Station Road shops in the 1930s

Summary of talk by Geoffrey Ackroyd

Station Road in the 1920s
LHS archive, cat. no, P.004378
Acroyd's Bakers in the 1920s, 36 Station Road
LHS archive, P000191
Young's hairdressers, 24 Station Road - sign revealed in 2006
Les Casey, LHS archive P.009595
18 Station Road. FHW closing in 1992
Les Casey, LHS archive P.004067
1 Station Road - Gray & Phillips, estate agent - and 3, Trustrams
LHS archive p.006143
Post Office
LHS archive, P.002224
Harpenden Dairies - 15 Station Road
LHS archive, cat no. P.004791
Leighton Sanitary Laundry, 19 Station Road, sign revealed in 1990s
LHS archive, P.004745

From Newsletter 85, May 2001, summary of Mr Geoffrey Ackroyd’s talk to the Society in February 2001 **

The now rather sedate road of estate agents, a building society, restaurants and hairdressers was once a lively community where people shopped daily for their groceries, bread, meat and vegetables.  It was then the ‘artery’ of Harpenden accommodating the railway station and many different shops.  Most goods in the 1930s went to and from the station by horse and cart – coal in particular.

Mr Ackroyd was born above the bakery at 36 Station Road.  His grandfather who had begun the bakery just before the First World War lived next door.  Between the bakery and the railway was a cobbler’s shop run by Mr Anderson, who started the Harpenden Quoits Club.

Down the hill from Victoria Road

On the corner of what is now Victoria Road, opposite the Ackroyds, was Mr Harding the estate agent who also had a sale-room in Vaughan Road for antiques and furniture.  At 32 Mrs Bartington ran a ladies’ drapery shop; next was Mr Skillman, a gents’ outfitter who often had hunting dress in the window, followed by a pharmacy, run by Mr and Mrs Stevenson.

No 26 was, and still is, Yeomans (Chiffon in 2011), selling ladies’ clothing.  Mr Yeoman was secretary of the Harpenden Bowls Club.  At No.24 was Youngs, a ladies and gents hairdresser followed by Burnhill’s Dry Cleaners – the vents can still be seen above the window – and Mr Gregory, a local preacher, who had a haberdasher’s shop with a window always packed with goods.  He would often take his wares to Redbourn and Wheathampstead.

No. 18 was Freeman Hardy and Willis, the well-known shoe shop run by Miss Matthews who lived above.  Next came a gateway with access to the rear of the St Albans Co-operative Society store (now Harpenden Building Society).  Below this were A H Smith’s baker’s shop; Mr Phillips’ electrical shop and another grocer – Mr Salmon who bought all his goods in bulk and bagged them up himself – sugar, dried lentils, dried fruit, etc.

Next to this was a gateway through to Mr Dunkley’s slaughter-house.  No.8 was Fells & Sons, a greengrocers run by two brothers whose money till, Mr Ackroyd remembered, was a drawer under the counter.

Then there was Mr Clark, a chemist who was very keen on photographic equipment (use unchanged – it is now Topkins pharmacy); Mr Francis the fish monger; Mr O’Dell a greengrocer and fruiterer who had a nursery in Amenbury lane, then another electrician, A H Smith managed by Charlie Brewer.  At  No. 2C Mr Strickland sold flowers and fruit, then there was another survivor, Salveson the Estate agents (now Savills, 2011) and finally at No 2A Claridges and Son – ironmongers, plumbers and decorators.

On the other side of Station Road starting from the High Street was the Railway Hotel (now Harpenden Arms Hotel); Gellow the estate agent and Gray Phillips, auctioneers, now Brading and Harmer (Space Lettings, 2011); Joseph Trustram, newsagent and bookseller (still a newsagent, News4you 2011); Charles Smith, boot maker; the London Meat Company; and Miss Clara Townsend stationer and tobacconist.  After an alleyway was the Head Post Office and sorting office (the Postmaster, Mr C P Carpenter), Harpenden Dairies selling milk from all the local farms; the Harpenden Free Library, and at 15A Miss Coggin’s hat shop.  No.17 was Parcell and Clark, a sweet shop and No.19 the Leighton Buzzard Sanitary Laundry Company.

On the corner of Arden Grove was the home of Dr Lambie the dentist, now replaced by Harding Parade, though the flower-bed alongside remains.  Behind Arden Grove was the goods yard for the LMS railway station and in Station Approach there were three coal merchants – Lockhart, Williams and Brentnall & Cleland.  There were also the National Electrical Services and Frank Thorn, tobacconist.  On the station itself were a Ladies’ waiting room and Gents’ waiting room, an office for goods sent by rail and a kiosk of W H Smith run by Mr Bradbury.  There was great competition in selling newspapers as Mr Trustram (at the bottom of Station Road) sold newspapers outside his shop.  The porter kept the station in good order.  The Station Master’s house was opposite the bakery and Mr Cooper kept a lovely garden.

This was Station Road 70 years ago and as a young boy growing up there Mr Ackroyd knew many of the shopkeepers personally and said that from his earliest days he was interested in all that went on in Station Road.

**   Mr Ackroyd has just published a fuller account of Harpenden from the 1930s onwards: Ackroyds: the Village Baker (October 2011, £14.99) available from New4You, 1a Station Road.

Comments about this page

  • I remember Freeman Hardy & Willis. I got all my shoes for school from there. Mr Bowler was the manager 

    By MELVYN COX (15/08/2019)
  • I lived above the Freeman Hardy Willis shop in Station Road from 1978/86. I loved the town and miss it.

    By Jeff Mickley (31/03/2019)
  • The Co-op was mentioned in the article. My mum, my dad, my uncle  (delivery driver between stores), and my aunt all worked for the Co-op.  

    By Dill Gray (28/11/2016)
  • While an “A” level student from 1970-72 I had a Saturday job with Fells the Greengrocer and can confirm that the “till” was still a simple wooden drawer under the counter. Moreover all totalling up was performed using a pen and a small brown paper bag. The bag then being used for its original purpose for the next customer. The switch to decimal currency in 1971 was a particular challenge for staff and customers alike.

    By Ian Barrett (07/01/2015)
  • My mother-in-law worked as a receptionist for Bill Young in the 50’s. I remember going to the Young’s home in Hillside Rd with my mother and being greeted by really foul language from the parrot who I think had been on a Navy ship.

    By Jan Holland (13/11/2014)
  • It’s lovely seeing these photos, shops remembered well. When my wife and I return to Harpenden from south west Wales to visit relatives in Batford, we still say we are going down to the village.  Happy days.

    By Vivian Summers (06/07/2014)
  • Thanks for the photo of Harpenden Dairies. My father worked there for Mr Fred Gingell from about 1943 to 49.  We lived in a tied house at 19 Vaughan Road with a stable at the back in which to keep the horse that pulled the milk cart around. I don’t think the house is there any more. From there we moved to “the camp” until our new house at Porters Hill was built at Batford. I believe the entrance to the old dairy is now the entrance to the Post Office sorting bay off of Arden Grove.

    By Clive Hobbs (23/06/2014)
  • I remember Mr Anderson and his cobbler`s shop well when I was a boy. My father, Harry Day, of Kinsbourne Green knew him and would always stop to talk with him when they met up.

    By Duncan Day (11/08/2013)
  • I remember my father going to Young’s for his hair cut. He worked at 3 Station Road, C Smith Boot and shoe repairer and my grandmother Annie Weston lived in the flat above the shop. The estate agents became Brading and Harmer and Phil Harmer was at school with my Dad.

    By Di Castle (31/03/2013)
  • Interested to read Ann Powell’s comment about the parrot in Bill Young’s saloon. My father worked for Bill until about 1931 when he opened his own business in Vaughan Road. The parrot was there in those days so must have been very old when Ann worked in the saloon. I remember Dad telling me how aggressive the parrot was.

    By Colin Gaskin (12/02/2012)
  • Seeing the picture of C W YOUNG’S hairdressers brought back 1957 when I started my apprenticeship there. I well remember stoking the coke boiler to heat the water; washing the white towels and mangling them; also cleaning up after the parrot that Mr Young had!

    By ANN POWELL (31/01/2012)

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