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Florence Cole as a child

Ironmongers, hardware stores and
oil shops in the early 20th century

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This page is based on childhood recollections of shops in Edmonton, north London in Edwardian times.

What oil shops/hardware shops/ironmongers sold

Inside an English ironmongers shop in the early 1900s, also known as a hardware shop or an oil shop

Inside an ironmongers shop in the early 20th century. Photographed in Amberley Museum.


Irormongers/hardware shop front, early 20th century

Ironmongers shop front. Photographed in Milestones Museum, Basingstoke


Old ironmonger's ceiling, showing goods hanging for display

Ironmonger's ceiling, showing goods hanging for display. Photographed in The Black Country Museum.

Hardware shops or ironmongers were always known as oil shops in our family. They sold all sorts of household goods but it was for oil (actually paraffin) that my mother mostly used them. She would have to take a special can with a long spout along and buy the oil by the pint. Perhaps it was the oil that gave these shops a special smell of their own.

The gas mantle was bought from the oil shop, too. It came in a little cardboard box.

The shop also sold firewood. This was stacked like a wall in front of the counter in bundles, about a dozen in a bundle, about 6-8 inches long, half 1 inch thick.

In fact, oil shops sold a great variety of bits and pieces for homes and gardens.

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Goods display in old ironmongers

As much as possible was crammed into the shop window or hung up outside from window and door frames. The rest, where space permitted, was hung from the shop ceiling.

Our local shop in Edmonton was owned by Mr Bryant and was on the corner of Sheldon Road and Silver Street.

Information from the 1911 census

The 1911 census shows that my mother's memory was absolutely right: It shows that Alfred Bryant describes himself as an oilman. He was living at 77 Silver Street, probably above his shop, with his wife Catherine, 56, who assisted with the business and his daughter Mabel, 17 born Bethnal Green. He, like his wife, was born in Stepney.

Pat Cryer, webmaster and daughter of the author

Locations of old hardware shops

The hardware shop /ironmongers, known as the 'oil shop' in Silver Street, old Edmonton, early 1900s

This hardware shop / ironmongers / oil shop was on a corner in a parade of shops in Silver Street Edmonton, early 1900s. Photo provided by Cliff Raven, courtesy of Enfield Local Studies and Archives. Note the tin baths hanging up that would have been used on washdays. Larger versions would have been used for bathing. Detail of a larger photo on old Edmonton page.

If you can add anything to this page or provide a photo, I would be pleased to hear from you.

Pat Cryer, webmaster

Oil shop at the corner of Warwick Road and Silver Street, Edmonton, early 1900s

This hardware shop was built into a house. TIt was called Eaton's on the corner of Warwick Road and Silver Street in the 1930s.

Image processing software on a larger version enables the awning to be distorted and enhanced so that it is almost completely legible. It reads:


Early 1900s English ironmongers shop front, specialising in oil, paint and barrels

This hardware shop in the early 1900s seems to be fitted in wherever. It is a detail from a larger photograph in Milton Keynes Museum. The main wares can just be made out - oil and colour [paint] written above the left-hand window, seed merchants written above the right-hand window, and cooper [maker and seller of barrels] above the door.

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