Claydons gone

Looking back over these posts they all follow a similar pattern. One of closure, redundancy and retirement.

John and Judy Workman called in at Waitrose the other day and told my wife that they had retired.

John is better known incorrectly as John Claydon – the fishmonger. They had a shop – Claydons – in Railway Street for many, many years. They were a fixture in the town. A throwback to the old days of retailing where you sold produce from the window. Theirs was always half open so you could see the fish on display and choose your dinner.

On the first Fun Day I organised John set up a sea fish stall. So popular! Many locals had forgotten what simple pleasures you can get from life by eating cockles, mussels and whelks in the middle of town with a pint of local beer and a local band playing.

There was a period of uncertainty for a while when the shop lease was terminated. However they returned with a customised chiller trailer and continued to sell fish from the counter and became a similar fixture in Salisbury Square.

I had an electrical point placed near Cafe Nero so that the chiller would work. Some time later a power socket was placed by the Council outside the White Hart and there they traded on every Saturday – and on Fridays and Tuesdays in Ware as well.

They were happy days. A Town Centre Manager has to have his fingers and ears in many pies and I enjoyed John’s company and local knowledge which he dispensed from the front seat of his van. We also used to stand in the middle of Salisbury Square with Mick Wentworth who ran the fruit and veg stall and sometimes Colin Sykes the jeweller, and occasionally Charlie who ran Wigginton’s for Roy Roberts until he passed away.

They’ve all gone now. Hertford will be a quieter and sadder place now. No local colour, no local knowledge, no old men chewing over the gossip.

This is what some media people like to call the local business community. Perhaps they are right and I am cynical but it wasn’t that – it was just friends chatting, joined by the various traders and residents who walked by and had a few minutes to spare.

You don’t cultivate a local network by attending meetings about meetings and drinking tea in dark committee rooms. You have to get to get out there. That’s what I learned. I can’t do it any more – nor do I want to – because Hertford town centre is not like that any more.

I doubt if John or Judy will read this but I wish them a long, peaceful and healthy retirement.

So to end on a more topical note. I see that Which? has awarded Waitrose the top awards in the supermarket customer appreciation surveys.

Not the Hertford branch of Waitrose obviously because that will shortly ‘go dark’. But an ironic release considering that the day after it was announced that the Hertford, Waitrose store was set for closure the Consumers Association (Which?) stated that it was selling its Hertford site to Aldi to build a new supermarket.

Now we await publication of Wrenbridge’s planing application for the redevelopment of Bircherley Green Shopping Centre. It’s like London buses – they all come at once.

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By John Barber

John Barber was born in London at the height of the UK Post War baby boom. He had careers in Advertising, International Banking and the Wine Industry before becoming Town Centre Manager in his home town of Hertford. He has been writing professionally since 1996 when he began to contribute articles to magazines on social and local history. His first published book in 2002 was a non-fiction work entitled The Camden Town Murder, a hitherto unsolved murder case from 1907.