The High Street in the late 1940s and early 1950s

I  would hope to add some details about the High Street as I remember and perhaps open a discussion and additions.

In the first place I have to say that in the late 40s and early 50s my impression is of a much more vibrant place than it is today.

As you approach the High Street from the London Road you are met with a “T” junction. On your right is Prentice’s Bicycle shop and the house on the corner is Ryelands, the practice of Dr. Campbell and later included Drs Brown and Renton. In front of you is Kershaws, upholsterers, I think. As you turn into the High Street on your left is Halls Corner, a modern parade of shops. The businesses included there were an Off Licence, a Baker’s, (Warders?, where I was always treated to a Chelsea bun), Tilbury’s the butchers, Thomson’s Fish shop, selling both wet fish and “fish and chips”. Bolden’s greengrocers and Joslin’s grocers. Next to them were Peacocks, no relation, I think, to the Peacocks in Willowdale, and then Churchill Johnson, builders merchants. Of the businesses opposite I can recall Painton’s sweet shop, perhaps including tobacco, and at a later date the Wickford Library. Continuing on the left hand side from Churchill Johnson there was a cottage built up on a mound, before you arrived at another parade that included a cafe and the offices of the North Thames Gas Board. On the right were at least three shops, Hellyers the gents outfitters, Fish’s for the ladies, and Halls Corn Merchants, (now removed to the the Halls Corner side). These were followed by the house of Dr. Frew and then the shops of the Electricity Board, Wilcocks shoes, Cully’s newsagents/stationers and Collins the radio shop. Before you came to Sutton’s was the house of the Dentist, Dr. Cochran. In those days Sutton’s was a timber building, probably back on the same line as it is today, and Mr. Sutton Junior, then in his 40s was the original Esso Blue Dealer, delivering paraffin and lino to the residents of Wickford. On the other side of the street was, of course the Carlton Cinema, later Woolworths, and now the 99p shop. Next came a very small tobacconists, then Barclays Bank, Sansoms mens outfitters and Bell cleaners. Somewhere in that stretch would be Garbetts the chemists and perhaps the other fish shop, Elys. I hope in this regard other contributors will be able to make the corrections. Following on from Suttons was Cramphorns, seed merchants, and I think Luckin and something, cleaners. On the corner of Market Road was a chemist on one side and Holliday Stores on the other, followed by the Willow Cafe and sometime Bob Jepson(?), Saddle Maker, and then an Estate Agent, and the Midland Bank before getting to the Railway bridge. Opposite was the Congregational Chapel and a couple of Railway Cottages. This is the end of Wickford High Street but in those days the shopping center of Wickford included much more than it does today – The Broadway. As you exited from the bridge, on your right was The Castle Public House, (how Wickford residents could have permitted its destruction is beyond me). Opposite on the Parade was Fawcetts, the greengrocers, arguably the best in town, and tucked in behind was a hairdressers, still there to this day. Next to the Castle was the Old Bank House, still there, and opposite was Mayes Bros, general stores, where you could find almost everything. Along the same side was Pardy and Johnson and Schofield and Martin. I can remember that Pardy and Johnson was also a Post Office, but what they sold I cannot remember. In Schofield and Martin they sold biscuits by the pound, loose from large tins, cut cheese with a wire and patted butter into quarter pound chunks. Between them and the Swan was English’s, the butchers. Opposite is a parade of shops which in those days all thrived. At the extreme end was Franklins, the butchers. They had a field in Southend Road, now Franklins Way, where they took the cattle they had bought at the Wickford Market on the Monday morning. The cattle were then slaughterd and butchered ready for sale. That is why the butchers were then closed on a Monday afternoon. In that row you could find another hairdresser and a Bakers, Sheffield’s, and also a newsagents, Adcocks, which coincidentally was owned by my grandparents in the 1920s.

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  • Great write-up on Wickford High Street, loved reading it. The dry cleaners was Lush and Cook, a tiny shop. I took my school uniform there 1955-1963.

    By Janet Eldridge (03/08/2018)
  • There is a photo of Mr Prentice on his Penny farthing already on this site under title Prentice’s Cycle Shop.

    By Jo Cullen (22/02/2015)
  • My family moved to Wickford in 1948. I went to the infant and junior school, (headmaster Mr Cole). My parents owned a dog boarding kennels in Benfleet Avenue (no longer there – it’s now an estate) reached by turning at Halls Corner and following “the Wick” or via Nevendon Road and Cranfield Park Road.

    I loved the trip down the High Street, thanks for that. Memories of Saturday morning pictures. Also of course the market and the treasures we bought and the animals with their sticky labels. What about that odd ‘arcade’ of shops just under the railway bridge? I remember the steam trains on the Southminster line. And wasn’t there a wool shop somewhere? I do remember the penny farthing. I used to leave my bike behind Prentice’s when I went to secondary school on the train. It cost a penny a day! And the floods and our neighbours’ wedding on that day.

    Will collect memories and photos from family and write more. 

    By Marilyn nee jessiman (19/02/2015)
  • DOES ANYBODY REMEMBER THE PENNY FARTHING BIKE IN PRENTICE BIKE SHOP WINDOW

    By GARY TOWNSEND (24/10/2014)
  • Pardy and Johnson was a bakery shop. They baked their own bread and made their own cakes. My mum made the cakes for a few years 1965 – 1968 or 9. The building has not changed a bit in 2012 at time of writing. My step dad was the projector operator when there was a cinema in the town, he is still alive.

    By John scrivy (29/11/2012)
  • My grandparents owned a hairdressers in Wickford during the 30s and 40s, I believe. Their names were Evelyn and Harry Henry, and my mother Evelyn worked as a hairdresser there. I don’t know what they called the shop, but does anyone remember the family?

    By Gabrielle Harwood (13/05/2012)
  • Thanks for the memories Geoff. Our family only came on the scene in the mid 50s. I can remember most of the shops you mention but would like to add the chemist on the left hand side of Market road was Shadforths and just as you emerge from the railway bridge squashed in this side of the Castle was another tiny sweet shop-cum-tobacconists. Thanks again.

    By Philip Merrin (19/10/2011)

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