Pilch had their shop in Brigg Street before being taken over by Jarrolds. Pilch is  a name from Norfolk’s sporting past, and Fuller Pilch (1804-1870) was esteemed nationally as the pre-eminent cricketer of the first half of the nineteenth century. He was born in Brisley in central Norfolk. This is only 5 miles from Beeston where another sporting legend, the boxer Jem Mace was born a generation later.  As for the shop in Brigg Street, on the ground floor it sold footballs, cricket bats, tennis rackets and the boots and socks and shorts that go with them. But much more to my taste were the toys that they sold from the basement – and in Surrey Street they had a branch that sold nothing but toys. A few pence would buy a Britain’s plastic soldier, or farmyard animal. There was a whole garden you could purchase bit by bit. The plastic flowers and dwarf walls were attractive enough although I never had any; it was rather a girlie type of toy. Rather more expensive were Tri-ang OO gauge railway trucks or points which came in  red boxes with yellow writing (or in yellow boxes with red writing). You might even get a glimpse of a pacific locomotive – the tenders were sold separately but were an essential part of the ensemble.

Willmott's stores

Willmott’s stores

45- 51 Prince of Wales Road contained Willmotts Stores; they had a pneumatic tube in which  your payment was placed in a container. It was sucked away to a mysterious place you never saw, to return a few moments later with your change and receipt. They sold electrical goods like irons and toasters and stocked Alan Sugar’s first Amstrad product, a tape deck. They sold bicycles,  model railways (of which they had the best selection in the city, better even than Pilch’s) and on the first floor, records. These were vinyl 45 rpm pop songs and 33 rpm LPs which were mostly classical. The idea of groups producing LPs – albums –  took of with the Beatles. You could go into a booth and listen to tracks of an LP before buying. Willmotts was a relative newcomer to the Norwich shopping firmament, only having begun in 1910.

There were two adjacent secondhand bookshops in St Giles run by members of the Crowe family, but they had a very different feel. The younger Crowe had not been there very long, but the elder, Thomas Crowe, had a shop at 77 St Giles that had an air of antiquity. That shop closed first although his much younger son ran it for a time. Although I frequently went to both shops I seldom found anything worth buying.

Opposite at 76 St Giles was Terence Lincoln’s chemist shop. My wife was a great fan of his pink Cajuput jelly which was a hand cream. It wasn’t expensive only you had to wait until he had time to make it up for you. In those days there were still a number of independent chemists in the city with their own special potions. With Terence Lincoln it was his Cajuput jelly. A memorable product was Collin’s Elixir for coughs. This concoction was unusual among cough remedies in being extremely delicious, with an aura that went straight behind your eyes and cleared your head instantly. Collin’s was at 25 The Walk; they have long gone, as has their Elixir, although it lasted some years longer than Collins shop itself, being taken over by their successors. It came to an end when it was ruled to be toxic by the powers that be. I am sure they were right, but it never did me anything but good. It still appears on the list of medicines that are available, but I have no idea where you would get it, and even if you did it would be a pale shadow of the Elixir  as it used too be.

In the 1980s Terence Lincoln was well past retirement age and eventually he made a mistake over the providing of free needles to drug addicts. When he started in business St Giles still had a feeling about it that recalled the days when surgeons and bank managers lived there. Drug addiction did not then feature in his concerns; had his pharmaceutical practice been in a working class area it would have been even further from his mind. Drug addiction was still an affliction of the rich bohemian who, a few generations before, included the fictional Sherlock Holmes and the non-fictional author Thomas De Quincey. Now heroin misuse has become a problem which mainly affects the socially inadequate of the inner cities. The rich bohemians still take drugs, although they have moved on from the opium eating of De Quincey’s days to sniffing cocaine. It was Terence Lincoln’s misfortune to live into the age when he had to address the provision of hypodermic needles to the users of illegal substances. He took his rap over the knuckles in good part, but soon afterwards he retired for good.

In Lower Goat Lane is the Salvation Army charity shop where I would frequently browse, but in the 1960s and probably long before that it was the Lodge restaurant where I would sometimes go with my sister for lunch.The Lodge’s prices were very reasonable for the City centre, and they were particularly good at serving a baked potato with a simple filling like cheese. Further down Lower Goat Lane and on the other side was Gregory’s Photographic shop. This is still in the same line of business, now called Capricorn Cameras; back in the 50s and 60s it was the place where my father often went for films or filters. He was quite friendly with Mr Gregory, the owner. His son David was very much into tape recorders – then reel-to-reel recorders were the latest thing- and there was the family involvement in cameras as well. With the UNIVERSITY of EAST ANGLIA opening up in 1963 he became involved with their state-of-the-art audio-visual department. Indeed he was the brains behind it. He later emigrated to Australia, and although he did not stay there he did not return to East Anglia. Gregory’s Audio Visual Ltd of Blackburn, Lancashire (founded in 1985) is probably his establishment.

JOSEPH MASON                                                                                                                                              



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