The Business Community

Memories of businesses over the years from factories and garages, to pet shops and tobacconists, to barbers and hairdressers. Freda remembers setting up her first salon on High Street and Marion recalls a night when a rowdy football crowd meant an impromptu lock in at The Cherry Trees pub on Station Road.

In this audio you can hear Richard, Sheila, Marion and Freda.

This audio is 7 minutes and 37 seconds long.


Audio Transcript:

Richard: Station Road was very interesting, but there was hundreds of little businesses around. I mean, I don’t know whether anyone’s mentioned on here about Jaques the sports, made footballs and cricket balls and everything. There was a factory next to where it was. Actually, God, you know, trying to picture it now, there was a church hall in Station Road, the cinema, there was a factory there called Jaques and it was always rumoured that they made the football for the FA Cup final, and they made cricket balls and stuff like that. That was in Station Road. 

Sheila: Going from the outside of the station, there was a little road going along. It takes you down into Portland Road. Well, along that road on the left-hand side, there was two factories where those big blocks of flats are. One was one that made shuttlecocks where people played badminton and the other one was, they did inner tubes that go in footballs, rubber bladders that you blow up. How I know that because my father used to sell them in Hollidge’s where he worked when we came back to London. So that’s going down to those steps that lead you down to the bridge in Portland Road. But going back into Station Road, as I say, I think the other side of this little road, I think was somebody that worked with cars. I don’t know quite what they did.

Richard: Station Road was directly outside Norwood Junction station. It was called Autoclutch. From the age of 11, I worked in there. John Lucas was the guy who ran it, owned it, the boss.  Ray Mills, Earl Myers was another guy who worked in there. And then we had Doreen Webb, Doreen Webb was synonymous for her red hair and her bright red nail varnish. She worked, she ran the book, she ran the office, she was phenomenal. She was phenomenal. The day that the garage closed, I was evicted. I phoned her in the morning and told her that it was the last day, she lived in Sidcup. She said “No”, she said, “I’m not letting you do this on your own”. She came up, she was with me till we locked the doors and walked away and that that broke her heart because she spent so many years there.

Marion: I needed a pet shop and there was one in Station Road, which is just off the High Street. Went down there, and went in, and I loved the name, it was Rover’s Return. So, we went in and went, “Hello”, “Hello”. Immediately we got on and so every Saturday he’d go, “Help yourself”. So, I’d go to the freezer and get fish out, and I’d get all the food I needed for the dogs and tripe, bags of tripe for them. He liked us coming, obviously, because it was good for his till, they were a very nice couple, had the right attitude and we were there for two or three years, easy. He said he wanted to change jobs, and he was going to drive limos around for highbrow customers. Someone had got a vacancy and he wanted to do that. He said, “I need someone to run the pet shop and we’ve decided it’s you.”  I went, “You’re having a laugh”. But, no. It was December, it was about now. It was the 9th of December and he said, “I’ll be with you for a week, talk you through things”.  My goodness, that wasn’t long enough. So after that I was on the phone every day, at least two or three times a day but eventually I got the hang of it.

Marion: It was like a little village, that end of Station Road.  We’d all “Hello”. We had an iron-mongers that was two or three fronted, Emerton’s that sold everything. Anything you wanted, like a nail or something you’d never heard of, they’d go and out of a little drawer, go “I’ve got it”. They’d go past and, you know, in the summer when the door was open or not because the kittens. “Hello. How are you?” and have a little chat, we’d all help each other. There was a car mechanic, there was a tobacconist next door, then a hairdresser’s, barbers. Then there was a printing place and then there was Richard, who ran his garage. Then across the road was the pub on the corner, The Cherry Trees. That was fun when it was football, one time the police wouldn’t let us come out of the shop because Brighton were playing Palace, which are enemies. It all kicked off because we were right by the station and the police said, “Sorry, you can’t leave your shop”. So I had to move the rabbit, move the birds away from the window just in case. Mick was across the road going, “I just want to go in”. And they were going, “You can’t”.  So, he rang me and said, “It’s not my fault I can’t come in, so I’ll be in the pub,” he was all right.

Freda: When I got onto the High Street to do banking, I could see that there was just one hairdressing shop that sells only just hair products. So, I decided to move in because I was the only black person there and then we had the Asian ones, so it was perfect. So, I decided to get a shop there and then start doing hair. Yes. It’s been running since 2007 from the High Street up until now. Freda’s Palace hair and beauty, and I’m next to Jukes & Co. There’s this Trina lady who does her nails and then there was another guy, Nigel, who was working in there. Yes, he was also a stylist. Yes, he was doing European hair. Yeah. The street were friendly, yes, very friendly. And everybody comes up to me, because I was quite young, so people were thinking, oh, this is a young lady, a black young lady on the high street. Yes, that was a plus for me, yes.


Freda: Yeah, we were really nice because thinking about, opposite, Pinch a Pound, they were really helpful. We will go there and then we’ll talk, “Oh hello”, and then next door I used to chat to everybody on the high street because I keep running back and forth to the bank and then everybody knows me. Yeah, it’s still the same and through my salon, we’ve got more salon open because most people sprung up from my salon and they’ve opened branches. So, if you see maybe one, two, three, they are all from my shop. Yes. On the high street, yes. the barbers and then the hairdressers, yes. They were working for me, so they’ve all been able to open their own.

South Norwood High Street Stories is funded by Historic England’s High Streets Heritage Action Zone programme delivered by Croydon Council. For more information visit 

Image Credit: Autoclutch garage on Station Road, image courtesy of Richard Hough. 

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