Never before have shops been so much in the news. Even before this wretched Covid 19 some of the big names had started to disappear from our high streets. What will happen when life returns to some sort of yet unknown normality I do not know. There has been such a switch to online shopping only time will tell if all those shoppers will return to the real shops. I had an antique shop at 25 Watergate Street, Chester for 30 years. I think I enjoyed part of the golden years of Chester being a centre for antique shops and galleries. The Chester listing in the yearly Guide to Antique Shops in the UK used to take up 6 pages or more. The shops were spread around the city but most of them were in Watergate Street. This was probably due to it being the last of the main streets to be upgraded and therefore rents were more affordable.
I opened there in 1968 buying the remaining part of the lease from Raymond Plant, a dealer who specialised in fine English furniture, sporting prints and other pictures. I think he lived at Ivy House in Pepper Street, Christleton. I can remember first visiting the shop in my late teens when it was an antiquarian bookshop run by Mr. Langley. Dressed usually in a long raincoat he used to sit at the back of the shop whistling at times an incomprehensible tune. But I remember there was that wonderful aroma of dusty old books. The shop was lit by about three electric light bulbs hanging from a low ceiling. When Raymond later ran the shop he had the floor dug out so he was able accommodate longcase clocks and other tall furniture. This now meant that you had to go down steps into the the shop. When I moved in I found the old skirting boards still intact 3 feet above floor level. When I moved out in 1998 there was a good demand for small shops and I was able to sell the balance of my Chester Council lease. It could be a long time before anyone can do that again as there is now a large selection of empty properties for aspiring entrepreneurs. Number 25 has been empty and to let for 18 months or more. When in town its nice to go and have a look at the old shop. It evokes a lot of memories. I wonder if in years to come a historian will notice that the hanging sign above the front door has in the ironwork bracket supporting it the letter N. This was made to order in the late 1970's by Barry Crump, the Blacksmith in Christleton. There is a photo of Barry Crump working at his smithy by the High School in David Cumming's April edition of his fascinating new series - Christleton in the Past.