Sheila Bennett looks back over the 88-year history of her family’s furniture shop in Enfield Town
At the end of January my brother Ken Rolland closed Furncrafts, his furniture shop in London Road, Enfield Town, for the final time.
It had been a family business for 88 years. But Ken will be 78 this year and thought it was time to take ‘early’ retirement. I want to share some memories of the shop and of Enfield Town on his behalf.
Our dad, Fred Rolland, a French polisher, opened Furncrafts in 1933 with a loan from a friend, Jim Drye. He rented the shop directly after the depression from Mr Gibbons, who owned many properties around Enfield.
The above photo, taken by a passing photographer, shows Fred outside the shop shortly after it opened. As you can see, he didn’t sell much furniture in those early days, mostly making a living from repolishing furniture and repairs. He ran the shop in the 1950s and early 1960s at the same time as bringing up his three young children, alone, as very sadly his wife suffered from mental illness and was hospitalised.
Ken started working with Fred in 1966, although he had been helping with deliveries in the evenings since his early teens. Mr Gibbons offered to sell the shop to Ken in the early 1970s, which he did with a mortgage. He set about extending it out the back and on all floors. Enfield Town was a bustling place from the late 1950s until the 1980s; on Saturdays it was difficult to walk along the pavement because of the press of people.
Next door to Furncrafts early on was Lillian’s Wool Shop. Other shops along London Road in earlier times included Poynter’s, a stationers; a greengrocer’s owned by Graham Eustance, later a mayor of Enfield; Scroggies, a shoe shop; Williams, a butchers; Triggs Jewellers; plus Hammonds Opticians, which is still there today. On the opposite side in the 1960s was a police station, Windsors, a TV and radio shop; and, of course, Woolworths.
Furncrafts survived despite a drunk-driver crashing his Rolls Royce right through the window in the 1960s. There was also two fires, one of which began next door at Norman Barrie, a hairdressers on the site of where Lillian’s had once been. The other fire started in Ken’s office. Both were extinguished by local firefighters.
A new road scheme by Enfield Council in the 1980s sought to extend Cecil Road through the shop, to join with Southbury Road. Thanks to the enormous help of The Enfield Society, a local petition, and much letter writing, this plan was abandoned.
Throughout the late 1970s and until the late 1980s, business was brisk. After that, Enfield Town was radically altered, with the building of the Palace Gardens shopping precinct and the new one-way system, cutting London Road off from the main shopping area and passing trade. These changes, together with parking charges, the rise of large shopping centres, and the gradual increase in online shopping, combined to bring about a decline in trade.
Ken’s long-time assistant Philippa joined in the late 1990s. Fred himself never stopped working at the shop, coming in every working day until his death in 2001, aged 96.
Over all those years, Furncrafts has served an enormous number of customers – from Enfield and beyond – with furniture, pictures, mirrors and seating. In the final closing weeks, many people popped in to share memories of the shop and wish Ken and Philippa well. He would like to take this opportunity to thank all his customers over the years and to say it was a pleasure to serve them.