About Willans (HT)
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With thanks to the Whittingham family, allowing us to extract these details from Peter Whittingham’s reminiscences.
In the early 1900’s, at the bottom of West Street just past the Marlborough Head, stood G. & H. Willans and Sons, a grocer’s shop (now a restaurant) with a smaller china shop right on the corner. This was a very busy family business involving all the family.
Entering the shop, Mrs Willans would be sitting at her pay desk in the centre to greet you. This was the command post where she gave out orders to her sons, Frank and Don.
Frank could be heard to shout out “Forward Freeman!” or “Back Miss Pitt!”. This instructed Freeman to serve on the counter and Miss Pitt to go into the adjoining china shop to serve a customer.
Customers could choose from sides of bacon hung from the ceiling, but the Willans’ renowned brawns had to be ordered, such was the demand.
Don went out three times a week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, collecting orders from customers for later delivery locally by boys on their trade bikes. Out-of-town orders were delivered by horse and cart.
Produce was often hung on bars on the front of the shop, such as a large batch of chickens for sale. A week before Christmas, these hanging bars were fixed to the front of the shop ready to hang the prime turkeys from Norfolk. Customers stood in the road to choose which one they wanted, with Frank at hand to get it down with his long pole. At night-time, a character named Norman Britain was on duty with his shot gun to protect these fowl from foul play, marching up and down like a soldier on guard duty.
The Willans family were very fond of singing and would entertain at local functions.
|Address:||75 West Street|
|Categories:||Historical, Point of Interest, Rochford|