Shops and businesses in Lelant in the 1930s

Maxwell Adams 2003-2005

Version: 20 December 2005

You might also like to read Memories of Lelant: 1930s onwards and Shops and businesses in Lelant: 1960s onwards.

You can't hide a hole. Centuries after posts have rotted and the hole has filled in, archeologists can tell you where it was. And you can't hide a shop.

Today there are only really two shops in Lelant, the post office and general store and down at Griggs two shops, though there are several businesses serving the public as well. Sixty years ago there were many more and as you walk around the village you can tell, if you look hard, where the now-gone shops were.You can turn them into houses, turn doors into windows, but like the holes of history, you can't vanish them. And who would wish to? They are part of our village heritage and we should celebrate them.

I'd noticed former shops in the village, noticed the large give-away windows of some of them, but didn't know what sort of trade had gone on there. I knew from old Kelly's directories the names of the former shopkeepers but not where each shop was. The one surviving Lelant Rate Charges Book for 1929-34 at the county record office supplements the directories but does not always pinpoint the shops and does not say what was sold. On a hot summer's day this year, 1995, Mary Wills, born Mary Ninnis, a native of Lelant, walked me around our village and identified in great detail the shops of her childhood in the 1930s and after. Practically everything I write is from the walk and her generous sharing of knowledge. Mary even told me more than about just the shops; she told me about other interesting places that have changed too.

We started our walk at my house in Church Road. Opposite are the former old farm buildings, turned into two houses in the late 1990s. The quiet and handsome one on the left is where the farm animals were slaughtered. (All the directions are given facing the buildings from the road.) As we walked past Church Close Mary reminded me that when it was a field it was where the village children used to have their school sports. Our village was then a richer mixture than in these sanitised days.

Farther down Church Road, and past where the tennis courts used to be behind a tall hedge at the north corner of Brewery Hill, is a cottage with two turquoise-eyed gargoyles at the gate. Here was the nursery of Mr Shaw Baker which stretched behind the village school and down Brewery Hill. He grew plants and flowers and salad produce, especially tomatoes. He also made garden ornaments in cement and the two at the gate are his handiwork.

Opposite is the garage at the Ship, a former inn. The garage is the site of where Sammy Edmonds prepared his meat for his butcher's shop in Fore Street. Picture him coming out of it brandishing his butcher's knives and the schoolchildren scooting from him across the road to school screaming in delighted terror. And not a spoilsport social worker in sight.

To the left was the now-gone workshop where the carpenter Harry Edmonds made, inter alia, coffins. A few yards southwards is Fairacre Cottage where Mrs Eustace had her house-shop, selling general produce. Now Church Road is wholly residential.

We're now at Lelant Cross, the area around The Badger, formerly the Lelant Hotel, formerly the Praed's Arms, formerly the New Inn. Most of the village shops were clustered around here. At the corner, where the bakery is or was, Carters the coal dealers had a yard behind, and before them Biggles, I think. After a fire at the coal yard it was rebuilt and used as a store for broccoli transport and then a furniture store. The shop was Evans butchery when we came to live here in 1984 and then Matthews bakery which closed in 1995. Now it is a house. Of much more interest to the children was the house opposite, Crossways Cottage with a splendid magnolia in its garden. The window at the left was a shop run by Mrs Evans and selling sweets and groceries. Mrs Evans also ran the cafe at the ferry beach.

On the opposite corner by the War Memorial Mrs Olds had a dairy at the Old Farmhouse and used to make cream. People bought the separated milk for one old penny a pint and used it for milk puddings.

Olds had a butchery at Roseleigh. You find it a few yards down Tyringham Road towards St Ives. Down an alley at the left side Frank "Booty" Bennetts had his cobbler's place.

Next door are two windows and a glazed door. This was Mrs Bennetts's provisions shop. On the opposite side of the road is the old Polglase shop that sold groceries, haberdashery, paraffin, fruit, vegetables, and, in the summer, homemade icecream. The vegetables used to be on display outside the shop and when the cows were being taken in for milking everyone would rush to bring the greens inside before the cows could eat them. Since I have lived in the village it was for a time a pet shop, Fur and Feathers. Now it is a house too.

Right at the end of this road, where Oates Travel is now, Roaches had a garage, the successor to their blacksmith's that used to be there. Roaches recharged the accumulator batteries for wirelesses here.

In this small stretch of narrow road of fifty yards half a century ago there were six, perhaps seven, shops selling meat, other food and groceries, and mending shoes, along with Mrs Olds's hairdressing. Now there isn't a single shop. Whatever shut them down, it wasn't today's out-of-town supermarkets.

Back to The Badger and southwards towards the present post office at Ivy Mount. I say present because it is the fourth site that I know of. The earliest one seems to have been on the other side of the road at Eastleigh and there is a splendid photograph of it. It then moved to two rooms at Trecott, on the other side of the village hall, which is where Mary, whose grandfather was the village postman, recalls it. The door on the far left was the way in to the post office. Lelant sorted its own post and stamped them with the village name in those days. The post was then taken down to Lelant railway station. The only public telephone in Lelant was inside this post office and since most people did not have telephones there were very many telegrams.

Across the road is the Old Bank House, a capital building. Lloyds Bank had a room here from March 1907 to September 1939. You went in through the door and the bank was in the room on the right. Look at this handsome building again. Now look at the building Lloyds had in Carbis Bay until recently and reflect. To the left of the door of the Old Bank House is a window. If you look carefully, you can see that it was once a door and it led to a grocery shop and the third post office to the left of the vanished door. Barclays Bank had the room on the right at 1 Orchard Villas from May 1923 to September 1939.

Back across the road to Trecott again. The gate on the far left led to the doctor's surgery in a building at the back. Today there is a hairdresser's at the back on the right. For a time after the post office had moved to the Old Bank House Tom Bannister made and sold perfume at Trecott.

Next to the village hall is an empty shop that until recently sold antiques. This used to be Edmonds the butchers, specialising in tripe and dripping. Yes, that's three butcher's shops in the village. The shop reopened selling shoes and is now a gallery selling paintings.

Just along the road in Chilecito Villas, named by the man who built them after a mine in South America [Argentina] that he had worked at, Mrs Honeychurch had apartments like the Misses Firstbrook at Maydene. She then moved to St Neot's Villas and ran a maternity home.

There were only two more shops. Half way down Abbey Hill on the eastern side near Mount Pleasant is a house, now called St Piran's Lodge, with a large window high up. This used to be a barber's and there were outside steps into the shop. At the bottom of the hill is Boundy's House where Mr Vincent sold general groceries. The big window is where the shop was and to its right, where there is now a frosted window, is where the shop door was. The other frosted window was a post box.

Opposite is Hampton Court, or the Old Court House, and here on the right hand side the Misses Rosewarne gave dressmaking lessons at 2/6d a week. At the far southern end of the village Mr Lashbrook and then Mr Roskilly had a blacksmith's at Griggs.

Besides the fixed shops there were people coming round delivering goods as today. Beckerlegs delivered milk to the door from a churn. At first they used a pony and trap but then a motorbike and sidecar with the milk churn fixed on a flat platform. Later they used a van and milk bottles. Miles delivered homemade bread and used a pony and covered trap. Clarkes in a van also delivered homemade bread and Cornish splits and cakes. Saundry had a flat-backed lorry and delivered vegetables. And of course Carters delivered coal.

Things have changed since the thirties and forties. The railway station that handled post and parcels and had a stationmaster and porter has changed to a mere occasional halt. A dozen shops have gone. Their traces remain but a way of life in our village has gone for ever.


Notes on the banks at Lelant

Until 1939 there were two small bank branches at Lelant. I do not suppose they ever did much business and they kept very limited hours. The recession of the 1930s seems to have finished them off.

Barclays Bank

There was a part-time sub-branch at Lelant from 8 May 1923 to September 1939, the outbreak of World War II. Barclays leased for a rent of 13 year the ground floor front room at 1 Orchard Villas, Fore Street, the house of Thomas Harry. The room was the one on the right looking at the house from the road. The bank had very limited opening hours: at first on Tuesdays and Fridays from 10 am to 2 pm and staff from Barclays Bank in St Ives ran it. By the mid-1930s the bank was opened only on Thursday mornings, from 10.30 to 12.15, presumably reflecting poor demand in the recession.

Lloyds Bank

There was a branch at Lelant from March 1907 until September 1939, when, like Barclays, it closed because of the outbreak of War.

It opened in March 1907 as an agency of Lloyds Bank at Penzance and became a sub-branch of the St Ives in August 1927. As a sub-branch it was at the Old Bank House, Fore Street.

For 1907-1927 the agent was J. Sandow. The bank was opened from 10 am to 3 pm. There was a half day on Wednesday from 10am to 1 pm. The hours changed several times and in 1932 the bank was opened only on Thursdays from 1030 am to 1230 pm, presumably for the same economic reason as Barclays's reduced opening.