I’ve always been fascinated by the old corner shop on Wilmot and Ainsley Street, especially as there did seem to be a business in there but they never seemed to be open. I had managed to find the planning application to switch the premises from use as a shop to an office back in 1998, but other than that the current occupier was a mystery. It was a great coincidence that I took a taxi a few months ago and got talking to the driver, it turned out that his brother was the current tenant running a sports shoe business.

1a Ainsley Street today. Photograph from John Mossell

During my recent conversations with John Mossell I managed to learn a lot more about the history of the original corner shop. John says:

“The corner​ ​shop​ ​on​ ​1​ ​Ainsley​ ​Street​ ​was​ ​a​ ​fantastic​ ​shop​, of which many​ ​people​ ​living​ ​on​ ​the​ ​the estate​ ​have​ ​many​ ​great​ ​memories​ ​of.​ ​​​It​ ​was​ ​a​ ​combination​ ​of​ ​a​ ​grocers​ ​shop​ ​and newsagents. and​ ​was​ ​known​ ​for​ ​most​ ​of​ ​my​ ​time​ ​as​ ​”Phil​ ​and​ ​Pete’s”.​ ​As​ ​it​ ​was​ ​run​ ​by​ ​a married​ ​couple​ ​called​ ​Peter​ ​and​ ​Phyllis​ ​Hambleton. ​They​ ​were​ ​very​ ​popular​ ​and​ ​got​ ​on​ ​very well​ ​with​ ​the​ ​residents.​”

Photograph – Lee Rice

Photograph – Lee Rice

“​​​During​ ​the​ ​1970’s​ ​supermarket​ ​shopping​ ​was​ ​still​ ​a​ ​relatively​ ​new thing,​ ​and​ ​families​ ​including mine​ ​still​ ​got​​ lot​s ​of​ ​their​ ​provisions​ ​from​ ​these​ ​shops.​ ​​​There were​ ​three​ ​main​ ​supermarkets​ ​you​ ​could​ ​go​ ​to – ​a​ ​Coop​ ​store​ ​in​ ​the​ ​section​ ​of shops​ ​before​ ​where​ ​the​ ​trendy​ ​​ ​cafe​ ​338​ ​and​ ​Peliccis are​ ​located.​ Where ​the​ ​McDonalds​ ​is now​ ​was​ ​a​ ​very​ ​popular​ ​supermarkets​ ​called​ ​”Keymarket”​ ​that​ ​was​ ​larger​ ​than​ ​Tesco​ ​at​ ​the time.​ ​​​

Up​ ​until​ ​1982​ ​Tesco​ ​was​ ​smaller​ ​than​ ​it​ ​is​ ​today and ​only​ ​occupied​ ​the​ ​small grey building​ ​but​ ​then​ ​expanded​ ​with a ​red​ ​brick​ ​extension​ ​that​ ​you​ ​see​ ​today.​ ​​​Tesco​ ​then​ ​had two​ ​floors,​ ​the​ ​food​ ​section​ ​where​ ​the​ ​entrance​ ​is​ ​today​ ​and​ ​above​ ​this​ ​was​ ​a​ ​popular clothes​ ​and​ ​homeware​ ​section.​ ​​”

Tesco in Bethnal Green around the time of it’s opening in 1969

“Phyllis​ ​and​ ​Pete​ ​had​ ​the​ ​corner​ ​shop,​ ​I​ ​think​ ​from​ ​mid 1960s ​to​ ​moving​ ​out​ ​to​ ​live​ ​in​ ​Clacton​ ​in​ ​summer​ ​of​ ​1979.​ ​The​ ​shop​ ​was​ ​then​ ​taken​ ​over​ ​by a​ ​man​ ​who​ ​already​ ​was​ ​running​ ​a​ ​shop​ ​and​ ​got​ ​his​ ​step​ ​daughter​ ​Linda​ ​and​ ​her​ ​partner John​ ​to​ ​live​ ​in​ ​and​ ​run​ ​the​ ​shop.​ ​Linda​ ​and​ ​John​ ​were​ ​also​ ​popular​ ​and​ ​nice​​ ​but​ ​unfortunately​ ​business​ ​was​ ​hit​ ​by​ ​completion​ ​from​ ​the​ ​two​ ​local supermarkets.​ ​​She​ ​closed​ ​the​ ​shop​ ​in​ ​December​ ​1983​ ​and​ ​moved​ ​out.​ ​​Apart​ ​from​ ​a brief period ​after that the​ ​shop​ ​has​ ​remained​ ​empty​ ​since​ ​then.”

The​ ​two​ ​shops​ ​on​ ​the​ ​ground​ ​floor​ ​of​ ​the​ ​flats​ ​on​ ​Three​ ​Colts​ ​lane​ ​were​ ​also​ ​very​ ​popular. On​ ​the​ ​left​ ​was​ ​a​ ​newsagent​ ​and​ ​sweet​ ​shop,​ ​known​ ​to​ ​all​ ​as​ ​Barry’s,​ ​that​ ​was​ ​run​ ​by​ ​Barry Kirk,​ ​the​ ​son​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Landlord​ ​Tommy​ ​Kirk,​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Lamb​ ​pub​ ​(then​ ​became​ ​the​ ​Sporting​ ​Life Pub​ ​in​ ​late​ ​70s​ ​or​ ​early​ ​1980)​ ​up​ ​until​ ​the​ ​mid​ ​1970s.​ ​​​”

The Lamb Public House in 1931. Later to become The Sporting Life pub, and eventually converted into flats. In the background you can see the shops on Three Colts Lane.

The Lamb public house sometime pre 1861. Reproduced with the permission of The Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives.

“The​ ​shop​ ​on​ ​the​ ​right​ ​was​ ​a​ ​grocers (can​ ​not​ ​remember​ ​the​ ​official​ ​name)​ ​run​ ​by​ ​brother​ ​and​ ​sister​ ​team​ ​called​ ​Emmie​ ​and​ ​Ernie, and​ ​was​ ​referred​ ​to​ ​as​ ​”The​ ​Dairy”​ ​or​ ​sometimes​ ​as​ ​​ ​”Emmie’s”.​ ​I​ ​seem​ ​to​ ​recall​ ​that​ ​they also​ ​had​ ​a​ ​shop​ ​on​ ​Brady​ ​Street​ ​and​ ​was​ ​run​ ​by​ ​Emmies​ ​husband?​ ​​ ​I​ ​believe​ ​the​ ​Three Colts​ ​Lane​ ​shop​ ​was​ ​in​ ​their​ ​procession​ ​until​ ​the​ ​late​ ​1980s.​ ​Like​ ​Phyllis​ ​Emmie​ ​was particularly​ ​a​ ​lovely​ ​lady,​ ​and​ ​my​ ​parents​ ​would​ ​buy​ ​from​ ​there​ ​as​ ​well,​ ​they​ ​did​ ​lovely​ ​sliced meats particularly​ ​ham​ ​off​ ​the​ ​bone.​ ​Other​ ​people​ ​recall​ ​two​ ​shops​ ​where​ ​two​ ​small​ ​houses are​ ​now​ ​located​ ​on​ ​Wilmot​ ​but I do​ ​not​ ​remember these​ ​being​ ​shops​ ​in​ ​my​ ​time,​ ​however​  ​I​ ​have​ ​a​ ​very​ ​vague​ ​memory​ ​that​ ​one​ ​of​ ​those​ shops​ ​became​ ​an​ ​Indian​ ​takeaway​ ​for​ ​a while​ ​in​ ​the​ ​late​ ​70s/early​ ​80s,​ ​​they ​are​ ​both​ ​now​ ​small​ ​residential​ ​houses/flats.”

The shops on Three Colts Lane in 1992. Reproduced with the permission of The Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives.

The shops on Three Colts Lane in 2017

Thank you to John for taking the time to share his memories of the Estate. Along with this post my conversations with John also led to this post on the layout and conditions of the flats on Corfield Street in the 1970s, as well as this post about the Greencoats Tenants Association. You can find the Waterlow Estate Facebook Group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/WaterlowEstate/