24 November 2021

Villages

Central Stores, North Kelsey R.I.P.

When I was born, my home village in the very heart of  The East  Riding of  Yorkshire had a population of just under four hundred. Even so, the village had plenty of services. 

There were three grocery stores, a post office, a confectionery shop run by Mrs Austwick, a butcher's shop run by Tommy Lofthouse, a cafe, a ladies' hairdressers, a men's barbershop, an independent cobbler's shop, Holy Trinity Church, a Methodist church, a fish and chip shop, a primary school, a doctor's surgery, a police station, two pubs, an agricultural store trading in grain and seed and a petrol station with an attached car mechanic's workshop.

Because of housing developments since 1964, the village now has a population of just under 2500. It is six times bigger than it was when I was a boy. However, a lot of those former services have now gone. There is only one grocery store. The barber shop has gone along with the cobbler's, the agricultural store, Mrs Austwick's sweet shop, Tommy Lofthouse's butcher shop, the petrol station, the Methodist church and the police station. Though still managing to stay open, the two pubs struggle to attract customers and I  am sure it won't be long before one of them bites the dust.

Life has changed in rural England. As the fifties turned into the sixties, most rural households did not have their own cars so villages had to be fairly self-sufficient and self-contained. There were no supermarkets in nearby towns. The fresh fish van came on Fridays, the mobile library came on Thursdays and the pop lorry carrying bottles of fizzy drinks came every other Wednesday. Coal and fresh milk were delivered by local families. Weeks could pass by without any need to leave the village.

"The Butcher's Arms", North Kelsey - still in business

I was reflecting on such things as I walked out of North Kelsey in Lincolnshire last week.

Before walking in unfamiliar territory I often have a bit of a look round the area with  the help of Google Streetview. Sometimes I am on the look out for a parking place for Old Clint, my trusty silver chariot.

As I was checking out North Kelsey I noticed the village shop shown at the top of this post and I  thought, "Oh that's nice! They still have a shop." North Kelsey is a significant settlement with a population of just under a thousand so one would think that that shop would be well-supported. Not far from the shop was a pub and I thought "Oh that's nice!" The name of the pub was  "The Royal Oak".

There is another pub in the village called "The Butcher's Arms" and that is still open but last Friday when I landed in North Kelsey, I discovered that "The Royal Oak" is now a large private residence and "The Central Stores" are closed for good. I peered inside and saw the detritus of a business that had failed. Quite depressing.

Now if the people want to buy anything, they have to go by car to Caistor (four miles away) or Brigg (six miles away). There are very few buses. I find it very sad and another signal of how rural life continues to change so that villages become little more than settlements where you sleep.

"The Royal Oak", North Kelsey  R.I.P.

34 comments:

  1. That's sad that the villages are dying, becoming only a place to sleep. I suppose it makes sense though, with a car four miles is only a ten minute drive which we think nothing of. A way of life is gone though. The photos are lovely.

    When I saw the photo of The Royal Oak, I could imagine it without sidewalks and pavement, only grass around it, with a village growing up around it.

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    1. In England what North Americans call pavements are roads and sidewalks are pavements. very confusing I know. The top and bottom pictures are clipped from Streetview. I am only responsible for the image of "The Butcher's Arms".

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    2. Oh those English, always messing with the mother tongue:)

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  2. The situation is similar for many small villages here in Germany. You are as good as lost without a car, but at the same time, we are constantly reminded of how bad for the environment it is if we use cars all the time instead of buses, bikes or our own two feet. And shop keepers bemoan customers dropping away because they prefer ordering online, but on the other hand, they don't make buying from their shops exactly attractive with limited choice and opening times. There are always two sides to everything, aren't there!
    I wonder if (and when) the effects of demographic change will become noticeable. All those who now have cars and think nothing of the ten minute drive to the next supermarket will at some stage become unable to drive, but will still want to live in their own houses and need food and much more. Will delivery services, already on the rise due to the pandemic, increase in importance, or will we see the return of the village shop?

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    1. As you suggest, nothing stays the same forever. I see what you mean about people beyond retirement. There comes a time when it is no longer safe or advisable to drive and if you live in a village with limited services that could be very problematic indeed.

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  3. The demise of the small village shop and pub is quite sad, and especially so for those residents who do not drive and cannot access the now defunct public transport services.
    Google Streetview is now so hopelessly out of date for our island it would be pretty useless if you wanted to see what we look like here today.

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    1. Google Streetview often have updates. However, I have just had a look at Ramsey and the imagery is indeed eleven years old.

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  4. I have no doubt that Mrs Austwick's and Tommy Lofthouse's prices were far in excess (inflation adjusted) of what supermarkets charge. However, we are now monetised in other ways. Why, for example, is it necessary for ordinary families to have two working adults to keep a roof over their heads? In many cases, one of those jobs will be in a supermarket.

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    1. You make a good point. As the fifties turned into the sixties, a far greater percentage of women stayed at home as "housewives" and most of them were not especially wealthy.

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    2. Pleased it was a good point. I though I was just rambling.

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  5. It's a shame to lose the feeling of community and the ambiance of local shopping and dining. It's happening everywhere.

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    1. I guess it is the march of progress - a march that will often squash things.

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  6. It IS sad. I suppose the mom & pop establishments have trouble competing -- when given a choice to go to the Central Stores or to the ASDA or Waitrose in the next town, where there's so much more on offer, people are going to choose the latter. We all want what we want when we want it, rather than making do with what's at hand. Modern life!

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    1. I think of all the extra car journeys that have to happen to fill the gaps. Big, fat carbon footprints that would have once been the size of a sparrow's footsteps.

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  7. I call it dormitory housing. It's the same sad village story in rural Ireland. So often people commute to the city or big towns and cut price supermarkets set up in nearby towns and village shops are forced to close.

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  8. It's the same here in rural Ireland. People have dormitory housing, weekend retreats and holiday homes. People commute or even move to the towns and cities for work. Cut price supermarkets move to nearby towns and village shops can't compete and close their doors. Great post.

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    1. Thanks for your comment sir. I guess you wanted to emphasise your first remarks.

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  9. I just googled population statistics for the small town where I grew up. The population as decreased by a full third since I graduated from high school. All of the tobacco farms, factories and textile mills that provided working class jobs are long gone. The loss of those jobs has been slowly killing the town. Almost all of the mom & pop places I grew with have been closed for years. The poverty rate is now at 31.5%, and crime and opioid addiction is through the roof. Not a pleasant place to visit, that's for sure. After my parents are gone I doubt I'll ever visit again, that's how depressing it is to me these days. Time marches on.

    Your picture of Central Store reminded me of Central Drugstore that was on Main street of our town for decades. I'm not sure, but I'll bet it's gone now too. It was a classic drugstore with a soda counter and grill in the back. Old men used to gather there every morning for coffee and breakfast back in the day, and would spend hours discussing farming, the weather, politics, local gossip, etc. The classic diner scenario. I saw a bit of the last of those times when I worked at Central Drugs for a while when I was in my late teens. Even that's a long time ago, now.

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    1. How very sad that your childhood town is in terminal decline. Also sad that when your parents are gone you will not feel inclined to go back there - but I can understand why Jennifer. Florence sounds like a more prosperous place.

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  10. Same here, my friend. Now Lloyd probably has more people than it did a hundred years ago but they are far more spread out than they used to be. I am just guessing about that but I know there are many newer houses within a few miles radius of what I think of as Lloyd. When I lived in Lloyd in the seventies, there was a very nice general store where Ms. Ruby sold groceries, produce, beer, milk, a few toys, a few hardware items... And so forth. It burned down (arson) and was never rebuilt. An older citizen of Lloyd, now deceased, worked tirelessly to get the funds to rebuild and restore an old store that was open when she was a child. After she died, all interest in it faded and now it sits, shut and locked, of no value to the community at all.

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    1. Couldn't it reopen as "Moons General Store"? Or better still "Mary Moon's Southern Diner"? Don't mind me - I am just being silly.

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  11. Similar has been happening here, but selectively. Some country towns are dying yet others are thriving. I think it takes some passion by a few local people to keep a town going and interesting, and most importantly attractive.

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    1. North Kelsey is attractive enough but without the services of yesteryear it lacks the buzz and social cohesion that it would have once known.

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  12. I always enjoy your walks in areas that ring my genealogical bells. My Chickens were born in Evenwood which is in the county to the north of the four Yorkshire counties but the one that went back to England, spent the remainder of her life mostly in North and West Yorkshire counties but spent some years in East Yorkshire.

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    1. I see that Evenwood is up in County Durham though I have never been to that village.

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  13. As I mentioned before , my home village is a ghost town. At it's peak it may have had 50 people. There's a video of Esk, Sask.

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    1. Yes. I remember you writing about Esk before Red. I guess it existed because of prairie farming when it was quite labour-intensive.

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  14. much like my little village south of lincoln , no amenities other than a pub that is for the incomers and the tourists

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    1. And if the pub goes - what then Kate? What's left?

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  15. It's such a sad state of affairs but is something that has been happening for centuries, it's not something new - look at all the abandoned villages on some of the more remote islands.
    I've read that throughout Europe whole villages have become derelict - people moving away to find work, or a better lifestyle. One such abandoned village in Sardinia was offering homes for a euro. Not quite the bargain it appeared - the catch was that you had to renovate the building within a year, and by the time solicitor's fees, taxes etc, were paid, plus the cost of renovation, it worked out at quite a hefty sum. Buyers also had to guarantee that they would reside there permanently.

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    1. Was the Sardinian project dreamt up by The Mafia?

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  16. A hundred years ago it was like that here. It sounds as if you were able to hang on to that just a bit longer than we were here.

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    1. Some villages still have their key amenities but the world is a different place now. Things are not the same.

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Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.

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