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Service with a smile at family run grocers

The Wood family stand proudly outside their shop in Old Malton.
The Wood family stand proudly outside their shop in Old Malton.

Where we shop, and the way we shop, has changed greatly over the past fifty years and is still changing.

Transport and communications, especially the development of the internet and online shopping, have revolutionised the way we select, receive and pay for our purchases. Even the way we carry our shopping home has been recently newsworthy with the use and cost of plastic carrier bags, to the individual shopper and the global environment, being discussed in the media. Perhaps that is why we have a collective nostalgia for the local family run shops of the last century.

One such shop which is represented in the Woodhams Stone Collection is that of Alfred Wood & Co. of Old Malton. Established in the late 1890s on Town Street by Alfred Wood, the shop was a general family grocer’s. Alfred was a local boy born in 1864 in Old Malton, the son of Richard and Hannah Wood. His father was a farmer and grocer and Alfred duly served his apprenticeship to follow in 
the grocer’s trade.

A postcard in the collection, dating from the early 1900s, shows the shop with the whole family proudly standing outside. Alfred is seen with his wife Margaret and their four children Richard, Alice May, Dorothy Margaret and Bernice. Produced no doubt to advertise the business, the message of the image is that this is a family business which you can trust to provide for your family.

The shop continued to be run by the family after Alfred’s death in the 1920s. Alfred’s daughters Alice May and Bernice, along with Bernice’s husband, John Beal, took over the business. The shop did change hands a couple of times prior to its eventual closure in the 1960s. By that date such local shops found it difficult to survive in the modern era with increased car ownership and the arrival of the supermarket.

When Alfred opened his business it would have served the local population of Old Malton. Along with some of the relatively new pre-packaged branded goods, he would have sold a lot of loose provisions; weighing them out and wrapping them for each customer.

Alfred had his own tape printed so that the customer need never doubt where their shopping came from. The reel of blue and white tape in the Woodhams Stone Collection dates from the first quarter of the 1900s and would have been tied round any paper-wrapped parcels. It bears the name of the business and also promotes A. Wood & Co’s very own Red Bag Tea. So much better than a plastic carrier bag.

One last anecdote from this fondly remembered shop. One of the delivery boys, who brought the customers their shopping on his bike, was named Gordon Lythe. He was later better known as Klondike Bill, the wrestler.

l The Woodhams Stone collection consists of thousands of social history artefacts from the Malton and Norton area. They were collected by local men Sid Woodhams and John Stone over the past half century.