I passed on some memories a few weeks ago of Maurice’s High Class Family Butcher’s at 265 Charnwood Street. Looking at some old street directories, I see that in 1960 it was occupied by Sydney Paling, and before that by William Watson, both of them also butchers. William Watson was at 265 from at least 1925, and the photograph above of him outside his shop was probably taken in the early 1930s. Jill Richardson remembers him from the Second World War, ‘always trying to give a little bit extra when rationing was on’, but there were quite a few other butchers in the street at one time or another.
Looking at the directory for 1954, for instance, the pork butcher John Henry Smith was at 141, James Hay at 149, George Amos at 163 – opposite Shenton Street – William Smith at 179-181, T. Kirby and Son at 213, and the British and Argentine Meat Co. Ltd. at 219. William Watson was a little further down the street, and the on the opposite side were Frank Lee at 246, and Fred Hutchins at 176. Frank Lee was at 246 until just before Charnwood Street was demolished, and the family still has a stall on Leicester Market. Jill Richardson recalls that when the war ended in 1945 he ‘packed his lorry with all the children he could, gave us balloons and drove us to the blue single-decker bus outside the Palais de Danse [Humberstone Gate] where he bought us all hot dogs!’. Another butcher that many people will remember was Derry’s on the corner of St Saviour’s Road and Charnwood Street.
Robin Titley lived in Charnwood Street from 1942 to 1949 at the butcher’s shop at 163 that belonged to his mother and traded as G.L. Ingram. His father took over the running of the shop after the war when it was known as W. Titley. ‘We lived over the shop’, he recalls:
and in 165, which at one time had been a shop but had been converted. We still had the big plate glass window in what was our dining room. The door to 165 was never used and was permanently fastened. At the back of the two shops the area had been concreted over, so there was a good area in which to play, and I frequently managed to break one of the windows when playing cricket! Next door at 161 was Perks, the grocers, and apparently their perishables used to be kept in the back room of 163, so during the war there were strict checks to make sure there were only contents that should be there!
There were also shops selling cooked meat such as sausages and faggots – very popular with people who wanted something to eat in the middle of the day, or as a family treat now and again. There was Leslie Ball at 244, for instance, while Patricia Kirby remembers that ‘the succulent smell of home-made faggots spread far and wide’ from the butcher’s shop run by Abraham Coates at 196 from the 1920s to the 1940s.
You might wonder how so many butchers in one street managed to make a living. It was quite a distance from one end of the street to the other, of course, and having a butcher nearby in the days before many people had a fridge or freezer, or easy access to a supermarket, was a great convenience. People tended to buy their meat and other perishable goods day by day, and there could be some real bargains to be had at the weekend when the butchers often sold off their stock at reduced prices – if you timed it right. Mick Byrnes remembers that:
Going from Green Lane Road into Charnwood Street on the left was Lane’s the butcher’s, and on Saturday afternoon between four and five o’clock he used to sell the Saturday night grill. This contained all sorts of different meat, and all for five shillings. There were some very happy and contented faces in our house on a Saturday night after the feast, and some sad faces if he sold all his stock before 4 pm as the shop closed’.
Many thanks to Mr Rowland Lord and Mrs M. Lester, William Watson’s granddaughter, for providing the photograph and giving permission to use it; and to everyone who contributed their memories of local butchers.
Coming soon – Christmas in Charny!