Today I spent the day at Leicestershire Records Office and spent an hour looking up electoral registers and street directories for 17 Lytton Road, and I think that with Rosemary’s help and Helen’s mother’s help, I have a pretty good idea of who occupied the shop premises right from when it was first built. Telephone directories have helped a lot too, but blimey reading them online is hard work on the eyes.
It looks like the shop was first occupied in 1907 by one Robert Edwin Stokes, draper (1873-1957), or at least the shop was in his name but in the 1911 census it was his wife Sabrina who took the title of draper whilst Robert was a postman. Robert, Sabrina and their son Cecil Robert lived in the six rooms with their niece Katie Hawkes who acted as drapers assistant, and their servant Robert and Selina stayed there until some time during the first World War, when it was taken over by Miss Mary Annie Inman, now also a draper but previously having been a boot hand as were so many in Leicester. Maybe Robert or Sabrina found war work elsewhere? Miss Inman (1881 -1968) seems to have lived alone apart from a brief period around 1921, when she had her younger brother (or possibly it was her father of the same name), Frederick Inman living with her. Miss Inman was at 17 Lytton Road for a long time – until her retirement in 1945, when she handed over the premises to Walter and Ivy Moore. Ivy ran the shop as a drapers, making and selling children’s smocked dresses, and acted as a receiving office for Wigston Laundry (according to Kelly’s Directory 1947). They were joined in 1947-8 by Robert Taylor, perhaps a lodger? By late 1950 Walter and Ivy had gone, to be replaced by Nellie and Roy Tester. Nellie called herself simply ‘shopkeeper’. It looks like the Testers were the first to get the telephone installed (number 77734).
After Nellie and Roy Tester left in 1958, a period of unsettlement began at 17 Lytton Road, with many changes of hand in a short time. From 1959 – 1961 Reginald Pratt ran it as a greengrocers with his wife Mary. 1961 - 1963 Frank George and Mary Lily Noble were greengrocers there (F G Noble, tel 78017). 1963 – 1966 the shop was occupied by Trevor Victor and Evelyn E Batt, grocers, with the same telephone number. Philip and Kathleen Edwards ran a grocers 1966 - 1972, and then in 1972 – 1975 James John Crisp and his wife Muriel(still with the same phone number 70817) lived there, with Margorie Ruth Wightman and Dora Helena Parnell – possibly students or lodgers? They stayed on for a further year after Mr and Mrs Crisp had moved on.
Things settled down after that. Between 1976 and 1989 Urmila and Manubhai Patel were at 17 Lytton Road – possibly the nice Asian people who ran it as a grocers, as remembered by Rosemary? I haven’t recorded the occupants after that as it feels a bit intrusive.
It is amazing where one presumably temporarily revealed shop sign can lead you. I don’t quite know how Reg Pratt’s sign survived for 50 years when he was only at 17 Lytton Road for a couple of years and there were so many businesses that followed – but I’m glad it did. I had another look at the sign this afternoon. It’s still there, and the builders are working on the building. The front door was open and I shouted up to them but the music was blaring and they couldn’t hear me. I wasn’t quite brave enough to go inside without asking, so I took these photos (well maybe I was just a little bit inside but that can’t be illegal, surely?). I’ll add more if I can persuade the builders that I’m not a mad person or someone from the council, but as one of my dear friends recently pointed out to me, I do have that clipboard look. Anyway, it’s been fun and thanks for reading – Elizabeth