In the 1920s, there were at least 17 listed greengrocers trading in Chesham whereas today, the only independent trader specialising in fruit and veg. is the visiting stall on the twice weekly market. This time we highlight a greengrocer who also operated a public house from the same premises!
The Stag Public House, 38 High Street, Chesham
The landlords from 1881 until 1929 were Alfred and Ann Abbott. Ann ran the pub whilst Alfred worked in the shoe trade. As well as being a public house, they also ran a greengrocery business from the same premises. Most of the produce came from their own family garden and some rented allotments, with some being brought over from Leighton Buzzard. On Saturdays, the greengrocery business couldn’t close until 9.00 pm because custom was so brisk. The men would drink in the bar, whilst the women joined Mrs Abbott in the kitchen.
One of her favourite stories was of the time a circus elephant had been taken for a walk by his keeper dow the High Street, and had stopped at The Stag where Mrs Abbott fed him a basket of apples.
When the keeper told the elephant to thank her, he trumpeted three times. First softly, then a bit louder and finally very loud which frightened all the children who had come to see him and they all ran away.
The Stag had stabling for horses but the only way to reach them was for the horses to be led through the pub via the front door. Mr Abbotts favourite trick was to nail a florin (2/- or 10p) to the floor and then watch the drinkers trying to pick it up.
The Stag was closed by the licensing authorities in 1936 as they considered the town to have too many licensed premises, and was turned into two shops.
No 38 became a shoe shop run by John Farmer and No 38a became Finlay & Co, tobacconists. In the 1980s, the shops were renumbered and 38a became No 40 – SupaSnaps.
In the early part of the 21st century, No 38 became home to the USA Diamond Nail Beauty Salon whilst SupaSnaps was replaced by Axiom Comics and later Collectors Paradise.
In 1966, John Farmers was raided by thieves and a large quantity of shoes, stockings, handbags and cash were stolen. Exactly one week later, another shoe shop in Chesham suffered the same fate, apparently being robbed by the same gang.
View more shops on Chesham’s High Street
Thank you to the following authors for their contribution:
A History of Chesham Shops: Gwyneth Bradley, Anne Crabbe, Tony Eustace, Keith Fletcher, Pat Kent, Frank Pearce, Eleanor Phillips and Vanessa Worship
A History of Chesham Shops Volume 2: Anne Crabbe, Tony Eustace, Keith Fletcher, Pat Kent, Eleanor Phillips and Vanessa Worship
Pubs of Chesham & Villages: Ray East, Keith Fletcher and Peter Hawkes
Chesham – the Origin of the Town’s Services: Eleanor Phillips and Keith Fletcher
More Tales of Old Chesham: George Piggin
The Story of John Brazil: Jean Archer
Photographs: courtesy of Chesham Heritage.