21st April 2022
Memories of the old corner shops of Bishophill
Grace Jowitt, who was born in 1931, has been talking to her daughter Angie, about her memories of the old shops of Bishophill. She lived in Swann St but Bishophill was on her route into town.
There was Smith’s general shop, halfway down Fairfax Street. We only shopped there occasionally for sweets and small groceries as it was on way into town from Swann Street. There was also a shop at corner of Fairfax Street, run by Mr Severs, who had twin boys. We would take lemonade bottles back to shop, to get the deposit on the bottle, but Mr Severs would claim they were not his bottles and would not give you the deposit back.
Grace Pinder aged 14 in 1944
There was Philips’s fish shop and down the side alley there was Mr Dickinson, who had a horse and cart, for delivering fruit and veg from their shop at the end of Dove Street. There was overnight stabling for horses in this yard.
My Granny had a room in the almshouse, which became Lady Anne Middleton’s Hotel, and we used to visit her there. She had a bed in the corner and we three kids sat on it, not daring to move until we were told to. There was a curtain with a sink behind and a cupboard with coal in it, and a big window. Granny use to scare us to death, by talking about an old lady in the room opposite who would put ox blood on the fire, to cast a curse on people who had crossed her. We ran past her room on the way out, in case she came out and put a curse on us.
She moved from this almshouse to St Thomas’s Hospital through Victoria Bar on Nunnery Lane. She was always moving around. Her room was opposite the fishmongers, and she watched him arranging the fish display on the marble slab in the window.
My brother Harry got a job as a joiner about 1950 at the electricity board, which was at the site of Buckingham Works, before it moved to Dundas Street off Stonebow.
On Bishophill Senior there was a house where Charlie Thornton lived, who delivered newspapers along Micklegate on his bike. He didn’t put them through the letter box, he just threw them at the doors. He didn’t care if he hit you with the paper and he rode on the pavement. It was up to you to get out of his way!
There was a betting shop on the corner of Smales Street. Women were not allowed in betting shops, but many went to corner shops to place bets, as it was not legal, but it was respectable, just doing your shopping. But we didn’t know anything about that as we didn’t have any money for such things.
We went from Swann Street, through Victoria Bar to town, it was the quickest way. When we returned from the town, along Skeldergate, to turn up Buckingham Street, there was often a man sat on a high chair blocking the pavement, with his dinner balanced on his hand on a plate, or in a pan, or in a straw boater hat. It was quite a spectacle as nobody was ever seen eating in the street. My mother used to make us hurry past him or take us on the opposite side of the street.
My parents took we three children to St Mary's Bishophill Jnr church once, for a parish gift, as Dad was out of work and needed money for food. The vicar gave them maybe five shillings or a voucher maybe (I can’t remember as I was only little.) My mother used to clean for the clergy on Scarcroft Rd and St Clement’s Church. Many a time we scrubbed the aisle of St Clement's Church. She had maybe three cleaning and washing jobs per day. But she was paid in kind, with clothes for us kids or maybe left-over stew.
Grace and Alan Jowitt outside 16 Swann St in 1954
I met my husband at Mary MacPherson’s Dancing School on Bishophill. A lot of lads from Acomb use to come on their bike, but there was nowhere to leave them at the dance school, so they used to leave them at our house in Swann Street and my mother kept her eye on them, while we all went to the dance. Alan, my husband, was one of them.
Myself, Irene and Phyllis, who were friends from the Coop on South Bank, all got dressed up and I use to do their hair before we went out. I once put some new setting lotion on Phyllis’s hair the night before. She wanted it to stay set all week, so I didn’t dilute it. Her hair turned green!! All the customer commented on it. My name was mud and she didn’t ask me to do her hair again.