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The Corner Shop, 172 Station Road

From butcher, green-grocer to bric-a-brac - nearly 90 years of trading

The shop at the corner of Station Road and Manland Avenue, close to the bridge over the Great Northern railway line, had a varied life. It was built in 1907, possibly already as a shop, when Manland Avenue was developed. By 1909 it was occupied by Alfred Hoare, a butcher – followed in 1911 by a series of Dairymen (Charles Edwards in 1911, Percy Hornby in 1912, Frederick Ernest Hitchcock in 1914 and Walter Kennard in 1917). In 1919 Arthur H Winter sold hats there, until in 1927 Ernest Almond took over the shop. It stayed in the family until 1968.

Leslie & Kathleen Almond, 1968. Credit: LHS archives – news cutting

Ernest Almond, and his wife – c.1930. Credit: Dawn Bradbury, grand-daughter, from family archives








Almonds was an old-style store with wooden floors and vegetables displayed in boxes. In 1968 The Herts Advertiser reported that Mr Ernest Almond had brought his two sons Leslie and Jack with him from Wheathampstead to set up a grocery store in 1927. The lads began a grocery delivery round at that time, and this became a feature of the shop, with Leslie taking over the whole business when his father died in 1951.

Jack Almond delivering the greengrocery outside number 44 Lower Luton Road. Credit: Dawn Bradbury, family archives

Leslie was born at Mackerye End in 1914 and worked on Dolphin Smith’s farm for many years. In 1938 he married Kathleen, a Wheathampstead girl, at the Folly Methodist Church and at first they lived on the Lea Valley estate before moving to 38 Lower Luton Road. On retirement they moved to Bocking, and handed the business over to Mr and Mrs Ed Bailey of Hemel Hempstead, who (according to the Herts Advertiser cutting) intended to carry on home deliveries, though other information from Geoff Woodward indicates they ran the Crabtree Lane store.

Mr and Mrs Bigg, 1977. Credit: LHS archives – LHS 6430

172 Station Road – with shop front – Windows Flair c. 1980s. Credit: LHS archives









When the grocery business closed, there was talk of the shop being turned into an undertakers. This was opposed by local residents, not least because it was opposite Batford Nursery School. For some years it was run by Mr and Mrs Bigg as a DIY store, until they had to give up in 1977 because of a huge rise in rateable value – from £266 to £555. It then became ‘Window Flair’, run for many years by Mrs Morris. When she gave up it was replaced by a short-lived bric-a-brac shop, called Paraphernalia, which closed in 1995.

Conversion into a house, December 1995. Credit: LHS archives – LHS 5321

172 Station Road c.2000. Credit: LHS archives – Station Road Millennium Project









Conversion into a house was underway in December 1996, and divided into two flats. Garages, facing onto Manland Avenue, were built on part of the former garden.

Comments about this page

  • I went to Batford Primary School from my home at 48 Lea View on Lea Valley Estate. I remember the Almond Family. My father was Leslie Smith of Smith Bros (Wheathampstead) Ltd who built the Lea Valley Estate, as well as houses on the old prisoner of war camp.
    After 10 years in Sweden I returned to Harpenden in 1993, living at 110 Station Road. We had a small dog and often walked past the old shop. I well remember Ernie Almond, but didn’t know he had become somewhat of a celebrity. I used Smartie Artie at my daughter’s 8th birthday party (she’s 40 now!). Didn’t they have a theatrical costume shop in Southdown?

    By Joy Baker (30/11/2023)
  • Great to read some of my family history! Ernest Almond who had the shop was my Grandfather, (see photo above). Of course my well known brother Ernie Almond was named after his Grandad.

    Jack was my father (see photo above of him delivering the greengrocery on Lower Luton Road).

    Leslie was my Uncle. He and his wife Brenda (who were also known as Bindy & Brenda) lived next door to us on Lower Luton Road before they took over the shop. We lived in the bungalow, number 30, now demolished, with 2 houses in its place. Les and Brenda were at 28.

    Grandad had another son, Reg who was a builder, and built himself a bungalow on Lower Luton Road, number 54, not far from Gibraltar Castle, where he and and my father Jack spent occasional evenings having a pint, and playing Crib and dominoes.

    The Crabtree Lane store was run by Ron Almond, a younger son of Ernest. Lynne Collins recalls “I was always sent to Almonds up Crabtree Lane by my Nan Andrews who lived in Langdale Avenue because she didn’t want me crossing Station Road to go to the other Almonds shop, back in the 1960s.

    By Dawn Bradbury (19/01/2020)
  • Since a link top this page was published on Old Harpenden Years Gone By Facebook page, there have been many comments, including:

    John Webb: Almonds, the corner shop, penny’s worth of broken biscuits* while waiting for the bus. Ron had a travelling shop which used to come to the Lea Valley Estate once a week.

    Julie Lewis: As I was living in Manland avenue from 1955 to 1972, I was often in there when it was a corner shop.

    Bill Batchelor: Used to pop in either on my way to school (Manland both) or on my way home in the late ‘40’s early 50’s

    Window Flair – known to some as the ‘blind shop’:  Rachel Gaines worked at Window Flair: “my first job. As well as admin I learnt how to build a variety of blinds and shop-front awnings. I actually really enjoyed the latter – heating up the material to stretch over the frame”.

    * Ed: biscuits were sold loose; broken ones were cheaper.

    By Rosemary Ross (19/01/2020)
  • Just a small addition. When Mr & Mrs Bigg occupied the shop, Mr Bigg I believed used the garage for his woodworking business. I am sure he moved into the premises from Cross Way where I think he lived prior to the move. He was a pigeon fancier as I would often see a flock of pigeons rise up over the rear of his house.

    Ed: R J Bigg was listed in Kelly’s directory for 1970 as ‘builder’ at 33 Crossway, and in 1972 as ‘do-it-yourself supplies’ at 172 Station Road. By 1974 he was ‘builder and DIY’ at 172.

    By Peter Davis (14/01/2020)

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