On PDN this morning we said we had this picture of an ironmonger’s shop thought to be taken somewhere Penarth around the turn of the century – but until today it had eluded all attempts to pin down the location and the person in the picture….well not anymore.
.The photograph is amongst a small set of original images submitted to PDN by an anonymous source with no location details or dates. This morning, within two hours of putting the photo on line, we’ve received the following information from a direct descendant of the ironmonger Mr Brian Hope :-
“YEs, this is a photo of my Grandfather, Frederick David Hill. … I have the original photo. The shop was located on the corner of Glebe st. And what I think is Plassey St. If not Plassey St. It is the next st. Upper Glebe St. I think it might have been next door to what was later a Chinese laundry. Frederick Davis Hill was born around 1870 and moved from Wisbech …I think Norfolk……to become an electrician building the Great Western Railway in Cardiff. He had five children , the second youngest being my Mother Barbara who married Ray Hope. Barbara only died only 6 years ago aged 96. My Grandfather died aged 84 and is buried in Penarth cemetery”
BOER WAR : The detail isn’t very clear but the portraits displayed in the left hand window of the 1902 shop seem to relate to the Boer War – the conflict between the British Empire and the Boers (the combined forces of the South African Republic and the Republic of the Orange Free State).
The Boer Republics declared war on 11th October 1899 and after two years and seven months of fierce fighting the British forces were victorious and annexed both republics . In 1910 both were incorporated into the Union of South Africa .
There was certainly Penarth involvement in the Boer War and a special “Penarth” Medal was struck by Penarth District Council to celebrate the end of the fighting . The medal bore the “three bears” emblem of Penarth on its reverse side.
It seems likely that Mr Frederick Davis Hill, the ironmonger in the top photo , was photographed in 1902 – an era when running an ironmonger’s shop seems to have been a challenge for many.
Two other ironmongers at 19 Windsor Road run by Thomas King and another at Andrews’s Buildings in Stanwell Road run by John Phillips both went bust. Phillips blamed his failure on “losses on accommodation bills, bad debts” and “loss of trade in consequence of the strike of labourers, masons, and carpenters at Barry Dock”.
OIL LAMPS : Also of interest is the display of oil lamps in the right-hand window. Readers with long memories will remember that traditional ironmongers’ shops had a distinctive smell about them – particularly of paraffin which, well into the 1950s, was sold “loose” as fuel for domestic oil lamps.
Electricity didn’t arrive in Penarth until 1898 and the vast majority of homes would still be lit by gas or – more likely – by paraffin lamps until well into the 1920s. The story of the arrival of the Penarth Electric Lighting Company in Penarth – just before the turn of the last century- is on http://tinyurl.com/za5pyqe
Little was Mr Hill to know when he posed for the picture at the top of the page that his shop would be destroyed by fire before the end of the year . The Barry Dock News reported that on October 23rd 1902 his shop was “burnt out” and three adjoining premises were damaged . The estimated loss was £4,000 .
The blaze was the first to be tacked by Penarth’s brand new steam-powered Merryweather fire engine which is reported to have “rendered good service”.
However the fire engine turned out to be a bit of beast to handle on the road. Later one of the firemen, Jonathan Meazey, was injured when the fire-engine failed to negotiate a bend on Cornerswell Road and overturned.