The Shop

My paternal grandfather, Ephriam William Hyde, moved to Harborne in 1922 and bought the lease on a 3-storey property with a shop at street level on the High Street opposite the Green Man pub. He set about creating a sustainable business for himself and his young family, my Dad was 6 when they moved to Harborne.

17 High St pre 1960s development

(unknown photographer - from Hyde collection)

The business was called E.W. Hyde & Son and was a newsagent, sweetshop & tobacconist and the family literally lived above the shop. The shop freehold was owned by the Vickers family who had their cake/bread shop next door and their bakery to the rear. When they moved to Harborne, the block between Grays Road and Nursery Road was a complete row of buildings, all built at different times. On the Grays Road corner was a small cottage, of which the front room had been turned over to commerce (a barbers shop).

Next door were the 2 Vickers owned shops (our shop & the cake shop) and next to them was a row of small cottages that were always called "the nailmakers".

In Nursery Road, from the High St corner to the terrace block (which still exist today) were more of the small "nailmaker" cotatges. Many of the nailmakers cottages had turned the front room over to some form of commerce - shops or services. This mix of properties existed until the mid-1950's when Vickers started to expand and purchased all the properties they didn't already own, pulled down everything other than the corner of Grays Road cottage, our shop & the cake shop to enable them to build their modern bakery.

The area where the cottages had been fronting High Street became a grassed area in front of the bakery's new front, with a small parking area for the executives. In Nursery Road a second vehicle access was created, effectively being a pound for the firms increased van fleet. In Grays Road, when I was a young lad, Vickers also rented the yard behind the Plough pub, where they also parked delivery vans.

Good Business

Grandpa Hyde was many things but he was definitely a good businessman with a keen eye for an opportunity. From the earliest the tobacco trade was the real earner and he had soon developed a wholesale business supplying pubs, clubs and associations. He was previously a sales rep for Barrows Stores (Birmingham's answer to Fortnum & Mason) and had probably garnered a good list of potential customers for his new venture. My father remembered that they supplied just about all the pubs in Harborne & Quinton, a lot of premises in Edgbaston and even some over in Selly Oak & Bourneville. Dad particularly remembered that Birmingham City Police were customers of E.W. Hyde & Son, for the Police Club.

Family Cars

Almost from the moment they arrived in Harborne Grandpa Hyde acquired a motor car, ostensibly to enable him to deliver tobacco products to his various clients but really it was to reinforce his position in "society". Unfortunately Ephriam was a snob so had to look good and the car was another accessory. All the cars were purchased through Tonks Garage (also on High St Harborne). The first was a Morris and the last was a imported Canadian Ford V8 Pilot.


(Ephraim, Alice Maud & my Dad as a school boy with the first Morris - Hyde collection)


(our Ford Pilot V8 - it was a dark blue - Hyde collection)

My father, Gilbert, grew up in the shop and honed his DIY skills in the small workshop Grandpa had established in the basement. Dad was a a keen "practical wirelesser", building increasingly sophisticated wireless devices over the years in the small basement. He took those skills with him into the Royal Air Force at the begining of 1939 when he volunteered for service, hoping to be turned into a Wireless Operator. The RAF had other ideas and turned him into a hand-held weapons instructor.

Post WW2

After WW2 when Gilbert went back to courting my Alice, they had first met and stole their first kiss before the war, it was agreed that once Gilbert got married he would take over the main running of the business and move in above the shop. My parents married in 1952 and did just that, moved straight into the shop after their short honeymoon in Wales. Grandpa Hyde had bought a fine residence in Quinton Road - a place I spent many a day in the years after before his death in 1966.

I was born in 1953 and the shop was my home until 1960 when Dad bought a small house nearby and the shop was converted into a lockup. Not soon after, Vickers sold their business to Hughleys and it was them that wanted the space above our shop to expand their offices. They knocked through each floor from the shop next door and built us a new rear year and gate that opened out into Grays Road. After conversion to a lock-up the shop consisted of the basement, the actual shop, the rear store room which had previously been our kitchen and behind that a small washroom (toilet & hand basin) with a small work surface for making tea. The stairs were not boarded off at the bottom but at the first floor level, allowing Dad to use the lower part for storage - I remember it was where the boxes of chocolate were stored, because it was always cool but not susceptible to damp, as the cellar/basement was.

Unfortunately there are very few family photos of the shop - strange really as it had such an effect on family life. The small gallery features an image I found that shows the Barbers shop in the Grays Road corner cottage, E.W. Hyde, Vickers cake shop and the nailmakers cottages/shops and this is from 1948. The rest of the images are from when Gallaghers were rebuilding Harborne High Street and particularly when they were installing new kerbs and the paving slab pavement surface that pretty much still exists all the way from Princess Corner to the Green Man (on both sides). I was I think 3 years old and have since been told that equipped with a wheelbarrow & set of tools (spade etc), all made by Dad in his bassement workshop, I set about "helping " Gallaghers with their construction work outside the shop. What is plain is that I was consuming the shops profits (eating an ice cream) and appear to be enjoying myself. The images feature the very small me  & would therefore be from 1956 and show parts of the High Street around the Green Man in the background, including one with my Mom, Alice, standing in the shop doorway.

Eventually, in 1970, the shop closed. Dad decided to retire rather than try and struggle on with ever dimiinishing profits and ever increasing costs. Birmingham had changed after WW2. New, bigger tobacco wholesalers appeared on the scene taking all the plum jobs from E.W. Hyde & Son. Returning service personnel set up new shops effectively increasing the competition with the shop and Dad (& Mom) had grown very tired of the early morning, late nights and so little time off together. Dad stripped everything he could out of the shop - even the floorboards !! His excuse was he had to take them up to get his work bench and storage cabinets out of the basement workshop, but in reality he was being bloody-minded because Hughleys wanted him out (fast) once the decision had been reached. Considering the family home was a small house in North Road there really wasn't space for all this "stuff", so Dad used a lot of the timber to build a lean-to shed at the back of the house but more of that later.