Shop down memory lane

Wanstead High Street, circa 1893. ©Redbridge Information and HeritageWanstead High Street, circa 1893. ©Redbridge Information and Heritage

As part of Local History Month celebrations, the Redbridge Museum and Heritage Service will be holding a coffee morning discussion on the theme of shopping in Wanstead. Sue Page takes a look at a few former High Street retailers.

Shopping in Wanstead offers a different experience to that offered in other parts of the borough. There are still many independent shops and only a handful of national chains. Winifred Eastment, a local author, describes Wanstead High Street in the mid-19th century as being a "sleepy little main street", which had about half a dozen shops.

Over the years, the number of shops has increased and the retailers have adapted to the changing times. One example is Stockdales, established in 1867 in Cambridge Park, which was a leather goods specialist. Originally, they sold "reliable harness for the traveller of those days." Later, they diversified and offered "travel kit, fancy leather goods and sports requisites." Many of the shops that existed in the 19th century went out of business as fashions, tastes and habits changed. The milliners, cab and fly proprietor and fancy repositories have long become redundant.

One of the early supermarkets to open in Wanstead was Fine Fare. It was retailing in Wanstead in the 1960s until the 1980s and was famous for its yellow-packaged, own-label budget range. Fine Fare was replaced by Gateway, which then became Somerfield. The Somerfield chain was taken over by the Co-operative Group in March 2009 when the Somerfield name was gradually phased out.

Woolworths, located where Tesco is now, closed in December 2008 when the company ceased trading nationally. Home and Colonial was another national retailer that used to have a presence here. The chain was a provision merchants, which traded at 23 High Street.

Do you remember Edwin Fisher the furniture shop or Rollys, who specialised in hosiery, lingerie, corsetry, gloves, knitwear and blouses? Edwin Fisher was in the High Street and Rollys was in Cambridge Park during the 1960s. Perhaps you remember Dunhams in the High Street? Dunhams was a branch of Fairheads (which was in Ilford). Dunhams used an overhead, mechanical cash-handling system in the form of a small railway. Part of this mechanism is now in the Redbridge Museum collection. In the Dunhams' winter sale of 1981 you could purchase ladies' fancy knit cotton vests for 99p (usual price £1.35!). Dunhams sold linen, curtains, underwear, baby clothes and hosiery.

Bodgers was a long-established bakers in Wanstead. George Bodger is shown in the 1851 census as operating a bakers business. The family business is included in the 1911 census and also in the Kellys Directory of 1955. Another bakers you may remember was Bartons, who were in the High Street from the 1960s until the 1980s.

Come along to our heritage coffee morning and share your local shopping memories and see photographs and other archive material.

The heritage coffee morning will take place on 17 May from 11am to 12pm at Aldersbrook Library (free; booking required). Call 020 8708 2032


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