19th July 2021
The old corner shops of Bishophill
Jackson's hot pie shop on the corner of Buckingham St (The Card Index)
This year we were delighted to merge with Bishophill History Group. It’s a fascinating area inside the walls to the south of the city centre, with a long history reflecting Roman, Viking, medieval, Georgian, Victorian and modern periods. But we decided to start by looking at the old shops which used to be in Bishophill, within living memory.
Surprisingly there were at least two dozen of these, mostly on the corners of the terraced streets, and remembered fondly by older residents. There were also several public houses which have long gone, in what used to be a bustling neighbourhood, full of businesses, riverside warehouses and shops.
A group of volunteer researchers took part in our walk last week, to locate the positions of the corner shops. We were guided by Peter Stanhope, who was able to tell us about his younger days in Bishophill, in the 1940s and 1950s, with contributions from some other members of the history group. We’ll be recording interviews with people who can tell us about their memories, and drawing upon a fascinating interview with Sid Heppell, carried out by York Oral History Society some twenty years ago.
The new community cafe, Fairfax Corner
All of these old shops have now gone, converted into houses and apartments. But we’re delighted to see a new community cafe, Fairfax Corner, in one of them, on the corner of Fairfax St and Lower Priory St. (This shop is remembered by many as Dooley’s before it closed down.) The new cafe has been launched by Shan Oakes and Bill Rigby, with the aim of using surplus food from supermarkets and local suppliers, and run as a not-for-profit operation, partly-subsidised by the holiday let above. We hope to be able to talk to people using the cafe, and we plan also to use local pubs and pop-up events in Bishophill, to encourage people to come along, meet up and talk about their memories, for our new project.
Dooley's shop on the corner of Fairfax St
As well as memories we’ll be using research resources once again, such as old trade directories, the census and 1939 Register, maps, photographs and contemporary newspaper articles, to track the history of traders. One of our aims is to explore how retail consumption patterns have changed over the last century, from times when the corner shop was a pillar of the neighbourhood.
We’ve now completed work on our latest book about the old shops and pubs of Nunnery Lane and Clementhorpe, following the success of our books about Bishy Road and South Bank shops. The Nunnery Lane book will be on sale this autumn.