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Store clerk was so tiny she had to sit on ledger books

PUBLISHED: 14:28 05 March 2008 | UPDATED: 09:32 23 August 2010

My story about Uridge's Stores, in Bromley, has already attracted a number of letters.

My story about Uridge's Stores, in Bromley, has already attracted a number of letters. Last week I received one from Jill Blackbourn, whose aunt left school to work in the Widmore Road shop in 1930 at the age of 14. Her name then was Christine Wyborn and she has recorded her memories of those faraway days - 78 years ago.

Christine writes: "When I left school and joined Uridge's I was so small I had to sit on three ledgers so as to reach the desk. The business was run by a brother and sister, Isaac and Elizabeth Uridge, and their nephew, Clement Walder.

"I worked from 9am until 6pm for five shillings a week and out of this I kept 6d per week. As my father had been killed in the 1914-18 war I was given a grant of £20 for clothes through the British Legion. This had to be taken as a voucher and cashed in at an old-fashioned shop called Batchelors at Masons Hill, Bromley.

"I was about 4ft 6in tall. and the items I had were much too big and had to be altered. I had a raincoat, a pair of shoes, gloves, one dress, one cardigan and a navy blue hat. I had to wear dark clothes with long sleeves for work.

"I was the youngest of five women clerks and Miss Uridge took me under her wing. She made me take a cup of bread and milk on arrival at work and, during the winter months, some Angiers Emulsion - to keep away colds.

"We used to purchase items from various shops in the town and I had to pay the bills each week - so this was a nice change out in the fresh air. Deliveries were made to the large houses, and carts were used with horses. We had six of these. Each horse had a name and they were stabled at the Mews in West Street and looked after by a Mr Jury, who had a cottage nearby.

The horses' harness and bridles came from a Mr Ferris in the High Street, who used to give me 6d when I paid his account.

"At Christmas, Uridge's gave all these shops a box of chocolates and I had to deliver them. There was one for Curwoods opposite, who supplied our local papers and magazines, one for Mr Ferris, one for the staff at Westminster Bank and one for Miss North at Medhurst's in the Market Square, who was Miss Uridge's milliner.

"Then there was a bottle of drink for Mr Stanford at Tweedy Road, Mr Uridge's chiropodist, and a pot of flowers for Miss Organ, Miss Uridge's chiropodist.

"Christmas was hectic. We sold poultry and all the birds had to be plucked and labelled for delivery. The men worked long hours and came back off their rounds to a cup of soup, tea, coffee and sandwiches.

On Christmas Eve they worked all night; there were lots of sausages to be made and sausage meat to weigh and bottles of wine and spirits to deliver. We also sold Stilton cheeses and these had to be weighed and sent by post - many to Germany.

"I worked with the firm from 1930 until 1941 and then after the war returned to work at Uridge's again. I started down in the cellar weighing up cheese, butter and bacon for orders to be delivered. Things were still on ration. This was different from being in an office but it was good fun and the company was jolly. Sadly, it didn't last too long as I had to take over the cash desk, which was quite a headache at times.

"I continued to work for Uridge's on a part-time basis after my marriage in 1948 and I kept in touch with Miss Uridge for many years until her death in 1975."

Jill tells me that Aunt Christine is 92 and living in a residential home in Orpington. I am grateful for her wonderful memories.

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