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Barrow Voice is published by Barrow upon Soar Community Association. Opinions expressed are not necessarily endorsed by the editorial committee or the Community Association.

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For many years my family owned the newsagents on the corner of Cotes Road and High Street. We traded as “Webster & Barnes”. Later “Martins” bought the business and latterly it has been “Barrow News”. Here are a few anecdotes from the old days.

Brush Rush.

Webster & Barnes is now meeting rooms.One feature of our trading day was around 6.45 a.m. every weekday when a group of workers, all heading for the Brush Works at Loughborough, all came to stock up with their papers, sweets and cigarettes usually all at the same time! One particular day the Rush came and went and left against the counter was a brown briefcase. In this security conscious time noone would dare touch or open any item such as this, but in the sixties things were somewhat different. My uncle opened the briefcase and found only a pack of sandwiches and a copy of ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ by D.H.Lawrence, then the most controversial book of the time and a banned book unavailable from normal sources. Problem, what to do for the best? We resolved in true British style – say nothing – replaced the contents and waited for the corresponding inward rush at 5.00 p.m. Sure enough, the bag was collected and the “gentleman” in question probably counted his blessings. His identity? Suffice to say he was a pillar of the church and a part time Justice of the Peace.

This bar has been stolen!

Petty pilfering, or “shrinkage” as large companies care to call it, has always been a phenomenon of retailing. Usually the retailer has to live with it, but on this occasion we didn’t. For some time we had noticed an unusual occurrence. A dead line called Cadburys ‘Bar Six’ suddenly started to sell in reasonable quantities yet no-one could remember selling a single bar. We kept observation and sure enough the thief was identified, but what to do? A true dilemma. We established his modus operandi and baited a bar with a little handwritten note saying “this bar has been stolen”. We then conspired to have the baited bar at the front of the stand ready for action, making sure that no genuine customer got a nasty surprise. After three attempts, the thief took the bait and we heard no more, nor sold any more ‘Bar Sixes’.

Phantom piddler.

Whilst on the subject of anti-social behavior, it reminds me of the phantom piddler.

For some weeks when we opened up the shop at 5.00 a.m. on a Sunday morning some kind person had used our doorway as a urinal and after three applications of hot water and Jeyes Fluid not just the miscreant’s bladder was strained. We resolved to wait mob-handed as the culprit had obviously been to the Three Crowns or the Hammer and Pincers, decided to get a Chinese takeaway and needed a comfort stop between. The first Saturday night four of us waited, and waited – no show of any kind. Next week we waited again. This time at 11.00 p.m. the unmistakable sounds – result – shop door thrown open, shop lights turned on, alarm going off. Four chaps armed with powerful torches highlighted the miscreant who wet his trousers and ran off. End of problem!


Last year saw the closure of a High Street business, perhaps “institution” is a better term. The usual assumed cause when a business closes can be too much “red tape”, the level of business rate or complicated laws from Europe. In this case the reason is much more simple: the owner of Harris’ Garage, Don Mitchell retired. This ended an almost unbroken period of 80 years of a garage and shop at 13, High Street.

The history of ownership and usage of the land and property is complicated and could easily run to an article itself. It is clear that the existing property is not the original. The Deeds have reference to ownership from 1731 and record a “common beer house”, the Railway Inn as well as a butcher’s shop sited on this land. They also record the High Street as North Street and Town Street.

Towards the end of the 1st World War the property was owned by William George Hull, who was a plumber but it is not clear whether he ran a plumbing business from there. In 1922, Mr Hull sold out to Frederick Harris for £600. Mr Harris lived in Sileby, worked as a hosiery mechanic and set up Harris’ Garage and due to the excellent reputation that he built up, this name has survived for the past 80 years. Frederick Harris continued in business with garage services, wedding cars, taxis and a shop until 1946 when the business was sold on to Frederick Kings Partridge.

The garage workshop at the back was visible from the platform of the old Barrow railway station, now Crossley Close, and the enterprising Mr Partridge erected a large sign, at the rear of the garage workshop, advertising the availability of a taxi service, to passengers leaving the train, that they should ring QUORN 34 !

Harry Leslie, known as Les Mitchell, Don’s father, ran the garage from1950 and bought the business from Partridge in 1958. Mr Mitchell senior, trained as an apprentice at Wolsey cars; he passed these engineering skills on to Don.

The original shop front was a single door, single window style (butcherís type) shop front. Fred Harris had the shop front altered to two large windows and wide, half-glass double doors. This conversion allowed him to display cars for sale, usually an Austin Seven and a Morris 8, the original Barrow Car Showrooms!

Les Mitchell continued to run the business along similar lines to those established by Mr Partridge. He still provided a taxi and wedding car service, sold novelty toys at Christmas and two and four star petrol until 1974. The two petrol pumps were situated on the outside wall comers of the shop and metal pipes swung out over the pavement to carry the fuel, through attached rubber hoses to vehicles parked on the roadside thus preventing an obstruction to pedestrians using the pavement.

In the days before central heating was the norm, many people used paraffin heaters to warm their homes and the garage sold huge quantities of paraffin. Don recalls one particular cold Saturday in the 60’s when the whole of the 600 gallon tank of paraffin was sold out completely. A ìPink Paraffinî van ran a weekly delivery service throughout the winter months.

The shop also took in radio accumulators (batteries) for charging and became an agent for Raleigh Cycles. Cycle repairs and spares became a speciality. All the garage services were carried out in the wood-built workshop, with its characteristic Belfast truss roof, at the back of the premises. There is no date known for the building of the original workshop but Mr Harris bought a 1st World War army billet to extend it in the early 1920’s. A hydraulic ramp was installed in 1964 and the inspection pit was enlarged to accommodate MOT test work but otherwise the workshop remains in its original state.

Don Mitchell originally trained as an engraver, mainly working for the printing and footwear industries. After 15 years Don felt like a change of career so joined his father, Les, in January 1961 to work in the garage and was trained in motor engineering skills by his dad. The business passed to Don in 1978 where it continued until January 31st, 2002 and the shop finally closed its doors at the end of March 2002. Don and his wife Barbara, (Sister Mitchell) to many of you, enjoy living at the property and do not want to move so the business has closed and the premises will be living accommodation only.

Mrs Mitchell retires at the end of March 2003, allegedly, and Barrow Voice wishes both Don and Barbara a long and happy retirement.

I have concentrated on the property and uses of 13 High Street but there is still a considerable amount that I haven’t covered, for instance the conversion of the archway to the back of the property from rounded to square for the storage of the village charabanc here, that there was stabling at one time at the rear of the property and what these were used for but that will have to wait, it’s another story!

Alan Willcocks