Welwyn Department Stores

Where I Found Everything

By George Boston

Welwyn Stores bookstore
Main entrance doors of Welwyn Stores, with the Orders & Enquiries desk and the Theatre+Travel booking desks on the left and right.
Welwyn Stores car park
Floor plan of Welwyn Department Stores.

Throughout my school life, my Mum worked at Welwyn Department Stores as an Accountant in the Despatch Department. In my last year of grammar school (1958), she left the Stores. We had a 1939 Ford Prefect tourer, which Mum used to drive her and Dad to work in. Dad worked at Murphy Radios. She had a little green parking permit which permitted her to park free of charge on Welwyn Department Stores premises, and used to park in the back yard out the way. Before starting work, she’d give her permit to the Wireless Controllers.

We always used to do our shopping on a Saturday at Welwyn Department Stores, and it was heaven! My parents had a very good plan once I’d turned 11 years old – I was given a list of things to buy with the departments where they are: the grocery, butchery, confectionary and office departments. My parents would go off to buy the extra things, me often bumping into my mum in the confectionary department. She loved her sweets & treats!   Before I turned 11, I used to go round with Mum & Dad which did get very depressing plus tiring.

Where Dickinson Motors and Munts used to be is where the multi storey car park was built and opened in December 1973, but the Welwyn Stores car park is still in use by John Lewis. Whenever Uncle Teddy came to visit by the train, we used to pick him up and he insisted we stop at Welwyn Stores. They used to sell car parts which he bought to help build his own taxis and coaches, I think they were in the Hardware Department but I’m not so sure. The Stores car park cost you 4d for one hour, 6d for two hours and 8d for maximum three hours and every car parking space had a little parking meter in front of it because pay machines didn’t exist then. We weren’t that modernized in the 50s and 60s than what we are now.

Mum’s little green parking permit came with a small circular key which we used to insert into the parking meter wherever we parked – I used to love catching it as it popped backwards up the parking meter and then took it out and gave it to Mum. We could park for the maximum time with that parking key, and we used to do it for others when they had no money. We were all so kind in those days! My dad always used the little permit, he kept quiet about it and loved the fact it saved so much money for us.

This page was added on 04/09/2015.

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  • A few more memories of the Fruit and Veg Department…

    : The heated Cashew nut and Peanut glass fronted stand heated by two 60w lightbulbs.Which we often used to help ourselves to as we walked past.
    : The double swing rubber doors that led out to the fridges and delivery yard
    : My uncle Eric (Cox) who was in charge of the fish Counter next to us.
    :The man who used to come in around 5pm on Saturday afternoons to tell us the football results.
    :Dennis smiling from ear to Ear if Archibald or Crooks had scored for spurs.
    :The Irish lady who would turn up at 2 minutes to 6 in the afternoon after we had cleared the counters ready to go home,asking if there was any cheap fruit veg left over.
    :Phil giving us a bottle of Hi Karate aftershave every Christmas Eve for our Christmas present.
    :Having to wear a tie ,hat and brown overall when behind the counter serving.
    :Going upstairs to the wages department to collect my £7.50 for the 10 hours work on a Saturday.
    :Ella who was constantly cleaning the floor and counters even when you were trying to serve customers.
    :The large blue ink stains on the front of our overalls where the felt pens we used leaked around the front breast pocket.
    :Always being polite to particularly difficult customers not knowing how many pounds/ounces of fruit and veg they wanted.
    :The paper bags that we used that would split open if the weight of fruit and veg was too much.
    :Constant laughs and jokes along the counter between serving customers with my workmates.
    :Going across the road to the Cherry Tree Pub after work to play back gammon and space invaders.
    :Mark the ‘section head’ from Newcastle who Dennis would call ‘big head’.

    All great memories which i will never forget.
    Sometimes you wish you could go back in time for a few hours just to relive these great times.

    By Simon Crawford (12/10/2021)
  • I worked on the Produce Department in the foodhall. I was made the Buyer after Phil retired. I remember his Reliant Robin and the pipe he smoked.
    We used to build beautiful displays for Christmas and Easter. Bill, Simon, Ella and many more who I can’t remember the names of.
    They were great times, hard work but great memories.
    Wish I could get some photos of the displays we done. I often talk to my wife about my times in the foodhall.

    By Dennis Martin (19/09/2021)
  • I worked on Saturdays at the fruit and veg department in the Foodhall from late 70s to early 80s.There used to be about 5 or 6 of us serving behind the stall and preparing fruit and veg baskets for delivery.
    Saturdays were really busy. There was a guy called Dennis Martin who was our head buyer, Phil who was nearing retirement and in charge. Others were Bill Stirling, Ella, Rob and Ashley (surnames forgotten). Christmas Eve was manic where we went through sacks of sprouts like there was no tomorrow. Great times and fond memories.
    Quite often I would serve the lady from ‘hi de hi’ (Gladys) as she used to come in and shop on Saturdays.

    By Simon Crawford (27/02/2021)
  • I ran the despatch and warehousing dept from 1972 until we lost the store to the PARTNERSHIP
    My number 2 was Paul Green, who passed away this week.

    By Allan Smith (23/04/2020)
  • I had a Saturday job in the store from 1977 to 79 in the gloves and hosiery department. Then I worked for a month in 1982 in the personnel department. I remember that I had the responsibility of paying the paper boys their weekly wages in little brown envelopes. Each day I went to work I had to literally clock in. There was a huge clock in the workers entrance.

    By Adele (30/07/2018)
  • My dad worked has worked for John Lewis since the early days, he is a technician for the shop now, his work shop is in the old milking sheds. As a lot of WGC teenagers do, I took up a weekend job in John Lewis, the back of shop is fascinating, a maze and working full time time in the head office as a grown up, I know there is no John Lewis branch like it.

    By Roisin Reid (18/08/2017)
  • Thanks for commenting, Denise & Rod, on my page of memories about the beloved Stores.

    I worked on the Dairy counter for the first training month of being at the Stores, and opposite us was Fish & Poultry in the corner, to the right was the butcher’s counter and to the left was tinned goods.   When I worked on the counter I used to sneak out two pints of milk for my mother so we didn’t have to pay for it when they came shopping on a Saturday.      I also used to sneak whatever dairy I could when we needed it at home and I remember I wasn’t alone in doing so.     Our buyer was an Irish lady called Miss Tyr, and she lived over in Ayot St Peter.    Her little Ford was adorable!    

    Atfer training had finished I was transferred to work on the second floor.    Cresta Silks occupied two upstairs counters, one of which was the stockings counter where I worked for 4 months.    The names I can remember are Nigel Howard, Jane Olson, Hilda Green and our buyer/manager Miss Peterson.      Couldn’t wait to get off that counter because everybody hated Hilda Green    -   neat and organised.

    I spent the rest of my time working at the childrens’ footwear department which was also upstairs.    I didn’t really spend much time with the staff because my job was to put the stock on the shelves most the time, and at times serve customers when it became extremely busy.      We had the first modern cash machine on the second floor and all the other department staff were ever so jealous.    I remember Joan Flay and Margaret Heston (our buyer); that’s it sadly.

    I left W. D. S in June of 1954 when I got made redundant to replace me with someone with more experience working with shoes than what I had.

    By George Boston (20/08/2016)
  • As a teenaged school boy I had a Saturday job at Welwyn stores. I worked on the hardware department that sold everything from pots and pans to cans of paint. The buyer was a very pompous man who always wore a suit and tie and had gold framed glasses. The other Saturday workers and myself reckoned he would have done well as a german general. In the three or four years I worked there he only referred to me as “mister”. In those days buyers at the stores really thought they were the cats whiskers and unlike we oiks who ate in the staff canteen, they took their refreshments in the posh Parkway Restaurant.

    I received the princely sum of ten shillings (50p)for a Saturday working from 8.30 until when we cashed up for the day at 6p.m.

    The bain of our lives was the inevitable customer who pitched up at five minutes before closing time with little regard for the fact that we were often already cashed up and had to reopen the till to serve them.

    By Rod Sharp (15/08/2016)
  • My father Dennis Horler worked at Welwyn Department Stores repairing television sets. In 1967 l was 14 and my sister was 12. We used to go shopping together and visit my father at the back of the store, which is now the collection point for goods from John Lewis.

    Now when l collect things from the store l look into the little room my father worked in and still imagine him wearing his white coat.

    I also remember the Christmas parties the store gave for staff children. My sister and l really enjoyed the party food.

    Welwyn Garden City was a great place to grow up in.

    By Denise Chadwick (05/04/2016)