Spot the shops 'now and then'

Photo:Steabben's shop in Market Place c1910

Steabben's shop in Market Place c1910

Sue Mann

First World War Home Front exhibition in the Clock Tower, summer 2017

By Sue Mann

This summer the St Albans Clock Tower features an exhibition about the home front in St Albans during the First World War. The display includes two striking images of the Clock Tower from the war period plus information about events that occurred in and around the tower at that time. Information sheets provide further details of the businesses in the area 'now and then', which visitors can use when on the roof to work out where the different shops and pubs were back in 1914. Brief details of the war experiences of some of these businesses are included in the information sheet.

Selling offal and ‘off’ ham

Steabben & Son family butchers at Market Place (now occupied by West Cornwall Pasty Co. and Brook Street), claimed to have 2,300 customers registered at his two shops – the other being in Hatfield Road. In April 1918 Mr Steabben was given permission to sell 100lbs of meat without ration coupons, most of it being offal (animal brain, heart and liver) or offal products like, for example, faggots.  Faggots are traditionally made from meat off-cuts and offal. See picture of the shop above.

In nearby George Street, wholesale grocer and pork butcher I & T Ironmonger claimed in 1916 to have several big contracts for supplying goods to institutions in connection with the war, one of which was for the Prisoner of War camp at Panshanger, near Welwyn Garden City. The shop is now occupied by Earley’s fashions.

In May 1918 Ironmonger’s made an application to the local food control committee to dispose of one ton of hams without ration coupons because the hams ‘were in a forward condition’. It was left to the executive officer of the committee to have the hams inspected and if necessary to issue the requisite permits, the retail price to be fixed at not exceeding 1/6d per lb. Presumably the hams were past their sell by date.

Loss of skilled workers

Photo:High Street looking east, c1910

High Street looking east, c1910

Sue Mann

In July 1917 Henry Arthur Richardson, proprietor of a stationery and printing works in the High Street, told the St Albans Military Service Tribunal that of his nine hands employed in the print works, six had been called up. Tribunals had been established throughout the country following the introduction of conscription in 1916 to give individuals and employers the opportunity to apply for exemption from conscription on a number of grounds, including ‘business need’.

The business was located at 5 High Street where Waterers fashion shop trades today. Richardson had not been able to fill the vacancies caused by men who had volunteered or been called up. As a result, he was having great difficulty in carrying on the business and stated that he frequently had to turn work away. The application for exemption was made on behalf of compositor (typesetter) Reginald Baker of Ladysmith Road. Baker was given two months exemption but Richardson asked for more time so that he could train up a boy apprentice.

At the hearing, Richardson said that his eldest son, who had looked after the stationery and bookkeeping side of the business before the war, was with the Inns of Court Officer Training Corps and another son had been blinded at Gallipoli. He thought his firm had suffered enough. 

This page was added by Jonathan Mein on 03/04/2017.

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