Some more History – ‘Ostlers – Whittlesey’

Bellow a talk given by now retired David Ostler – about their business…

We know how our business A C Ostler, finished but where did it start and what happened in the middle?  For that we go back 68 years to 1950.

My father was then manager of Timothy White and Taylors, in Market Place (as it was then known), in Peterborough. He always wanted to have his own business and a hardware shop in Westgate came up for sale which he took over. Selling domestic hardware, gardening, DIY, fireworks etc. On the counter were displayed brands from the past such as Izal toilet rolls, Fab, Rinso, Lifebuoy soap. Prior to Bonfire Night its was even permitted to display fireworks loose on the counter top

During the 60’s Peterborough Chamber Trade had an exhibition on the embankment, I remember we were promoting a new product – “Fairy Liquid”! The  public thought the idea of a liquid to wash up with rather strange – “ how could this be better?” How times have changed, now we use dishwashers!

I came into the business in 1962 at the age of 15, straight from school. This was the expectation in family businesses then. With better education opportunities, our children wanted to pursue their own careers, which we encouraged.

Purchase Tax was replaced by VAT on similar items in the early 1970’s. This changed the collection of such taxes from the wholesaler to the retailer.

Paraffin heaters were a very popular form of heating in some homes. This meant we had a large paraffin tank at the back of the shop and customers would bring a can regularly to be refilled.

In 1968 we opened a shop in Lawson Avenue, Stanground.  The rent for the shop in Westgate had gone from £7 to £10 a week a big increase, so we closed Westgate to focus on Stanground. To emphasise the price the cost of a night out was about £1 and you could purchase a house for £1000.

My Father died in 1971 and my brother John joined the business. My parents had owned a large property, after the death of my father my mother decided to move to a smaller property. This left us needing more space to store items. Therefore, in 1973 we opened a shop in Oundle Road, which had storage. During our time here we opened a toy wholesale section, as WH Smith closed this part of their business, leaving the area with no toy wholesaler. We sold mainly pocket money lines to sub post offices, corner shops etc. Including, selling 1,000 fancy hats to the Leadmills, a night club in Sheffield. We sold toys for Christmas parties for companies such as London Brick Company, the sugar beet factory. Frequently wrapping up to 400 presents for them.

In 1982 we opened in Werrington District Centre which was our largest shop (1,800 sq ft) My brother John ran this shop. We soon closed the Oundle road store.

In 1988 Arthur Neal retired and we took over the premises and moved to Whittlesey for the first time.
We outgrew the Broad Street store by 1997 and so moved into our final store in Market Street. We were able to increase our range of stock to include such items as; paint, wallpaper, timber, tools, garden furniture and fireworks, alongside cookware and domestic hardware. (The first ever risk assessment we had to complete was for fireworks!)

In the years following 1997 we closed our Werrington shop (the Development corporation had doubled the rent). The Lawson Avenue shop followed in 2010. My brother was of retirement age and this enabled him to work part-time.
During the time we have been in business we have supplied goods to Peterborough City Council and many schools, mainly Home Economics Departments across Peterborough and surounding area.

Prior to council wheelie bins on one occasion we provided 150 dustbins to schools in Peterborough! In addition, we supplied children’s homes, care homes and the hospital nursing home and doctor’s flats.

This brief history of our business ends with the closure remaining store here in Whittlesey. Together with younger members of our families pursuing careers in other fields, the changing face of the High street and shopping habits  and difficulty finding an appropriate buyer, the shop closed in September 2017 as retirement beckoned for me as well as my brother.

David Ostler

This entry was posted in News, Stories. Bookmark the permalink.