We had quite a self contained little community when I lived in Tawd Bridge in the 1940s and 50s. To acquire the things we needed we could go shopping in Wigan, Ormskirk or Skem, but we hardly needed to. It seemed that there was a little shop on the end of nearly every row of houses!
I lived in the last row of brick terrace houses about 4 doors up from the Tawd Bridge Pub. So, working along the road from there, let’s see if we can remember all the little shops.
Nearest to us at the end of our row was a little shop which I remember as being run by Mr and Mrs Makepiece. It was a typical little crowded shop which attempted to sell everything. The thing that made it unique in my memory was that it had the first ever vending machine that I ever knew…a chewing gum dispenser. This was a rectangular metal container attached to the wall near the shop door. You put in a penny and turned a knob on the side and out came a packet of P.K. The best bit was that there was a little arrow on the knob and every fourth turn when the arrow was pointing in the right direction, the machine would dispense two packets! Next to that shop was an opening between the rows of houses, and in the opening were a pair of steel girders which were literally propping up that whole row of houses! They were badly affected by subsidence and leaning at a remarkable angle! All of the Tawd Bridge kids used to love climbing up those girders and sliding down!
Further up the road, opposite the end of Spencer’s Lane was the shop owned and run by the Watkinson family. I have already made a description of that shop; but when I was living there the shop was run by Walter Watkinson, grandson of the original owners. I have to say that the shop of the 1950s was very similar to how my mother described it in the 1930s. However, Walt had made a few innovations. For instance, he got a refrigerator! It wasn’t like a modern shop fridge, it was just a large domestic model. I guess the quality of the bacon and other cooked meats may have been better and more hygienic! The thing that impressed me as a child was that he used to make ice lollies. He used to just fill up the ice tray with orange cordial and put a little stick in each little compartment, and when they were frozen he sold them to us appreciative kids for a penny. Walt no longer baked bread in the bakehouse at the back, he got the bread from a large wholesale baker. (Coultons and Rathbones were the bakers that supplied local shops.) Walt still made meat and potato pies in the bakehouse and also produced a range of cakes.
As we progress up the hill to Grimshaw Lane, the next shop on the opposite side of the road was the Co op. I don’t remember much about the Co op as we never did much business there, but I do recall the special smell of that shop. I don’t know what it was, but it was rather pleasant and comforting and remains in my memory still.
In the middle of Grimshaw Lane (this was still Ormskirk Road, but was referred to as Grimshaw Lane for this small section) was my Nana’s shop. My Nana, Mrs Coulshed, had a little shop in Spencer’s Lane, Digmoor, but left there and took over the shop in Grimshaw lane that had previously been run by Polly MacNeill. I can only just barely remember Nana’s shop as she retired and sold up the business when I was about three years old. I can remember the big blocks of butter and cheese out on the counter. They also had a bacon slicer on the counter which was operated with a hand wheel, and with which I was always absolutely fascinated! In later years several people told me how Mrs Coulshed had a very good shop. People always mention that she used to cook stuffed hearts, which were then sliced up for cold meats, and how good they were. In the back garden of Mrs Coulshed’s shop there was a pig sty, empty when I was there, but they previously had a pig or two, and sold home cured bacon.
Not very much farther up Grimshaw Lane you came to Kenyon”s shop. When I was very young this shop was run by Peter Kenyon, who was always called P. I remember going up to P’s shop with my little ration book to buy sweets. Later, after P retired, this shop became our beloved fish and chip shop, but more about that later.
Further along again we came to Gladys’s little shop. It was very similar to all the others. as a very small childthe thing that sticks in my mind was that after my Nana retired and closed down her shop, Gladys bought up a lot of the stock and equipment from Nana’s shop – including the bacon slicer. I always used to feel very jealous when I went into Gladys’s shop and saw “our” bacon slicer on the counter!
All of these little shops along Ormskirk road were built as shops with a large distinctive shop window. I remember that at one time my friend and I had heard the term “Window Shopping” (probably on TV, and not really realising what it meant,) so we decided that we would go window shopping. After standing out at the front of Uncle Walt’s shop window for a while and staring in, we decided it was rather boring and we were getting cold standing there so we never did that again! However, thinking back now, I’m not sure if Gladys had an actual shop window.
The little shop that my Nana Coulshed had in Spencer’s Lane at Digmoor was just set up in the front room of their house.
Apart from potatoes and a very limited amount of meat, I don’t think any of these little shops sold fruit and vegetables or other meat. And that brings me onto the next part of my story.