Freeman Street in the mid-1930s: a vibrant place to be, somewhere you could buy practically anything and everything - from bread (at Stevenson’s) to wallpaper (from Alges), to baskets and corsets, tobacco (from Tierney’s) and radios, corn (from Toogood & Co.) and insurance, all manner of foodstuffs, furniture, musical instruments and hardware - and most of it from individual specialists.
You could have your eyes checked, your teeth inspected, go to the theatre, go to Church, have your photograph taken, buy a new house, go to the bank, have your hair done (in 5 different emporiums if you were a man – only 3 for the ladies!) and your clothes cleaned.
After sampling all of those delights you could sample some more at Stanford’s Café or J.W.Wells fried fish shop. A spot of relaxation was a simple matter. How about the Prince of Wales theatre on the corner of ……………………… Street, a spot of billiards at the Central Saloon or a few ales in any or some of the 7 public houses? If you ate or drank too much Madame Yale at Corsetieres could always help you out!
There were 8 milliners including The Bonnet Box, The Millinery shop and Alice Woodliff. A surprising number of 10 shops were described as Gown Specialists, for example Van-Allan Ltd, and A.Torgjelsen. Shops liked to give themselves an air of exoticism by using a smattering of French in their names and so A la Mode and Annette found themselves in Freeman Street along with Smartwear et Compagnie. Does this mix of straightforward, “call-a-spade-a-spade” English “Smartwear” still conjure up the notion of haute couture just because it is followed by the letters et Cie on the name plate? According to one resident the letter C looked like an l and the shop was known to the locals as Smartwear-et-lie, all words pronounced in a grimbarian manner, nobody knew what it meant and what an odd name for a shop, but nobody questioned it.
There was a sprinkling of 10 Grocers stores down the street – Arnolds, Baggaley and Co. and a well loved shop called Ceylon Tea market. Lipton Ltd, Tates and Melias were all leading stores of the day. There were Fruiterers and Greengrocers, such as the Cut Price Fruit Store, Frederick Pick and L.E. & R.Todd but of all food shops, none were more abundant than the butchers – no fewer than 10 of them down the street. A different butcher’s for a different cut of meat, that was the prerogative of the housewife and she had a huge range of shops to enable her to be choosy. Chivers and Son, A.J.B.Davies, Gilliatts, Horsewood and Co, Kents, Fowlers, Roberts and Dewhurst all rubbed shoulders with one another, vying for her trade.
Freeman Street must have had an air of paradise about it for the children, with its vast array of confectioners or “goody” shops (Bee’s, Hardy’s and Hockney’s to name but three) along with a tantalising collection of fancy goods retailers – including Mitchinson’s, The Thrift Store, Moiser,s and Noble’s – incidentally, Noble’s was also the photographers.
You could buy a cycle from any one of 4 dealers, a violin from Charles Perritt, a sideboard from Cobley’s or Drakes or the Imperial Furnishing Co.Ltd, a gramophone from Fred Wood &Co., a book from W.R.Organ, a bouquet from Edith Smith or George Walker, a bottle of aspirin from Botterills or Boultons and fish from Thorley’s...
Buy your boots from the likes of Blindells, or Dunns or True-Form and later on get them mended at Arthey’s or James Coombes or Harry Ellis.
Once Madame Yale had got your foundations all ship-shape you could re-clothe at any of 8 outfitters, including Oldroyds, William H.B.Swann and the Great Grimsby Co-operative Society. Accessories and other items of drapery could be purchased from the likes of Beedhams, The Shilling Shop, Hewlands or Swaby’s.
Oh, and those 7 pubs…the Corporation, the Freemasons Arms, the Prince of Wales, the Red Lion, the Royal George, the Wellington Arms and the White Bear.