Hedon

State of Hedon Town Centre – Evolution of Shops and Shopping

JOHN DENNIS, a Hedon Town Councillor and local Estate Agent, has written this in a personal capacity. An in-depth look at Hedon Town Centre, it describes how shopping options and habits have changed over time. Written as part of a broader presentation to the Hedon Annual Town meeting (April 15), it has been re-drafted for HU12 Online. It refutes the suggestion, prompted by some vacant business units in the town centre, that Hedon is becoming a ‘ghost town’. John offers his own analysis of the viability of the town centre. However, the article also contains references to, and recollection of, shops gone-by which local readers will find fascinating.

I often get asked to comment on Hedon’s Central area and the changes in shopping habits. These are constantly evolving and have done so since before I first came to Hedon in 1967.

John Dennis F.R.I.C.S. of John P. Dennis & Son Ltd. Estate Agents in Hedon.

Our central area was much different back then, but it has changed with the times and it will continue to adapt to residents’ needs.

Some recollections. In my early years in the town, I can recall we only had one fish and chip shop and no other takeaway outlet until the Chinese opened. On reflection, I think Skeltons sold sandwiches.

I can recall the makeup of our shopping centre was considerably different. For instance, do you recall our bike shop? It’s now the Cazba takeaway.

We also had a repair shop for TV and minor electrical items. It was run by a Mr Wally Everingham and it was a place to which you could safely take your dodgy kettle and rely on never seeing it again! But he didn’t charge much, if at all. Wally retired eventually and his shop became part of the Betting Office.

Where Heron stands now, there used to be Cohens men’s outfitters. This changed around 1980 and it became Bamfords TV shop which lasted a few years. Then Heron came along to offer their daily shopping experience.

Bamford’s shop in St. Augustine’s Gate (where Heron is now located). Photo from the Dale Ian Smith collection.

My shop was previously a high quality gifts and paintings outlet. Before that it was Miss Beadle’s sweet shop for many years. Further back, so I understand, it comprised three cottages. Even my memory doesn’t stretch that far!

There was even a small shop called ‘Out of Africa’ selling artefacts and pictures. It really needed to be somewhere like Beverley to succeed and soon closed its door in Hedon.

Where Greenprint is now, used to be an antiques emporium and it was a ladies dress shop after that. The Dove House shop used to be John Davison’s bathroom store. Before that, word has it, back in the 40’s and 50’s, it housed the Town’s Post Office before it moved to Market Place.

There was a furniture store, run by Pete Read where the chemist is now (next to Queens Pub).

There have, by the way, been as many as six estate agents in the town, now only three remain. I bet Jack Larard never anticipated the changes when he opened the first one in 1968

As you will agree, changes in our shopping habits have been significant and continue to be so. Changes are caused, among other reasons, by an increasing population, by some shops no longer being seen as viable and especially in this last year by the rise in the online offering.

Another minor planning point that continues to influence who comes to the town to open a business, is that the East Riding planning office has never granted ‘exclusivity’ to anyone. So long as general Conservation and Planning rules are being followed, the planning approvals are likely to be successful. If ‘exclusivity’ was part of their policy we’d all happily carry out our businesses without any thought of competing for trade and reducing prices and fees. I’m sure you’d agree that would make the shopping experience much more expensive. And I’d be a richer man!

I have spent some time doing research on the present state of the central area, as there were a few scathing postings appearing on social media. I take great pleasure in scotching these rumours.

The report which I’m pleased to bring to you, has surprised me to say the least, and is one of great encouragement. OK, Some units have been closed purely due to lockdown rules but some are reopening right now. Of the others, only a very few are likely to be closed permanently. Some shopkeepers are planning re-opening cautiously, and I can’t say I blame them.

Larards are seemingly running their operation from their base in West Hull and don’t, as yet, show any signs of reopening. Maybe this will become available.

My business on the other hand, has remained open throughout the covid pandemic but PPE and other steps such as hand sanitiser and screens are being used to protect the staff and clients alike. Clients are asked to make appointments if they need to see us nowadays and we don’t intend to change the arrangements anytime soon. Other shopkeepers are taking similar steps to suit their trading style.

Anyway I took the opportunity to walk the full length of the town from Souttergate to New Road, notebook in hand. Pen at the ready.

The intention was to list all the future, newly opened or relocated businesses and assess the viability of our shopping centre. The results were surprising.

I thought there might be 8 or 10 new businesses. I actually noted, that in the central area including Watmough’s Arcade, over the past few years, there are around 25 new or relocated businesses either now open, or about to open. A number have actually opened during covid.

My survey shows that Hedon is a vibrant hub for the area of South Holderness, even despite covid restrictions. People are still prepared to put their money and expertise to work in our town. Some communities are not so fortunate. I’d go even further and say that, subject to the impact of ending the furlough scheme, our town centre is looking fit and healthy and looks forward to enjoying good trading conditions for the foreseeable future.

Maybe the closure of Hammonds, Debenhams, M&S, BHS, Woolies and lots of smaller shops in Jameson Street, King Edward Street and Whitefriargate has impacted Hull’s viability? The Prospect Centre and Princes Quay might give off the impression that Hull’s central area is struggling, but if this survey is anything to go by, not Hedon’s. A Ghost Town, we are not!

John Dennis

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