Michelle's in Canvey High Street
The History of this long established Canvey Business
The history of ‘Michelles’ at 80 High Street, Canvey Island, Essex
The following story and photographs were donated by Michelle & Dick Woodhouse
Michelle’s shop on Canvey Island was originally opened by the Woodhouse family in the early nineteen fifties and has been going strong since, having faced many changes along the way. The first shop was at No.116 High St (opposite the War Memorial Hall that opened in 1953) when Jeannine Woodhouse (known to many Islanders as Jean or the French lady) had come over to live in England in 1947.
Jeannine had met a handsome British soldier Dicky Woodhouse during the War. Jeannine, originally from Paris, fled to Lille in northern France to avoid the bombing of Paris and it was there they met. Dick’s background was in Hackney where he had been the captain of Hackney Schoolboys Football Team. In 1927 he had been picked to trial for the English Schoolboys Football team but lost out to Raich Carter who became a football legand at Sunderland AFC. At 16 Dick went to enlist into Civil Service but was unable to as his Dad was German. Dick joined the Territorial Army and when he said on the form his Dad was German the Sargent tore it up and gave him a new one stating he was English. In 1939 Dick was called up on 1st September, two days before War was declared. Four months later he was under close arrest because of his fathers nationality but was soon freed and made to sign a notice that if he was captured the Germans would shoot him as a traitor. Dick served in the Normany landings and fortunately was never captured!
At the end of the war, Dicky returned to Canvey where his Mum had a bungalow – however he and Jeannine corresponded until she finally came to England working first as an Au pair and then a nurse in the old Balmoral Hospital in Westcliff-on-Sea. They married in 1949.
After becoming pregnant with their daughter, Michelle, it was decided to try and open a shop so she could earn a living as well as looking after the baby. 116 High Street became available and they began selling children and babies’ clothing, ladies underwear, swimwear, wool and haberdashery.
At the time the High Street was the main shopping area for Canvey (few cars and no yellow lines!) and business flourished there for many years until due to the decline in passing trade Jeannine decided to retire in 1992 after having, over the years, made many good friends and become fluent in English. The shop was then taken over by her daughter and son in law and opened as Macs Windows – a double glazing business which traded for 13 years.
116 is presently run as The House of Minatures, selling everything to do with dolls houses. Dick Woodhouse worked as a French polisher in London until his Mum (who lived with the family) became ill in 1966. He gave up his job to look after her, however social security in those days provided little support and so he bought 80 High Street in order to be able to work and still be on hand for his Mum. By trial and error Dick eventually settled on selling proffessional hairdressing products and toiletries which, as many Canvey hairdressers know, are still sold from Michelle’s at 80 High Street today, next to Canvey Supply.
Sadly, Jeannine Woodhouse passed away in August 2001 due to breast cancer at the age of 77. Dick Woodhouse continues to help out when he can in the shop they named after their daughter.
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Michelle Woodhouse was an active member of Canvey Island’s Georgette’s and below are a number of photographs of the Georgette’s that were formed by Georgette Gray.
Some feature Pantomine, including Michelle playing the leading part in Aladdin as seen in the Programme. There are also pictures of them attending the Canvey Carnival which sadly finished in 2000.
If you recognise anyone in the pictures, perhaps yourself, please leave a message, email in (cca @ canveyisland.org) or join us on the Canvey.org forum.
Click the pictures for full size –
Comments about this page
Did you mean that the last carnival was in 1990? The last Canvey Carnival was 2000.
Thanks for this correction Shirley – It seems so long ago!
An interesting read. I live on Canvey and have done so since 1958. I often bought my toiletries from Michelle’s when it was opposite the War Memorial Hall. It was a surprise for me to see the reference to Raich Carter as Raich was my grandfather’s cousin. I was born near Sunderland and my maiden name was Carter. I married into the Whitcomb family on Canvey.
Stumbled on this website and remembered dancing for Queenie, does anyone remember singing “if I was not upon the stage” and “Canvey on Sea “?
How wonderful to see a great site for Canvey. I left there many years ago now but have fond memories, and Michelle, well I grew up with her almost, we have been in touch.. I played in many a show with her and panto, well done all.
Haha, this is werird, Queenie was my nan,,
I was looking for Saturday jobs on Canvey and I stumbled upon this.
If you look at the the last picture of the line up were it says Kevin Gray, thats my dad. It made me laugh.
If anyone has any pictures of my nan would you please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org, or if you knew her, please email me 🙂
thanks, Frankie Gray
Does anybody remember my father, Sid Palmer and his brother and thier clothes shop, Athony Charles, Formerly Alf Harleys opp the Gas board in the 70s and 80s.
Sadley Alfie has passed away, but Sid is still going.
Hi I certainly do remember Sid and Alf Harley’s shop on the corner of Furtherwick and Lionel roads. I bought my first suit off the peg there–£9. They also had a shop in the high street. Regards Sparrow
I am sorry to report that Dick Woodhouse died on the 1st November aged 99.
George! if your birthday is 22nd February 1961 you were born the same day as our son, Thanks to Nurse Robson.
I remember ‘ALF HARLEYS’ when it was in the High street, my husband and I used to get our suits made there. They went from there to the corner of Lionel Rd…..Happy Days.
I am really enjoying looking at this site…such lovely memories for me. I remember Michelle’s very well from living on Canvey all my life up until 1977 and even then not ever really leaving it, as my parents both remained in our home until a few years ago. My younger sister was in Michelle’s class at St. Joseph’s school. Was sad to hear about her mother.
Hi Yes! I remember Sid Alfie and John Palmer very well,I actually worked a couple of times in the shop on Canvey Island,I was based mainly at the Plumstead Alf Harley and son,where I worked with Alf Harley and his wife Kitty,Alf Palmer and John Palmer used to travel to Plumstead quiet regular,I can still picture Alf Palmer in his Morris 1100 and John in his VW Beetle,I also attended a Ladies night with them all,I tried to contact Alf Palmer a number years ago,when I remember he lived in Larup Ave,but found out he had moved,I worked for Alf Harley and son for about 14 years,I am sure Sid would remember me, Ray Cooper
George Palmer… I am on Facebook… Lynn Holloway. Remember you pouring a pint on my head in the Alex 😁.
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