Shopping in Letchworth exhibition attracts apt memories from when museum site itself was a shop

The menswear and boys' school uniform shop Foster & Scott, located where Letchworth's community muse

The menswear and boys' school uniform shop Foster & Scott, located where Letchworth's community museum now stands in The Arcade. Picture: LGCHF - Credit: Archant

The Letchworth Community Museum’s exhibition on shopping in the garden city has attracted an apt influx of memories and photos from when the site housed a shop selling menswear and boy’s school uniforms.

Garden City Collection's Gemma Leader with Sheila Hall, who shared memories of the menswear and boys

Garden City Collection's Gemma Leader with Sheila Hall, who shared memories of the menswear and boys' school uniform shop Foster & Scott at the community museum now standing on the site. Picture: LGCHF - Credit: Archant

The team at the museum in The Arcade were discussing a possible back-to-school promotion for their exhibition when Sheila Hall – whose late husband Rodney worked at and later ran the former Foster & Scott outfitter – came in with an envelope full of photos.

She shared stories about her husband and his old colleagues, Mr Bullard and Mr Furlong, while going through the beautiful old pictures of the shop windows dressed for the back-to-school season.

Collections officer Gemma Leader said Mrs Hall’s visit had truly taken her and her colleagues back in time for a day.

The menswear and boys' school uniform shop Foster & Scott, located where Letchworth's community muse

The menswear and boys' school uniform shop Foster & Scott, located where Letchworth's community museum now stands in The Arcade. Picture: LGCHF - Credit: Archant

“Foster & Scott closed back in 1993, but Mrs Hall’s memories are as vivid as ever,” said Gemma.


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“She took great pride in being able to name all the shops along Leys Avenue and Station Road.

“She reminded us just how important local shops were as a social space to meet and chat to people, and how online shopping has changed the high street forever.

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“She thinks it’s sad that people are in such a rush these days and don’t have time to chat.”

Mrs Hall’s own parents’ shop, the Cabin in Station Road, sold Lyons cakes – delivered to Letchworth railway station daily – as well as sweets, chocolate and tobacco.

She described how all the shopkeepers in The Arcade used to come together every year to put up a joint display of Christmas decorations, creating a real spectacle.

During the Second World War, tanks from the Letchworth Gate repair depot would roll through the garden city towards the railway station – with shopkeepers and residents coming out with tea, cakes and sandwiches for the troops as they headed off for the D-Day landings.

“I plan to visit Mrs Hall to record her memories and hear even more about Letchworth’s shopping past and the characters who frequented these establishments,” said Gemma.

“For a short time, she brought us back in time and helped us understand what life was like when she was young.

“These stories are an essential part of Letchworth’s social history, and it’s important to capture them for future generations.”

The Shopping in Letchworth exhibition runs until September 30 at the community museum in The Arcade, from 11am to 4pm each Thursday, Friday and Saturday - with photos, historic objects and a space to record your own memories.

You can also share your memories of Letchworth’s shopping past with Gemma by email on gemma.leader@letchworth.com.

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