Ironmongers, hardware stores and oil shops, early 20th century England
By the webmaster’s mother, 1906-2002
The name: oil shops/hardware shops/ironmongers
Hardware shops or ironmongers were always known as oil shops in our family when I was growing up in the early 1900s, possibly because this was what my mother regularly bought there - actually it was paraffin. 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.
In fact the proper name for these shops was ironmongers, although the name hardware shops has taken over more recently.
As well as oil, ironmongers also sold all sorts of household goods.
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.
How goods were displayed 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.
My family's local ironmongers shop
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