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Non-food shops, early 20th century

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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.

Ironmongers' wares

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.

Irormongers/hardware shop front, early 20th century

Ironmongers shop front.

If you would like to comment on any of the items shown, please contact me.

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.

Tap/click for a larger image.

old ironmonger's ceiling, showing goods hanging for display

Ironmonger's ceiling, showing goods hanging for display


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.

Note from the webmaster

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


If you can add anything to this page or provide a photo, I would be pleased if you would contact me.


Page based on the recollections and notes of the webmaster's mother (1906-2002) with additional research and editorial work by the webmaster.

Photos taken by the webmaster with acknowledgements to Amberley Museum, Milestones Museum and The Blackcountry Museum.

Text and images are copyright


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