Saturday, 1 October 2016

When you could buy two nails and a key from Skillman & Sons on Woolwich High Street in the spring of 1977

Now when I was last on Woolwich High Street number 108 was an empty shop, and despite a coat of black paint the front still displayed the name of Skillman & Sons, which was where my friend Jean “always went ...... as they had all sorts of nails and things not found anywhere else.”

But it is yet another testament to the slow demise of the small trader that Skillman & Sons no longer sell their nails, or screws and instead if you want something to hold up a shelf or fasten a picture to the wall it is a trip to one of those big DIY stores where nails, screws and even fuses have to be bought in packets.

Our own J.J.Johhny in the village would happily sell you one of anything and with a cavalier approach to pricing might charge you a different sum every time you went in.  But I was always confident that in the long run it would always even itself out and so the day you paid 10p would like as not be 6p the next time.

And of course before Johnny’s, there was the old hardware store on Beech Road which retained its bare wooden floors and smelt of paraffin, oiled string and wood.

I doubt that these places could have survived in an age when people do most of their shopping  in out of town  big stores and increasingly are captivated by the online alternative.

All of which I suppose leaves shops like our hardware place and Skillman & Sons to fall vacant and become home to gift shops, galleries and bars.

I wish it were otherwise but that seems to be how the last two decades have panned out.

If there is a consolation the bar economy has at least prevented shops from falling empty and leaving the high street no less than our village street a dismal and desolate place which brings me back to Woolwich High Street.

When I last passed many of the shops on the way up towards Powis Street had become fast food outlets.

Such I suppose is the onward march of retailing history.

Picture; Woolwich High Street, 1977, from the collection of Jean Gammons

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