Sunday, 8 October 2017

Sorry, we don't do sliced

In July this blog visited the very interesting Sutton Road to explore the variety of buildings and their former occupants as the street developed in the first half of the 20th century.

We have also discovered that a number of family shops clustered at or near the junction with Cambridge and Camp View roads.

Two of those were Morley the baker and Gray the fish shop.  For those not now living in the district it is good to report that the fish shop is still thriving on the corner.  As with so many family shops, however, once the family had done its turn in dispensing bread and rolls to its community, it closed for good.

William Morley counted himself among the truly local shops providing products required frequently for the family table.  So we encountered butchers (there were three of them in this cluster), grocers, fishmongers and bakers.  In any residential location with parades of shops, or corner versions, we  found most, if not, all of these.  

Flowers adorn the family's first house in Camp Road.
Even the grocery shops – and there were more than twenty in Fleetville during the 1930s – sometimes made arrangements with a local baker to stock a loaf or two among the tins and bags.  The grocer got the benefit of a reasonably normal day, of course, unlike the baker who rose in the dark to bake that day's bread.  Though he could justifiably close early, if he had sold out by mid-afternoon.

Mr Morley's family began life in the East End of St Albans, occupying a new house opposite the school in Camp Road.  His father worked as a carpenter in the building trade and it is likely that he had a hand in the construction of the house they moved into.  An apprentice carpenter boarder lived with them, so it is possible that William senior was self employed with his own business. In the early 1920s they found a plot in Sutton Road and built again, and is from here that their eldest son, also William, already having learned his trade elsewhere in the city,  became self-employed, no doubt assisted by other family members.  We know, for example, that his sister-in-law's family shared in the running of the business during the 1950s.  William's son Maurice also became a master baker, having gained his training in the army.  Both he and his brother, Derek, assisted in the shop.
The former Morley baker's shop, with the corner fish shop.

Maurice, now in his 80s, recalls the business employing a roundsman, delivering bread to some two hundred customers, and a boy who may have worked in the shop or assisted in the bakery at the back.  I suppose it depends on the definition of 'boy'!

William died in 1957 at the age of 67, and it is likely that he continued working in the business until then.  In many family businesses it is often a question of closing the business or carrying on after the owner would have liked to retire.  Being wholly responsible for the family firm often brings much stress, as some readers will acknowledge.
1911 census entry detailing William's parents and siblings.

As the locals will already know, the shop has been converted into residential accommodation, but it is still possible to visualise where the former display window was, and the doorway through which customers would pass, to be greeted by name from one of the Mr Morleys or their spouses from behind the counter.  More than that, there seems to be no more enticing scent on the cool morning air than the smell of freshly baked bread from the Morley ovens.

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