Albert Jones recalls his life in the store his father founded in 1928
Jones’ Corner, at the junction of Craven Avenue and Long Road, has been part of the Canvey landscape for decades, after Alfred Jones had a chance meeting with an old friend on Canvey who encouraged him to sell his home in Kent and begin new life as a proprietor of a corner shop.
The Jones family was living in Gravesend, Kent. Alfred Jones had been a bank clerk before WWI but after service in the Royal Navy during the conflict he couldn’t settle down to life back in his bank. So, turning his back on his former ‘9 to 5’ occupation, he launched a building suppliers business with two friends. However that failed and Alfred turned to canvassing for the Daily Express. Whilst undertaking that job he was despatched to Canvey and here he bumped into an old war time pal who managed to combine the roles of local builder and RSPCA Inspector. He suggested to Alfred that if his family came to Canvey, he would build him a shop.
Alfred’s son, Albert who was born in 1914, was approaching school leaving age and father thought that young Albert might be interested in helping to run and ultimately owning a shop. Albert had already demonstrated an enterprising spirit whilst still a young boy. Like many 10 year old lads at that time, stamp collecting was a major hobby, yet he added a money making twist to this by putting together his duplicate stamps into small packets and selling them on to his fellow pupils.
So in 1927 construction commenced and the shop threw open its doors in 1928. Location was not a chance matter. At the time the only school on the Island was William Read just a few yards away and Jones senior could see that the shop was bound to attract regular business from children and parents alike. It wasn’t a cushy berth though as young Albert was busy working from before eight in the morning to ten at night.
When he wasn’t in the shop he was out on his pushbike making deliveries. Of course, Canvey didn’t boast much of a road network at that time and so the loaded bike had to cope with travelling down duckboards in good weather and during wet winter weather Albert would make his deliveries around the Island in a pair of waders to cope with the flooded paths. Summer brought easier work and he would also go down to the beach with a basket to sell sweets to families enjoying a day at the seaside. Evidently competition on the beach was limited, just one man from a local bakery selling buns and cakes. Albert’s efforts brought in extra cash for his shop but the local council put a stop to his coastline meanderings after two or three summer seasons.
Make no mistake, in those early years the summer season was crucial to the shop’s survival. Opening close to the school obviously brought benefits but the local population was small and there were other competing shops dotted around the Island. Canvey was a popular holiday destination and in summer the population would dramatically increase. Albert later recalled that they used to sell a terrific amount of Canvey rock in those busy sunshine months.
Before the bridge was built a wet weekend would really dampen business. The shop’s suppliers would call every Monday to collect their money but if it had been a poor weekend Albert would shut up and hang out a sign that the shop was closed for the day and the traders would have to return a week later to collect. It was a case of trusting to luck that the sun would shine before they did.
Those three key summer months would effectively pay for all the bills such as rates and utilities because in the winter months trade could be very quiet.
The outbreak of WWII in 1939 totally changed the business profile of the shop. Because it was a defence area, tourism to the Island wasn’t allowed but significant numbers of troops were posted to the Island which helped and of course the local population had to register for food supplies. While the number of customers was smaller, trade was regular. The shop also looked after a stock of food, on behalf of the Ministry of Food, which was held in case of invasion by German forces.
Albert was in the Auxiliary Fire Service for the first couple of years during the war but in 1941 he was called up for the Royal Navy. His sister, Phyllis, ran the shop whilst he was away but, unlike his father, when Albert came back from the war in 1946 he was happy to settle back into his former way of life. During the immediate post war years the business was relatively quiet. Holiday makers returned to the Island but Albert recalls their numbers dropped off in the ‘fifties although an increasing population shifted the customer profile and so trade was steady all year round rather than being dependent upon the summer months.
The flood of ’53 naturally disrupted the business but the flood waters around the premises were not much more than 18 inches high and so the structure fared much better than many. The first they knew of the breach in the sea wall was the siren sounding at the nearby fire station. They didn’t think of a flood but became aware of an increasing level of noise outside and when they rose from their beds they could see that the Island was flooding and water was approaching. They barricaded the shop as best they could with bags of potatoes and sacks filled with earth which they dug out of the garden in the middle of the night. By morning the shop was surrounded by water, the inside held reasonably dry but the storeroom was flooded. Trade couldn’t carry on as normal but some customers paddled around to the back door and the Jones family did their best to meet their needs. Fresh supplies of milk and bread came in every day, initially transported by army lorries when the flood was at its worst. Once the water had subsided it was time to repair the damage and dump a significant amount of spoilt stock. Members of The Southend Grocers’ Association rallied round and gave Albert a hand sort the business out and he did receive some compensation for the damage.
The late ‘fifties and early ‘sixties brought steady progress and Albert realised that the existing premises were no longer sufficient so he applied for planning permission to build a supermarket and rebuild the shop. Work started in 1966. Initially Albert constructed a shop on the other side of the road where a couple of old bungalows had stood. The business temporarily moved across to there before moving back to the brand new supermarket.
The new format continued to prosper as “Canvey grew beyond all our hopes” and Jones’ Stores continued to trade until the early eighties when Albert, who had no children, retired from the business to continue with his life long hobby of stamp collecting.
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Having read this excellent page by Terry I have been prompted to jot down a few lines of recollections about Albert and Jones Stores.
Our family bakery business probably served Jones’s as a wholesale customer before WW2 and my Dad Aubrey was a contemporary of Albert’s and endured the same rigorous lifestyle as delivery boy for a family business over Canvey’s rutted tracks as he did. In fact Dad used to tell me he remembered Albert down on the beach with a tray selling custard tarts, maybe I got it wrong and it was Dad selling tarts and Albert sold sweets and they actually were beach vending rivals.
Although as a child I have some vague memories of accompanying my Dad on deliveries to Jones’s my most precise recollections of Albert and the original shop start from 1961 when I joined the Bakery and took on the wholesale deliveries. One could not wish for a better customer than Albert as he nearly always increased any amount of products suggested for delivery by at least a quarter.
When looking back at the Jones’ Stores operation of those days it is unavoidable to draw an analogy between Albert’s and that other famous emporium beginning with the same initial, Arkrights. It’s true to say that a knock on the side door would bring Albert down to serve you after normal trading, he certainly was Open All Hours! Although comparisons are odious I can’t help but carry on with this theme.
Jones’s Emporium was however probably three times bigger than the TV sitcom corner-shop and it’s range and quantity of stock would have rendered poor old Arkright completely inarticulate with envy. The whole open front of the shop was the fruit and veg dept managed by a large gentleman (who I think was called Reg?). On entering the main store you were confronted with quite a large open floor area with free-standing sales displays, serving counters to the left and right and facing you at the rear of the shop was the provisions counter with a huge bacon-slicer and various refrigerators along the back wall.The shelves along the other walls were fully stacked with every imaginable tinned product. No self-service here! You got the personal attention of Albert and his staff.
Unfortunately only a few names come to mind; Mrs Thompson, Bett, Maud???? I’m gonna need some help here! Through the sliding door at the rear of the shop was the stock room the dimension of which I could not tell you as it’s shelves were so heaving with stock and alleyways apparently impassable for the average size human-being it was impossible to see the walls. However if you should require a tin of ‘chilli con carne’ canned c 1951 Albert would be only to pleased to retrieve for you in a couple of minutes, if it wasn’t in the stockroom it was probably under his bed upstairs.————— To be continued.
Albert Jones was almost always the last customer to squeeze through the door of the newly built Barclays on Saturday morning opening, after all the returning Ford employees. We would shut at 12 and wave goodbye to him at around 12.30 after he had paid in all his takings and collected all his change for the rest of the weekend. Goodness knows how he coped when Saturday opening was abandoned.
What a memory about jone’s corner.
I grew up in the 1960’s living in north avenue.
Mr Jones was a fearsom man for me. This page has sparked so many memorys for me.
Embbeded in my mind is that blue overal coat he wore and of course the hat that he was forever tipping to his clients.
At the age of 12 he would sell me 5 park drive cigs and a book of matches. For your father he would say.
The women who worked for him still haunt me to this day. Beehive hair does and lipstick so red it stuck to their lower lip.
I now live in Cyprus but from time to time i return to place where i grew up. People may change and Canvey has changed but for me you just opened a pandoras box of memorys thankyou.
‘Chris Culley’ , what an amazing coincidence. I happen to know the lady your talking about, she was a good friend of my mums, and our neighbour, and she to now lives in Cyprus. So watch out lol.
I remember being sent by my Mum to Jones Stores as a small child in the early 50’s, before the floods, and being terrified of the ‘big bear’. I would wait outside until someone else went in and then quickly follow them. It was good to see a photo of the bear on this page and its just as big and scary as I remember.
I think I remember you, was your mum a lively little lady who was friends with my aunt Alice Jarvis who lived in mayland avenue ?the lady I remember moved into a flat in Southend in later life. I can’t remember her name . We took her to my aunts funeral some years ago.
My sister Anne Johnson worked for Albert Jones in the early 1960’s as a Saturday girl; she always spoke kindly of him..lovely to see this site.
I was a Saturday girl at Jones Stores from 1964 until 1966. I used to come straight from Saturday morning music classes in Rayleigh to Jones Stores in the afternoon. I was on the sweet counter and we served sweets by the 2oz. in little paper bags. I particularly remember the Cadbury’s chocolate buttons which came in large oblong purple boxes. Mrs Hardy worked there at the same time I did, also a lady called Mrs de’Ath. We did have to collect supplies from the packed storeroom upstairs and sometimes from under Mr. Jones’ bed. We used to have tea at break time in the little kitchen on the side of the shop. There was a boy named Ian who helped out on the fruit and veg stalls at the front and on dark wintry nights a storm lamp would hang from the awning. It was a good Saturday job and Albert Jones always paid the ten shillings that was the wage for the afternoon’s work promptly. Anne Beverley [nee Johnson]
I have really enjoyed reading this article and the comments that have been left. Albert Jones was my grandad so being able to read of what the store was like and people remembering him really is special for me and I have even shown this to my son and sat and told him all I can remember of him aswell. Thank you to everyone who has left a comment.
Here is a story from the early 60s when I was delivering bakery stuff to Albert. I think he had probably phoned up for some extra bread. I was working in the bakery and the delivery was quite urgent I didn’t bother to change and went straight out in white trousers, T-shirt and still wearing my apron. I went thru the side door and left the delivery there, then I went thru the sliding door to tell the shopgirls. Somehow I caught my right trouser pocket on one of the big fridge door handles , stepped away and the whole of the seam of my r/hand trouser leg came apart leaving me standing there with only my left leg trousered. Quick reaction with the apron saved some of my embarrassment ! I certainly didn’t hang around to see what the girls’ reaction was but beat a very hasty retreat to my van !!
Lovely memories everybody, many thanks for posting.
My Dad worked for Gaffee Wholesale in Leigh (wholesale groceries etc) and he used to deliver to Canvey on one day a week, possibly it was Wednesdays. This was the early 1950’s, and when I was on school holidays he would take me in the lorry. I was only about 5 when I first saw Canvey Island – a fascinating place with the level crossing at Benfleet, the bridge, then ‘Long Road’, then the church on the left with the interesting spire, then the first delivery – at Jones’ Stores. I will always remember it, with the name on the roof coming into view as you approached it by road. The staff were ever so nice. My Dad would park just into the side road, and would deliver through a side door, which had a little grassed area outside. I would be sat in the storeroom amongst all sorts of interesting provisions. I found it all fascinating – it was magical. After a few more trips the floods came and my Dad wouldn’t allow me to go with him until they had subsided. Years later he told me that he went over many times just after the peak of the flood, not to Jones’ Stores, but somewhere else (possibly a general drop-off point for provisions).
He also used to deliver to a small grocers shop nearly opposite a Country and Western club, further west on the island.
Gaffee Wholesale eventually got bought out by Campbell-Booker, which then morphed into the Booker company.
Just discovered the bench in memory of Albert and his wife Vera, it could not be more remote from the centre of his life and activities at Jones Corner. It is stuck round the corner of the sea wall from the B17 mural facing Southend! Has anybody any ideas whether this was Albert’s choice or Hobson’s choice?
Hi Geoff, when your Dad worked for Gaffee Wholesale (Bookers) was it situated on London Rd where Iceland is now? If I am right I think this was one of the earlier versions of Booker Cash’n, Carry and in the early 60s when my Mum had her self-service shop (integrated into the family bakery business) every Thurs this was my day trip off the Island to take the van to bring back the stock Mum and Dad had bought. Then we would have lunch at the little cafe a few doors back down London Rd. A kind of reverse trip to yours a decade earlier!
Note to Graham, it was on London Road, on the south side, a building with a curved roof and a loading bay down a sideway. I think Campbell-Booker owned it when you would have visited. I met Mr ‘Jock’ Campbell there once – a fascinating man who said he lived in a Scottish castle and did salmon fishing. I took it with a pinch of salt, but only recently have read a fascinating account of his life and connection with Booker. It’s all in Wikipedia. The building in London Road eventually became a badminton club, and the wholesale grocery warehouse moved to the outskirts of Rayleigh.
Correction: I should have said that the Country and Western club was further east of Jones’ Corner.
Yep, that is the place. I used to back our Ford Transit with a Luton body down that ramp to load up. Thanks Geoff. Just out of interest I’ll follow up the Booker story as we were customers for many years at the Rochford Arterial Road site and to a lesser degree when they moved over to site on the Rochford road. Sorry can’t place the C&W club closest I can get would be at the Paddocks but that wouldn’t be at least until the 70s. G.
Graham, The Country & Western club was much further east actually. From Jones’s we went east along the main road to the end (just past the Haystack pub?), then left, then right (where there was a mobile Woolworths on the corner). Down there, on the right and set back a bit from the pavement, was a C&W Club. P.S. On the way back to Leigh, we would deliver to Boyce Hill Golf Club, to a building with a low thatched roof – presumably the members clubhouse…
The mobile Woolworths was the clue, it stood on the rough piece of land now occupied by Canvey Library. Don’t remember it myself, too young! also a Leigh Beck who would not have ventured into that area except occasionally. passing on a bus. There was a club close by but my memory has failed me re name .Hopefully Jan P can help me out!! Help Jan🤔🙄. Graham.
Sorry Graham I don’t have an answer for you.
Sorry looks we have come to a dead-end! I dozed off for a couple of hrs and woke up with Rendezvous Club in my head. The geography could be fairly close but the time frame is totally wrong as according to the Archive it was burnt down in the late 1920s and certainly does not appear in Kelly’s directory after 1929!
Anybody got any ideas? Graham.
I believe that down Foksville Road there was a club called the “Premier Club”, owned in the 1940s/1950s by a David E. WILLIAMS but changed use in 1953 to an auction room of furniture and hardware.
The Goddard family established ‘The Central Club’ in Foksville Road. The club was later renamed The Premier Club about 1931 and was then run by David E. Williams.
Thanks guys! I did consider the Premier Club but following his directions if his right turn was Foksville and not the High St his sighting of the mobile Woolworths would have been obscured by the parade of shops ending in the old Barclays Bank building( Warwicks newsagents, Pegleg’s barbers and Hoyles butchers)
Still a possible I guess depending on the height of the lorry’s cab and him being on the left-hand /passenger side. G.
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