(Extracted by John Ruffell from recordings made by Mr Eric Bunting & Mr F. Woodward Jephcott about 1960.)
Mr E.W. Jephcott's family sold the business to Mr E.Bunting's father in 1901.
Mr B: At the beginning of this Century up to 1914 prices were very low: tea & coffee varied between 1/6d and 2/-per pound (7p & l0p). Provisions were very cheap, butter, bacon, cheese and lard from 6d to 8d per pound (2p to 3p). These prices are extracted from a 650 page catalogue beautifully illustrated dated 1909.
Dad bought the business in January, 1901 and married soon afterwards. Both Dad and Mother came from Essex. I was born in 1902. Dad and Mother worked very hard, Dad was a first class grocer having served his apprenticeship with a specialist grocer in Maidstone. I remember we older children sitting round a big fire with a bowl of water stoning the raisins before Christmas, for mother made all the mincemeat and the plum pudding sold in the shop for thirty years. It smelt and tasted so good. Wine was cheap 1/6d per quart bottle. I feel that in this pre-packet age most of the aroma of the grocers shop has disappeared.
I believe after delving into the old deeds and documents that the business is at least over 200 years old.
Mr B: When I look at certain parts of this building, I see it probably dates from 15th to 16th century, which means that there may have been a shop here for four to five hundred years. The previous owner was Joshua Hopkins who was in business here as early as the 1760's. He was probably the tenant for a while, until he purchased the premises, which are described as in the High Street near the Churchyard Gate, in 1774. He was like many other grocers of his day, a chandler, making his own candles and his own soap, therefore selling what he actually produced. In 1798 he mentions soap pans, furnaces, and counters, scales, weights, shelves, drawers, and cannisters which he bequeaths to his son Joshua Hopkins Junior, hoping that he will continue as his successor. From some leaves of a local account book of 1772 when the value of money was much greater than it is today:- Coffee 7/4d per pound which was expensive. Tea was of two kinds, - green and bohea. The green tea imparted its colour to the water, and had an aroma of violets or new hay. Sometimes the new hay aroma was enhanced by putting the tea amongst hay first. flump Sugar from the loaf was 8d per pound. Soap 6d a pound, starch 9d, and then tobacco - best rag tobacco 1/4d per pound, and pigtail which is twist tobacco 1/2d per pound.
My family came into the business in 1810. A young Richard Jephcott then aged about 20 came from Northamptonshire. He was apparently the successor to Joshua Hopkins Junior. We have some very interesting bills remaining from his time: 1832 billhead is particularly interesting and rather flamboyant. - He is described as grocer and tea dealer, bacon, butter and cheese factor, blender of fine hops, Scotch and fancy snuff, Havana and other cigars, tobacco, chocolate, cocoa, spices. He was grocer here for about 40 years, and he retired to do a little farming at Temple Grafton, leaving his son Robert William Jey itt as his successor. Robert William Jephco~ appears to have been a very merry soul, and a great practical joker very popular in the town, but he met this early tribulation: and at the age of 45 he lost a leg and then died. My father who was then less than 18 came from school at Campden to take over control of this business, on behalf of his mother. Eventually he became, of course, the owner of the business, which he sold to Mr. Bunting in 1901.
I especially remember what was called 'the rounds'. My father used to go every Monday, first of all, on one Monday on the long round to take orders from his country customers, and then on the next Monday on the short round, in the dog cart drawn by the horse - Jeff.
Mr B: (reflecting on some of the older items) The old Coffee Mill is still in working order. Possibly used by Woodward's Grandfather. - An instrument of torture used until it was replaced in 1939 by a new electric machine. The '41 Beam Scale weighing goods up to a ton, never been condemned. The old blower - a long speaking tube connecting the shop with the warehouse. - It had a whistle at either end and a mouthpiece. Old coffee and tea canisters. Sugar sniffs, cheese cutters, and the old oak counter, with slots in the top, to take gold, silver and copper coins. The large slot would take a £5 piece, and we have one, together with a collection of Roman Coins. 'Some were found in the garden, I don't think'any of the Roman coins went into the till!
Mr J: The Sugar Loaf trade sign which was pensioned off by the Jeffcott family, is a cone, gilded, eighteen inches high and weighing about 14lb. It was restored and re hung outside the shop on 22nd July, 1955.
Mr B: Many changes have taken place. From Coach & Horses to cars, from treacle to golden syrup, from cans to plastics. We've redone the front area of the shop by taking in next door. We've taken down the dividing wall of wattle and daub, leaving three solid oak beams for support. Since then we have gradually extended by bringing in the rooms at the rear. In the grocery trade, during the last 40 years: customers used to bring jam jars to be filled with treacle. - We always had a 281b container under the counter, this had to be replenished periodically from a 6 to 800 gallon barrel in the warehouse. I remember playing football on the lawn while the treacle ran into the small container, and I forgot about it! When I eventually remembered and ran back to the warehouse the tin was in a lake of treacle and the tap still running!
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