Adding up pounds, shillings and pence

TRYING to explain pounds, shillings and pence from before decimalisation in February 1971 brings a glazed look from anybody too young to remember. Twelve pennies made a shilling, 20 shillings a pound.

David Kindred

TRYING to explain pounds, shillings and pence from before decimalisation in February 1971 brings a glazed look from anybody too young to remember.

Twelve pennies made a shilling, 20 shillings a pound. Add to this

farthings, half pennies, half crowns, three and sixpenny pieces and anybody dealing with cash on a daily basis had to be quick with their mental arithmetic. Shop workers were among those on the front line every day in a time when small digital calculators were science fiction.

Memories of Corder's store, which was between Tavern Street and the Buttermarket, Ipswich, were recalled in Kindred Spirits recently by Anne Routh of High Street, Ipswich. She worked at the store in the early 1970s. Among the memories of the store was the huge fire, which caused massive damage in September 1966.

Sue Blything-Smith (nee Smith), of The Grove, Henley Road, said: “I, too, have many happy memories of working in the 1970s at Fredrick Corder's, originally a silk and draper's department store.

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“I left the John Lewis Partnership management training scheme in Liverpool in October 1970 when my father moved the family to Ipswich. I joined the staff at Corder's and initially worked in the Christmas department. It was so much more than a store, expertly managed by Hilary Upward.

“In January 1971 we were busy preparing for decimalisation. It was an anxious time for shoppers, both before and after D-Day, February 15, 1971. Scares and fears dominated media coverage, but despite well-publicised problems,

decimalisation turned out to be a 'piece of cake'. An 18-month changeover period was allowed for, but the old currency mostly disappeared within a few weeks. The Decimal Currency Board declared itself redundant after six months.

“Corder's maintained an excellent service for all its customers, translating prices back to 'old money' for the older customers, and carried on with dual pricing for a while until we all got used to pounds and pence. A Corder's newsletter I still have, which was edited by Hilary Upward, records the departure of the formidable Miss Dawdry who had worked there for 20 years. She had been 'the anchor of the gift department'.

“He said I was 'very young for the job… she has to prove herself… I will be watching her progress with interest'.

“Miss Dawdry was quite the tyrant and probably did not approve of being succeeded by a mere girl of 20. I may have been the Miss Shirley Brahms (played by Wendy Richard) foil to her Mrs Betty Slocombe (Mollie Sugden) character in the BBC television sitcom AreYou Being Served?

“Among the 'older' department managers I recall are Mrs Stephens, perfumery; Mrs Mann, ladies' fashions; Mrs Mills, Cresta shop in shop; Mrs Dennis, linens; Miss Finbow, lingerie; Mr Edmunds, furniture; Mr Howgego, soft furnishings; Mrs Newman, Royal Worcester; Mrs Tyler Royal Doulton and Mrs Routh, Wedgwood.

“In 1973 another Corder's newsletter records a heatwave and discusses the difficulties of working without air conditioning and another item describing how a couple had queued from 5.45am in order to buy some reduced Royal Doulton china in a sale.

“With locally agreed budgets in hand, managers went up and down the country purchasing the goods which would fill the shelves and rails next season. Our old fashioned traditions, logos and sense of trying to please the customer by offering a service ruled all decisions.

“A recession brought about by the oil crisis of the 1970s was having an effect and sales were slowing. It was time for change.

“From the 1960s, Debenhams PLC, of which we were then part, started to build new strategies and more

centralised management structures. It was taking steps to streamline its operations and purchasing. In the late 1970s or early 1980s the new Debenham store in Ipswich was built, incorporating Footman and Pretty and Corder's. The old shops were no more.

“The Wedgwood room and all other Corder's staff moved to the new store and we learned to get along with the Footman's employees. It was the end of an era.

“Goods were no longer locally bought. Gift buyers, like I had been, no longer went to Harrogate, London and Blackpool gift fairs.”

Margaret Woollard, of Trent Road, Ipswich, added: “Seeing the picture of Corder's brought back good memories to me. I worked there as department

manager of the young women's

department called Just In. It was a great place to work and there were regular fashion shows where the models walked around the store and the restaurant.”

Carol Francis, of Heathlands Park, Foxhall Road, Ipswich, remembers her father attending the huge fire at the store in September 1966. Carol said: “My dad, Aubrey Francis, was a firefighter and he was on the first fire engine to arrive on the scene. They were the only crew there to start with as all the brigade was busy fighting farm fires.

“The thick smoke caused problems as they were not then equipped with breathing apparatus.”

Do you have memories of local shops and stores no longer with us? Write to Kindred Spirits at the Evening Star.