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Kippers and wet coal sacks

King Street/Church Street; photographed in 1979. Shows the last four private houses numbers 31/34

Brown’s fish shop

At the Church Street end of Gerrard’s Court was a dirty old fish shop called Brown’s where they also sold coal in small quantities to those who could not afford a whole hundredweight. From the shop came a tantalising smell of kippers and wet coal sacks, and I could never make up my mind whether I liked or loathed it.

Me with my mum, Rose Wood, in the backyard of 37 King Street

Chucking out time

At the King Street end of the court was a tiny one-bar pub called The Flying Scud, where the people of the court drowned their sorrows. Delivering the Evening Argus to that bar was another of my childhood traumas. There were five pubs in the two hundred yards which was King Street. As kids we well knew what ‘chucking out time’ meant. Usually it consisted of shouting and singing, and endless arguments and fights on the doorstep of each pub.

Brushing up the spuds

The area of Church Street which ran across the top end of King Street is worth a mention. On one corner was a greengrocers; the owner was a placid man called Mr Coombes, who occasionally paid me one and a halfpenny an hour to rub the shoots off old potatoes to make them more saleable. Above him was Hill’s the butchers who also paid me occasionally to do deliveries. On one April Fools’ day, Mr Hill sent me to another butcher in Gardner Street to get a dozen ‘straight’ hooks. Above Hill’s was Bert Simmonds’ newsagents, where I did a paper round when I was 14-15. Bert was always drunk on Christmas Eve and the size of my Christmas Box varied with the degree of his intoxication.

The wrong soap

On the other corner was originally a grocers and later a cycle shop. I was sent to the grocer one day for a bar of soap called Perseverance but by the time I got to the shop, I could not remember such a long word so I bought Sunlight which everyone knew. When I took it home it did not go down very well. Below Waters newsagent in Church Street was Andrews, the posh fish shop with gleaming white tiles, but we mostly went to Brown’s next door because it was cheaper. The Andrews were a very kind and friendly family.

Comments about this page

  • Dad used to tell us how, as a kid, he would go down to the fish market hard where the catch of the day was sold. The prospective buyers would stand in a circle and the fish, crustaceans etc would be placed on the ground in the middle. Then, while the bidding was in process, Dad, armed with a length of timber with a protruding nail at one end would quickly reach between the legs of the buyers and hook a fish or crab and do a runner before being collared.

    By Peter Wood (28/02/2015)
  • When I was a butchers boy at Sainsburys, 55 London Rd in 1966 I worked with an old boy Arthur Eustace [the funniest man I have ever met!] who as a boy lived up in Carlton Hill. He told me exctly the same story as above; except if you tried to take more than a couple of fish the seaman would clap their seaboots together trapping your hand and keeping you freezing on the shingle. When released you would be clouted by the fisherman, clouted by your mum and caned for being late at school. Then when dad came home from work clouted again for not getting his breakfast fish!

    By Geoffrey Mead (03/03/2015)
  • Reading your stories brings back memories how we were all “ragged kids”. There was a Coalman in Queens Gdns who had a lockup in Centurion Rd where I was sent to get a quarter of coal, (14lbs) but told not to have too much slate in it. My dad had a lockup there with two Austin 7s when one broke down he would just change the number plates over!

    PS: I remember the clouts from everyone but you did not tell your parents or you got another one.

    By Bob Pickett (18/08/2016)

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