Joinery & Timber - 126 West Green Road - Tottenham
My business partner, Chris Wright and I bought Joinery and Timber, in the early 1970's from Bob Banyard who was, I have always believed, the original founder of the business.
When we were first being shown around the premises as potential buyers we were staggered at the level of stock carried. None of it was fast turnover stock as is required in a modern business of today. It was an accumulation of every handy thing that had ever come Bob's way, from sheet upon sheet of every available veneer to the weirdest items of ironmongery that would be rarely if ever used. There were huge quantities of nails and screws and box upon box of all manner of unusual items that I was to learn would be the mainstay of the business.
It was impossible to carry out a valuation of the stock as is normal practice, so we agreed a price and the deal was done. Bob and his wife retired to Wales I believe, but sadly he did not live to enjoy his retirement for very long. I saw his wife in West Green Road not long after we had bought the shop and she told me the sad news.
As do all new brooms we made some changes,nothing too drastic, just enough to make us comfortable with our own way of working. Slowly we began to gain new and regular customers and to make some very good friends in the local community.
The shop pictured on the extreme right was also part of Joinery & Timber. It was almost opposite their main shop which was situated next to Coopers (Hairdresser's & Dolls Hospital) and in between Moss's the Tobacconist and Confectioners
We offered a full cutting service on sheet materials that enabled the good D.I.Y amateur to produce a professional job. Everything from a rabbit hutch to fitted wardrobes, It was probably the forerunner of the flat pack so commonly used today.
The Fowler brothers, Arthur and Jack, who were two local men often helped out in the shop. They were both elderly and have since passed on. Both men had a wealth of knowledge and experience in the timber industry. Arthur in particular could almost make woodworking machinery talk with his many tricks of the trade.
In due course my partner left the business and moved to pastures new. My two sons, Ray and Dan joined me in the business and we worked well together. We often reminisce about those days.
I always insisted that our emphasis should be on service and for many years it was a very good business.
Sadly this type of business is now very rare in any trade. Shops these days concentrate on size, on cost and fast turnover. Most shop workers are employed to stack shelves and have little knowledge about the goods that they sell. It would not surprise me if they go for days without speaking to a customer.
I saw the writing on the wall in the eighties with places like B&Q growing in strength, and when my premises were set on fire during the riots I decided it was time to go. I sold out in 1986/7. I took with me some great memories of my time in West Green Road and I am still in regular contact with my good friend Ray Swain who is currently interested in researching the history of the area.
It is the little things like the smell of the shop, a timber based aroma but somehow unique to that place. Every now and then I catch a whiff of a similar smell and it all comes flooding back.
In the winter when it was freezing cold, we had no heating and the doors were always wide open. In extreme times we would sometimes import a small Calor gas fire. What we always did, as soon as the shop was open and ready for business, was to to get the stew pot on the go. Usually a lovely beef stew on a slow cooker, sometimes with dumplings. the smell of that was enough to warm us. By lunchtime we were always more than ready to eat and we often shared our meal with one or two of our trade customers. Some managed to exercise impeccable timing but there was always enough to go round. they were happy days.
Perhaps it's strange that I should remember Mr Black who was not particularly a customer, more a neighbour to pass the time of day with. He was a semi-retired city accountant who lived with his invalid wife in a large semi-detached house opposite the shop. He was a thorough gentleman of the old school. I would often see him tip his hat to his wife from the gate, as he left to go about his business. Long forgotten good manners what would be out of place today.
I could go on and on about the diversity of the people that we met and served. Naming names, identifying particular traits and relating memorable incidents. There were so many characters in the area that there was never a dull moment. There was a good community spirit in those days. Even the shopkeepers were friends outside of business hours. We all helped each other out where we could.
For someone like me, who lived outside of the area, the gradual change in the quality of life for local people was quite noticeable in the lead up to the Broadwater Farm riots. There was a home security side to the business that was gradually growing, which we should have been pleased with. Unfortunately many of the purchases were accompanied with a tale of someone's' woe. I think we all learn to cope with our lot and block out the bad parts and that is what people seemed to do.
It ended up being a very bad time and now, when I look back, I tend to do the same. I refuse to let that period mar my memories of the good people in Tottenham and the support they gave me in my businees in West Green Road.
(Note: This letter has been reproduced for the Internet site from the original written by John Blythe)
Footnote from Ray Swain:
Not because John and his family ended up being very good friends of mine, but Joinery & Timber was one of those shops that everyone remembers for good service, friendly chats and very good advice on how to get around many problems. Both trades people and D.I.Y's alike were very grateful for the help they received. To sum up I would say their philosophy was:
Considerate People - Considerate Service - Consider it Done !
It was not a large shop, so no space was wasted in the shop and everything had it's place and was organised in order to carry the maximum stock leaving only enough space for the customers to get in and out. It was amazing how many things were stocked. many things that you were just unable to purchase elsewhere. It was a real Aladdin's cave of very useful things and even today I often come across problems that could have been solved had the shop still been open. It seem that today's stores only stock articles with up to two months shelf life. Therefore, the only chance of seeing these special tools and gadgets today, is on the stalls at the Woodworking Exhibition when it comes to London and then at prices you would not believe.
John would have made a fortune had he taken his stock to one of these events, as it was more varied than I have seen on those stalls. Mind you not many people are around today with the skills to use these items for Tottenham was once a hub for the Furniture trade for many years and local people knew what was what. I still see many people around today who used John's shop and have many regrets that it's no longer there.
John had a good trade in cutting to size sheet material to make speaker boxes for the local boys. There is one I won't forget, because it must have been the first sound system which ended up like three large wardrobes with various sized speakers holes and names cut through the board, which would have light behind them when finished. It took John's sons Ray and Danny plus myself to deliver it to a flat on the Broadwater Farm estate, and we all thought we were glad not to be living next door to that when it's finished and working !!
As to John's memories of Mr Black, I can only agree a real gentleman and very interesting to talk to. It was very sad when someone ripped his wooden front gate off and threw it through his window, just missing his invalid wife in her bed. Following this incident he moved out to Ware in Hertfordshire a broken man. It was so very sad.