The Whitley Pump

The view from Katesgrove Hill

Paradise lost in a corner shop

When I was growing up in Wales, my local corner shop was called Eva’s after the homely purveyor of goods and gossip who lived on the premises with her doddery black mongrel, Paddy.

The shop was the front room of an Edwardian end of terrace. It was lined floor to ceiling with dark wooden shelving and had a huge glass counter behind which Eva lurked like a drab praying mantis.

The shop stocked everything from gnarly old swedes (which in those pre-pumpkin days, we carved out to use as Halloween lanterns ), fatty slabs of ham slumped on an ancient, unhygienic meat slicer, tobacco products, boxes of nose-tickling washing powder, sanitary requisites discreetly wrapped in brown paper, American tan tights and display cards hung with shoe laces, hair clips and plastic combs.

But most importantly, Eva’s had a cornucopia of teeth-rotting confectionary spread out beneath the glass counter. Lined up on the shelves were big jars of cherry lips, sherbert pips, floral gems, pineapple chunks, coconut mushrooms and aniseed balls; all sold by the quarter in white paper cones. And behind glass, in amongst the chocolate bars, glistened pink and white sugar mice, giant gobstoppers, foamy shrimps and bananas, black jacks, fruit salads, parma violets and bazooka joes. It’s no wonder I now have a mouthful of fillings!

Corner shops like Eva’s were commonplace in the 60s and 70s and what strikes me now when I walk around Katesgrove is how many corner shops there used to be in this area. The former corner shops on Elgar Road, Collis Street, Edgehill Street and Waterloo Road are pictured above. Judging by their architecture, they were purpose-built to service their neighbouring terraced homes. An existing bit of the shop sign can be seen incorporated into the back fence on the corner of Waterloo Road and Elgar Road.

Do you or older relatives remember using these shops? What were they called and what did they sell? Were they just sweet shops or did they sell everything? When did they close? Do you live in a former corner shop?

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  1. Not here in Reading but I grew up in an old shop in Cornwall and as like your description above it still had all the shelving when it turned into a dwelling. At one point the room with the shelves and drawers was my bedroom. Was great for storing teddies 🙂 Despite being turned into a dwelling in the 1970’s it still retains the address of East Hill Shop.

  2. My local corner shop in the small market town I grew up in, in Kent, taught me all I needed to know about monetary inflation in the 1970s. Week after week my favourite confectionery, curly-wurlies, would go up in price or get smaller in volume, but my pocket money stayed much the same. There were two corner shops within five minutes of my home and at least a dozen more scattered across the town. Now there are only one or two soulless and grotty franchised local shops in the whole place competing with the two supermarkets in the town centre.

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