Alive and kicking, despite influence of supermarkets

Keith Waldren outside his fruit and veg shop in Tangier Road, Portsmouth
Keith Waldren outside his fruit and veg shop in Tangier Road, Portsmouth
A new poppy installation called The Wave has been unveiled at Fort Nelson. Designer Tom Piper, left, and artist Paul Cummins.'Picture Ian Hargreaves  (180452-1)

‘It makes you think about the men who gave it all’

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Many thanks to all of you who have contacted me about the oldest businesses in The News circulation area.

There’s been a marvellous response and I shall get round them all. Meanwhile, this week’s is a fruit and veg shop in Tangier Road, Baffins.

Keith Waldron has been in the business since 1961 when he joined his father running the shop. At that time they also sold flowers and the shop traded as Deacons. The shop actually opened in 1951 and has been trading on the same spot ever since.

This business began in 1895 purely as a florist at 10, Charlotte Street, Landport, before moving to Twyford Avenue, Stamshaw.

It then moved to Market Way when the Tricorn was built while also running the Tangier Road shop.

Keith Waldron changed the name of the shop to his some 35 years ago. His mother lived in the area since she was four and can remember when Baffins Pond was farmland and she could look all the way along Tangier Road when it was free of houses.

Keith told me that Tangier Road always seemed apart from the city and many used to call it, like Milton, ‘the village over the bridge’.

He adds: ‘At one time there were five greengrocers down this way and six grocers.

‘Several were private like Taylor’s, Lavin’s, Kingston Stores and Keels which contained the post office.

‘There was also two Pinks and World Stores,’ Keith recalls.

‘Of course, the coming of the supermarkets killed many off.’

I asked Keith how trading had altered over the years and he told me of the strawberry business.

‘When I started everything was seasonal. The strawberry trade lasted just two to three weeks and it was all freshly-picked from fields at Titchfield or Wickham.

‘There was a grower at One Hundred Acres, between Southwick and Wickham, who grew delicious strawberries. They were so much better-flavoured than the out-of-season crops grown today,’ Keith tells me.

The grower was Dave Wiggins and will be remembered by many old-time shop owners.

I asked Keith where stock was brought from all those years ago. ‘There used to be many wholesalers in the city back then.

‘Around the Pitt Street area there was Dennis Hill, Cooks, Ockindon and Gillhams. We also used to go to Southampton market. In later years we used to take a lorry to Spitalfields and Covent Garden in London would you believe?”

And what about prices? ‘Celery was a big seller in days past and we could buy 20 crates at £1.20 a crate. That worked out about 12p a bunch, but in those says everything bought was dirty unlike today when everything is clean.’

Do any of you remember the potato famine of 1976? Neither do I, but there was it seems and Keith told me of the high prices paid.

‘Jersey potatoes went up to £5.20 for a 56lb bag. The following year, when everything was resolved, the prices came down to £1.50 a bag.’

Christmas trees is another trade that helps things along and Keith again visited One Hundred Acres where he would buy an acre of trees which he had to cut down himself.

Although the majority were all sturdy trees he had to take the good with the bad. Each tree cost five shillings (25p) each. Norwegian spruce trees would cost about 10s (50p).

He also purchased trees from Kent. These days he buys trees which have needles that remain on the tree.

Although a basic one-man business, Keith is ably assisted by his granddaughter Charlotte with two other women assistants.

And so another private Portsmouth business is alive and kicking despite the influence of the supermarkets.