Off Licence / Grocer
'Gwilliams' - The renowned Church Road cooked meat shop sold delicious ham, beef and tongue, also groceries, bottled ales, cider and stout.
For generations of Church Road patrons, Gwilliams held a special appeal.
The Victoria off licence was on the prominent Church Road/Victoria Parade corner. Built in 1873, it was originally a bakers shop before becoming an off licence and passing to the Gwilliam family. Various members of that family traded at the Victoria over many years including William, Ellen and in the 1950s and 1960s, Frank. Tobacco, bottled alcoholic drinks plus pet food were sold over the years. Spears sausages and pies were popular.
However finest quality cooked meats were the speciality as Tony Brake recalls: "There was such a wonderful, delicious aroma in Gwilliams, the cooked ham on the bone was so fresh. It was a shop with real character; the low ceiling, old wooden counters and Victorian tiling. I understand that the curing of the hams was originally done in the cellar of the shop where there was a tiled, salting pit. Gwilliams had a timeless quality. It was the same in 1980 as it had been in 1950."
In the 1970s Alex and Yvonne Poole (Yvonne pictured below) were the proprietors of Gwilliams. During the fast moving '70s Gwilliams was a reassuring place of friendly, traditional service. Moreover it maintained its reputation for superb ham.
However in January 1982 time was called on the Victoria House; it had suffered when Cyril Dark's shop, next door, had burnt down in July 1980. By February 1982 Gwilliams shop, a Church Road landmark, had been pulled down. Thankfully however, Mr and Mrs Poole took over Den Andrews old greengrocers shop at 108b Church Road. Here they traded as 'Gwilliams Stores - Cooked Meats & provisions', until 1998.
NOTE:- the site of the Victoria House remained empty for 12 years until a new corner block was built in 1994.