From Canada to WGC

Memories of the first Welwyn Stores

Welwyn Stores 1922
John Lewis Archive

Phillis’ parents came to the town in the early 1920s from Canada via London, her father having served in the Canadian army. They bought a house in Dognell Green and stayed there for 24 years.

The audio clip explains the reason for moving to WGC and is part of a longer interview recorded in January 2011 by the Welwyn Garden Heritage Trust as part of it’s Where Do You Think You Live? project.

Phillis remembered the first Welwyn Stores “… a single story building where Roseanne house is now and it had departments of all sorts of things. I can remember very well the fish department and then there was meat and veg and then furniture and every other imaginable thing. It was on two levels, there were some steps down. We used to have a cat and we’d go and get two penn’orth of cod for the cat.

The same people ran the different departments for many years – particularly in the veg department, that was run by the same person for a long time, probably the fish as well and there was biscuits and I suppose there must have been clothes but I don’t remember the clothing bit. I can visualise the Chemist area but that was all there was and attached to it there was a small cafe and that was a great meeting place. You went there just to have a coffee in the morning and to meet up with friends as there was nowhere else to meet. I think that it was a very popular spot and in a way it helped people to get to know each other and then to decide to do things and I think that probably a lot of the activities that started in the early days really began from being able to meet somewhere like that to talk about it.”

“The business of shopping, if we go back to the early days, just before the War started they (Welwyn Stores) decided that they must have a much bigger building and they had a single storey building along Parkway and then what’s there now was built just before the War began which is fortunate really and so the old building went. It had attached to it a hairdressers and then that all stopped. The Food Department all went across the road. They were very fortunate as it was all very well timed. Then, of course, because there were so few local shops you had quite a lot of local delivery. There is still milk delivery, there would have been coal, of course, and I think Welwyn Stores delivered.

You see with hardly any cars pre–war, we did have one but we didn’t use it much, you couldn’t get anything from anywhere to anywhere unless it was delivered. There was a greengrocer went on for many years, post-war too, but it’s gone now but that is the same probably everywhere.

There was a funny little fire station, just a tin hut in Bridge Rd opposite that very old property there, that old Cottage no. 39.  Opposite there was a builder’s yard, Welwyn Builders had a workshop and also there was a little building supposed to be the Fire Station.

Then of course going back to the railway. There was a stop roughly where Waitrose is now but people went there. That was only a rail link really. I’m pretty sure they had to change at Hatfield after that, but I’m not really sure, but certainly the roads were not made up. It was all very muddy very often and the men went down in their gum boots and left them on the platform and then put them on when they came back. I can remember going down to meet my father and going down when the lights were on and it was a special treat to see the lights were on in Welwyn Stores and all these things just began from nothing.”

This page was added on 08/08/2011.

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