Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ludlow, Shropshire

Treasure trove

In a recent post I hinted that I would add something more about Rickards, the ironmonger's shop in Ludlow that i visited at the beginning of the month. There has been an ironmonger's business on this site for more than 200 years. In the late-18th century the tenant was Edward Egginton, ironmonger, and there was still an Egginton there in 1861. But later in the 1860s, one James Rickards, and soon afterwards his son, Heber Rickards, owned the building.  Heber became successful in the business and a prominent citizen of Ludlow, and the business stayed in his family for over 80 years.
 Rickards of Ludlow: business name in Victorian gilded lettering over the door
Name mosaic, possibly from interwar period, in doorway floor

The premises is a fascinating architectural hotchpotch that bears the imprint of several generations. The two shop fronts, with their narrow glazing bars, look 19th century – the one on the left is probably early-19th century, The gilded lettering over one door may well date from the time of Heber Rickards, while a doorway mosaic may brave been added between the two World Wars. The lettering on the fascia seems to owe something to the Festival of Britain style and I would guess that it dates form the 1950s.

Interior: 19th-century drawers and 20th-century advertisements

As if those details were not riches enough, the interior is a revelation. Rows of wooden draws run along the back walls of both shops. One set of drawers may well date back to the beginning of the 19th century, before the first Rickards took over the business; the other set may date form the time of the Rickards' arrival in the mid-1860s. The array of old advertising posters and cards stuck on these drawers, promoting mothaks, turpentine, and devices to improve your television signal, is a small treasure trove of the history of advertising. The business's 19th-century cash desk, protected by a tiny sliding glass window, is also intact in the middle of the shop.

In short, this place is a marvel – both as a monument to the history of the high street and as a living business serving the people of Ludlow and the surrounding area with everything from kettles to balls of string, bars of beeswax to watering cans. If to me the shop represents a rich slice of history, to local people it must be an invaluable resource, a lifeline even. We owe thanks to the people who, through the thick and thin and economic ups and downs, keep it going.


Peter Ashley said...

Blimey. I've just gorged myself on that interior shot of the shelves and cupboards. The advertisement to the right of the Ronuk Red Tile Polish looks as if it may feature an S.R.Badmin painting. If it is I'd better not go in, not because I'd nick it, but because the whole thing in there would probably make me pass out. Customers stepping over me to get to the Atlas light bulbs.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Yes! It's an advertisement for Walpamur paints (Walpamur Quality Paints for the homes of Britain). It does have a Badmin look about it. All the ads are marvellous.

Stephen Barker said...

Philip, thank you for the excellent blog, I want to go to Ludlow just to see this shop. Ironmongers and traditional hardware shops seem to have escaped much of the change that has transformed the High Street since WWII. Long may they continue.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Thanks Stephen. There are some good traditional ironmongers around, it's true, in spite of the ubiquitous DIY "superstores".