Monday, 18 April 2016

The Wool Shop on Beech Road

Now I belong to a generation that was dragged round wool shops as a child.

My mum, her friend and later my sisters all knitted and so the trip to the shop was a regular part of my Saturdays.

It started with the knitting pattern, went on to an endless discussion about the colour of the wool and finished with walking home with loads of the stuff.

Then there was the smell. Wool shops had a distinctive smell, which was a sort of warm perfume smell which followed you home and stayed where ever mother was knitting.

There was something else about the wool shop which for years I couldn’t quite work out what it was, and then recently it came to me, it was always so very quiet, as if there were secrets about knitting that could only be uttered in a low almost conspiratorial way.

Ours was a traditional wool shop. The wooden shelves which reached to the ceiling were made of a deep dark wood which shone in the sunlight and were heaped high with wool.

 And then there were the wooden and glass counters which today you only see in shops pretending to be old. Through the glass top you could see more wool and all sizes of knitting needles.

So the day Mrs Rogers announced that she was going to try out a knitting machine it was if she had admitted to multiple affairs over the preceding twenty years. I wouldn’t mind but it wasn’t even that she was going to buy one; all she wanted to do was try it out.

 But that marked her out as a flighty thing who would soon be buying a Christmas cake instead of making one and no doubt had already used custard powder and meat spread.

Nor did the torture of the wool shop stop there. Once home the wool had to be wound into balls, which could be only done using the back of a chair but usually involved me having to stand with my arms outstretched and the wool was pulled from me and went into balls.


So I suppose I chose to ignore the wool shop on Beech Road.

But talking to people they remember it with affection as place where you could get what you wanted and be given helpful advice, which I reckon makes our wool shop a bit of an exception.

It had moved from the building that juts out from Daniel Sharp’s house beside the old Methodist chapel to a more central spot near the post office.


It’s demise says much about the way Beech Road has gone, but then it is too easy and cheap to complain that while you can buy novelty cards and interesting glassware it is no longer possible to buy a lamb chop or do all the veg shopping along the road. People have voted with their feet and prefer to buy everything under the same supermarket roof at the same time.

This really is a shame because between Muriel’s’ green grocery shop, the Italian deli, George’s wholefood shop and Etchells I could buy all the family wanted with just the odd visit to Hanbury’s.

 It became a proud boast that I never had to go off Beech Road. Still things are looking up with the new deli so perhaps we can have a mix. Well perhaps not yet a wool shop, the tide has yet to come back for that.

Location; Chorlton-cum-Hardy

Picture; the Wool Shop Beech Road July 1978 from the Lloyd collection

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