Saturday, 2 June 2018

The Saturday List #176 - The six lost shops of Old Mill Hill

This is a blog that I've been meaning to do for some time. Times change. Back in the 1960's, when I was but a wee nipper, having a car was a luxury, not the norm. There was no such thing as Ocado or Amazon to order your avocado pears and smoked salmon. If you needed a pint of milk, a loaf of Hovis or your PG tips, there was your local general stores. In Mill Hill, there was a whole bunch of little shops, providing easy and convenient access to all manner of provisions. As supermarket culture took off and cars became more prevalent, one by one these shops disappeared. One of the advantages of having a dog is that I have a great excuse to walk around Mill Hill and as the weather yesterday was pleasant, I thought I'd revisit these. I thought I'd also wet peoples appetite for this blog. These six shops are all now homes for residents.

1. The Birkbeck Bakery - Shakespeare Road.

I have amazing memories of this little shop.  In the late sixties it was owned by a chap called Bill Cardon, who was a friend of my fathers and a member of the Mill Hill Services club. Bill was a season ticket holder for Watford FC. He drove an olive green mini van. Our family had a rigid routine. On a Sunday, my Dad would pick up three old ladies and take them to 11am mass at The Sacred Heart. Once mass finished, he'd nip into "The Little Shop". He'd stock up on his favourite provisions. This used to infuriate my mother, who liked to penny pinch. Bill would slice fresh ham off the bone, in thick slices, that would later become afternoon tea. Often there were shortages of items such as sugar, bread etc. Bill would always put some aside for my Dad. When Bill sold up, the new owners did not indulge my Dad and so we stopped going. As he used to spend a small fortune every week, I suspect that this was not a great bit of business.

2. Vincetts butchers - Hammers Lane.

Vincett's Butchers 1894 - By Ron Pook
Vincetts butchers were what we'd no call a high class boutique butchers. They were highly famed for their pies and sausages. As such my mum avoided them like the plague as she viewed them as expensive. My Dad knew I loved pies and occasionally would take me their to buy one, usually when mum was a way as a special treat. I did some painting and decorating for them in the late 1970's as a summer job, and got fed amazing sausage sandwiches. Prior to Vincetts, it was John Evans, but that was before my time.  The building is now owned by a friend of mine, Phil.  (Picture left Courtesy of Mill Hill Preservation Society website).

3 and 4 Cooks Store / Lambs Store - 1 and 12 The High St.

M.J Lamb circa 1974
As an ex pupil of St Vincents, these two shops hold special memories. During the summer, myself and the rest of the kids who lived near Mill Hill Broadway, would walk home and spend our bus fare in one or other of the shops. I recall Lambs was also a sub post office. As I remember, there were nice old ladies who ran it. It was a tiny store and had a limited range of sweets, but I loved the sugar mice and the liquorice strings. Cooks was a bigger store and had a better range of sweets. My friend preferred this shop as there was more choice. Later on it became an antique shop, before eventually becoming a private dwelling. There is a vintage car permanently parked outside, which ensures that there is always a great picture to be taken!  (Picture courtesy of The Mill Hill Preseravtion Society Website).

5 and 6. The Old Post Office - Hammers Lane and The Old Mill.

Old Mill House and Post Office Cottage
I don't recall the post office on Hammers Lane, there was a grocery shop next door. I am reliably informed that this is the original Mill of Mill Hill. At one stage, I recall this being called Sugar and Spice. My sister, Caroline who was a pupil of St Mary's Abbey, a Convent School for Girls told me they sold the best bacon sandwiches as well, but I managed to miss out on that. Given that the Caroline had the likes of the daughters of Bruce Forsyth and Spike Milligan as classmates, I daresay that there was a steady stream of celebrity offspring hungrily tucking in.

The shop became Glorafilia (which now operates an online business) which sold soft furnishings, before eventually following all of the rest of the small shops of the backwaters of Mill Hill, into oblivion (Picture courtesy of the Mill Hill Preservation Society website).

There are a whole stack of great pictures on the Mill Hill Preservation society website, if you have enjoyed this small selection. If anyone has any old pictures of Mill Hill lying around in biscuit tins, especially with accompanying stories,  please do a quick scan and let me have a copy (click here to email to me). A free pot noodle at Mill Hill Music Complex for every photo submitted (must be pre 1980). There are many blogs I write for many reasons. These lists I do purely for the love of it. I do hope you enjoy them.

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