Strolling down Beulah Road today, it’s hard to believe that at the turn of the 20th century, there were more shops lining the road than there were on Orford Road at the same time.
In 1887, there were a total of 43 outlets located on Beulah Road and by 1907, the number had risen to 45 which included two dairies, four tobacconists /confectioners, two butchers, three drapers , two bakers, two grocers, a greengrocer, a fruiterer, a hairdresser, two builders, a chemist, an oilman, a fishmonger, a general store, a boot repairer /maker, a toy dealer, a jeweller, an upholsterer, a laundry, a plumber, a coachbuilder, a removals firm, a furniture director, a beer retailer, a stationer, a printer and a paperhanger. Add these to the 30 or so shops on Orford Road and you can imagine a thriving and busy retail hub, right on the doorstep!
I became interested in the history of the Beulah Road shops on my daily commute to and from the tube station, noticing how many redundant shop fronts there were and wondering what had lay behind them over the years. I first wrote an article for this newsletter in 2007 and thought it worth updating as the fortunes of the area continue to ebb and flow.
Tenby & Penny, glass merchants, at no. 38A is one of the oldest surviving outlets in the road and was a corn merchant in 1907 and prior to that had been part of a Ladies School next door at no. 38 run by Mrs. Mary Wood (Beulah Villa). Occasionally, the current resident at Beulah Villa displays the history of their house on a board in the front garden, a common-place custom in small German villages. Perhaps others might be encouraged to do the same?
Nos. 18 & 20, now Deep Clean Laundrette, was Westcotts (Sweet Clean) Laundry in 1957. In 1907, an upholsterer and a greengrocer separately occupied these properties.
Fullers the builders at no. 68 was founded by Edward Fuller in 1872. In the 1880s, Joseph Amey had a building business just down the road at no. 102 and between the two families, built many of the Victorian terraces in the locality. The painted Amey sign can still be seen at the top of no. 102.
No 6 was a confectioner’s from the early 1900s through to the 1950s (at one time called The Little Wonder). Interestingly, in 1957, Norman J. Chivers was the proprietor at no. 6 while next door at no. 4 Mrs. Hilda Chivers ran a ladies’ outfitters. I wonder what their relationship was?
In 1907, the Blythe family had a confectioner and newsagent’s at no. 92 and until relatively recently it remained a newsagent’s, lastly as Beulah Road News. It has now been sympathetically renovated into a residential residence with the splendid original shop sign T.E. Blythe back on display which was found during the restorations.
In 1887, George Thomas Tuckwell owned a butcher’s at no. 57 which was still in the same name in 1957. You can still see the shop name below the original window.
No 40, until not so long ago was J.C. Meadows Removal Contractors (still operating in Chingford). In the 1930s, I hear that their yard was occasionally used for housing the elephants when the circus came to town.
In 1957 there were 32 outlets; in 1977 there were still 27. By 1988 the number had dropped to 13 and now only a small handful still exist.
Fortunately, Orford Road is enjoying a revival these days with its mix of eateries and various outlets and there has been a stirring of activity of late on Beulah with occasional pop-up shops, a Saturday market and reopened shops. Not many photos seem to exist of the old Beulah Road shops but the few that I’ve found give a flavour of how it might have looked back in the day.
This article first appeared in the Sep 2014 edition of “The Village” magazine.