmonds in High Street, Twickenham.
  • The Exchange and Mart carried private and trade adverts for virtually everything. To protect buyers they operated a deposit scheme – IIRC you sent your order and payment (with small service charge added) to the E&M who held on to the money until you confirmed receiving the goods. Fifty years on, PayPal have adopted a similar model, only debiting your account once goods are received.
  • Mail order catalogue: Several firms (Littlewoods, Freemans, John Moores) published massive colour catalogues, with the emphasis on clothing. Customers were encouraged to become agents and take orders from friends and neighbours in return for a small commission. Hard pressed mothers could take advantage of the interest-free 20-week or 38-week no-deposit credit – the repayment amounts were so small that no business could have economically handled them, whilst a stay-at-home mum could make some ‘pin money’ for herself, with defaults being less likely when the money was due to a friend.
  • More on this at High Street names that have disappeared (Digital Spy forum). Defunct retail companies of the United Kingdom (Wikipedia).

Top . Strawberry Hill . Twickenham . Past times . Discounts

Discounts

In the UK Resale Price Maintenance (RPM) was legal until the mid-1960s so where the manufacturer set a minimum price you would pay the same price for something wherever you bought it. Various ways round this were legal though:

  • I’m unsure of the exact legalities, but shops could have a sale twice a year – but only twice a year so the sales were something to look forward to. I remember two in particular. Bentalls of Kingston ended its sale with Blue Cross Day – all goods marked with a blue cross were reduced to half the marked price. For the last day of their sale, Arding and Hobbs, Clapham Junction, filled their windows with knockdown bargains, each one numbered. The queue built up long before the store opened, and staff passed along it giving up to three numbered tickets to each person in turn – when the doors opened you had half an hour or so to claim and pay for your bargain.
  • ‘Clubs’ could offer discounts to their members. My parents belonged to one called ‘Westminster Discount Club’ which published a catalogue of manufactured goods at discount prices. Later I belonged to the Motorists Discount Club which also had a shop in Hammersmith.
  • The Houndsditch Discount Warehouse in London was ostensibly a trade-only outlet and admission was by membership card only with some things being sold in bulk quantities (much like Costco today). Our family made an annual trip there a few Sundays before Christmas (it was Jewish-owned so closed on Saturdays and was allowed to open on Sundays). Goods were priced with an alphabetic ‘secret’ code (though everyone knew it); you decided what you wanted, got an assistant to write you a ticket, went to the cash office and paid and in due course your goods were delivered. The one thing I still remember us buying there was Ledbury jam in tins which always seemed to taste better than jam out of jars. More …
  • Also offering savings by mail order bulk-buying and used by my parents were John Dron (est 1939) who supplied cleaning products.
  • Negotiation: Although retailers couldn’t advertise discounted prices, asking might secure a discount. c.1965 my dad bought my Moulton bike from Mr Geere, High Street Teddington for £27/10 (£27.50) rather than the list price, £30.00.
  • Trading stamps: Although retailers couldn’t offer discounts, they could offer trading stamps – typically one stamp for each sixpence spent – and filled books of stamps could be exchanged for goods. Green Shield stamps were the best known. Most of the redemption centres where stamps were exchanged for gifts evolved into Argos Discount Centres around 1973.
  • Co-op dividends: Co-op members quoted their ‘divi number’ when making purchases. At the end of the year they received a dividend, theoretically reflecting the profits made – I worked for London Cooperative Society in the late 1960s when the divi was initially a set sixpence for each pound spent (2.5%). The tills punched cards with the divi number and amount spent which were sent to a data processing centre. Around 1969 these were replaced by Coop trading stamps.
  • Discount air fares were unknown, unless you joined an affinity group, most of which had fairly relaxed membership requirements.
  • Freebies: I well remember the Saturday newspaper and Exchange & Mart ads for electric drills with the vendors offering ‘free’ accessory kits generally comprising drill bits, a sanding disc and sheets.
  • The abolition of RPM led to a new type of outlet, exemplified by Comet Discount Warehouses (RIP 2012) – Comet was established in 1933 and at the end of the 1950s had three shops. It opened its first out-of-town store in 1968. The first London store was opened in Hackbridge, near Croydon, and then, more conveniently for us, one at Hayes. The early warehouses were just that, next to no displays: you were served at the counter and passed a sealed box. Argos (1973-) was similar.