The Ambler

Amble's Community Newspaper: News & events from Amble in Northumberland – The Kindliest Port.

The Smiling Service Shop

Late C19th Amble interior and exterior, both printed with kind permission of Beamish archive

The shop on the corner of Queen Street and Wellwood Street, the first Walter Willson’s, has had a revamp, as most pedestrians know, as they have tried to manoeuvre around the screens.

When Coastal Colour moved out, owner Chris Pickering took the opportunity to use the English heritage/ NCC shop front improvement scheme to improve the exterior.

Architect Chris Baglee of Spence & Dower LLP, Chartered Architects told us, “It was decided that it was important to strip out all of the 1988 alterations, windows and coverings, expose the original masonry and re-instate the 19th century window design.

“As soon as the asbestos panelling was removed, the terrible state of the stone columns could be seen – probably why they were covered up in 1988.

Layers of paint uncovered by the workmen

All of the stone on the two elevations has now been repaired or replaced where it was not repairable and new structural bracing has been introduced throughout the building.

“During the stripping out, an original 1920s timber sign with Walter Willson’s slogan Smiling Service Shops on it, was found inside the shop and also beneath the modern fascia boards on the shopfronts. We have recorded these and they are being left in situ for future building archaeologists.”

The faint outline of the famous Walter Willson shield (see photo top right) was also noted on the outside of the first floor.

Work should be finished soon. The downstairs space will be completely open, with three separate areas upstairs and a nice dry cellar.

Owner Chris is hoping that one tenant will take over the whole building, perhaps with offices upstairs and shop on the ground floor.

Interested parties should contact George F. White.

Walter Willson c.1915

Home care 2008

Coastal Colour 2011

Refurbished shop 2012

The original Smiling Service Store sign was discovered behind the exterior signage

Photo of smiling service sign: Anna Williams. All other photos courtesy of Chris Baglee, Spence & Dower LLP, Chartered Architects.

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6 Comments

  1. Used to deliver Groceries as a relief boy for Mr Johnson Manager in late Fifties early 60s while at school.
    during school holidays used to go on country delivery van round farms and cottages and outlying villages delivering groceries every Wednesday, 10 bob or 12/6 a week.
    it was quite an art balancing as many orders as possible on basket on bike, surprisingly few eggs were broken or jars smashed, it did happen though,
    In the shop the main store room was at rear and large rooms up stairs with stores, there were cellars cannot remember what was in there! used to have to sweep n tidy those while girls put orders up,
    A look through window this week the layout looks as I seem to remember it,
    I used to get thrupny bag of broken biscuits from biscuit display like shown above .
    no pocket money handed out, even then wages tipped up into house , but tips were mine, was well off when you had delivery lad job.

    • My favorite shop on Queen St. in the 60/70s was Usher’s the chemist. The lovely Muriel Usher – Ambles very own Miss Havisham. She was ‘not of this world’, alone in her dusty Victorian chemist shop, with the cobwebs, the Latin names on the bottles and jars. She would disappear into the back dispensary to make up the cough mixtures, the gastric Kaolin and Morphine mixture, etc. – writing the prescriptions in ‘Latin’ in the dispensing book on the large desk/counter. She also had a delivery boy.
      Towards the end, she only opened in the afternoon, but I always ‘shopped’ with her – to step back in time, soak-up the atmosphere and talk to her.
      It is nice that she is remember in the Towns garden. When I visit Amble – weather permitting – I sometimes sit in the garden and think, what might have been, for both of us, if ‘fate’ had not intervened !!

      • I was One of Miss Ushers Delivery lads from a very early age, Still occasionally doing so til Joined Army in my Early 20s, still after leaving Army right til Her Passing 29th Feb 2000 , did here shopping , took her to Corbridge to Brenda her sister, If Any one in Amble ever should have been considered for National reccognition for service to community it Was Miss Usher, Her pink ointment adorned every Generation in Ambles Backside for five decades, Cough mixture cured more ails , Ushers the Chemist was the first call for many Amble and district residents before a Docs Visit, A dear life long Friend sadly missed .

      • The Shop Poison books and records I personally delivered to the Records office some are available at Woodhorn but the Poison books are closed to public for 100 years ,

  2. Hope its back in use very soon – however one question springs to mind: the downstairs is open plan so why has it got 4 doors?

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