Frank’s trip down memory lane as he visits hospice book shop which used to be his family’s butcher’s
The St Catherine’s book shop in Ashton contains so many fond memories for Frank Schofield – from his mother’s treacle toffee cooling on the top step of the cellar, to his father breeding champion rabbits in the garden.
For what is now the thriving charity book shop in Wellington Road used to be Frank’s family home, where his parents Wilf and Agnes ran a butcher’s shop.
Frank and his wife Pat, who both attended St Andrew’s school in Ashton and now live in Barton, occasionally visit the shop. They find it funny that shelves of books now fill the space where the Schofield family’s living room and fireplace once stood.
“I’m impressed with what they’ve done with it,” Frank says. “And of course I’m pleased that it’s all for a good cause.”
Frank’s father Wilf trained as an apprentice butcher in Longridge, as he couldn’t afford the five shillings a week required to secure an apprenticeship at the sought-after Preston slaughter house.
In 1938, he bought the shop – which was originally built as a grocer’s before it became a butcher’s in the 1920s – and opened it as Schofield’s Butchers.
The family lived upstairs, with some living space downstairs at the back of the shop. Frank says there were five butcher’s shops in Ashton at one time, along with a baker’s, shoemaker’s, off licence, ice cream parlour, a chemist, sweet shops, grocer’s, and a fish and chip shop.
Twelve months after Wilf opened the shop, and with Agnes pregnant with Frank, he was conscripted to join the war effort.
“He went to camp for training and was supposed to go to South Africa,” Frank explains. “It would have resulted in him going to Singapore, which eventually fell. But he broke his leg playing football so he missed the training, and he ended up in Burma and was involved in the jungle warfare.”
Wilf’s absence left Agnes, the daughter of a farmer from Beacon Fell, in charge of the butcher’s shop, with no prior experience.
Frank says: “It was a difficult time because of rationing. It was difficult to measure the meat; people were allowed half a pound a week, but some wanted a joint and some wanted chops, so it wasn’t easy to portion up. It was all red meat as chicken was in short supply.
“Sweets were also rationed, we were allowed two ounce a week. But my mother used to make treacle toffee and caramels for the family. She left them on the top step of the cellar to cool. I also remember our Christmas presents being stored on those steps.
“The previous owner used to go round the neighbourhood trying to sell bits of left-over meat on a Saturday, due to him only having an ice chest, but my father had a modern electric fridge installed when they took the shop over.”
He adds: “I was seven-years-old when I first met my father. That was the way for a lot of children during the war. He came back in 1946 and I remember him coming up the street with his kit bag.
“It was a big shock when I saw him in bed with my mother the next morning!”
Frank helped out at the shop after he left school, cutting up the meat, doing deliveries and running errands.
“It was very busy back then because there were no supermarkets,” he recalls. “I used to go out on my bicycle every Friday morning with a huge basket full of meat to deliver to people’s houses.
“I must have done about 20 miles, visiting places like Penwortham and Ribbleton.”
Frank, who went on to work in the meat inspection and animal welfare industries, also tells of his father’s hobby on returning from the war: “He kept budgies and rabbits, and was really well known for his champion rabbits.
“Any which weren’t up to scratch ended up in the shop!”
Frank worked in the shop up until 1963 – a year after he wed Pat at St Michael’s church, and they set up home in Garstang. They went on to have three children, eight grandchildren, and recently, a great-grandchild.
Wilf and Agnes retired in 1976, and it remained as a butcher’s until the business eventually folded, and was then taken on by St Catherine’s Hospice.
After retiring from the shop and nursing her husband up until his death in 1982, Agnes started voluntary work at the original St Catherine’s general charity shop on Waterloo Road along with two friends, Nan Liver and Cath Rae.
A few years later they moved to the present St Catherine’s shop in Ashton, on the corner of Wellington Road and Prospect Place.
Frank says: “The three of them each completed 15 years of service with St Catherine’s, only finishing through old age and ill health. Mum was very proud of the lovely letter received from St Catherine’s thanking her for many years of voluntary work.”
Alex Garden, manager of the book shop, says: “Frank and his wife Pat called in recently and were delighted to look round and see the shop being put to good use.
“I showed them old photographs of the shop, and there’s one from when it was a butcher’s which shows Agnes and a lady called Mrs Whiteside.
“Frank has also given us copies of a letter from Wilf’s solicitor regarding the purchase of the property in 1938.
“Looking at the censuses for the premises I found that in 1911 the grocery business was run by a young couple called Thomas and Maria Parker. In 1901 James Shaw is shown as the grocer assisted by his wife, Elizabeth, with their two daughters and grandson living with them.
“The earliest record I could find is the 1891 census when Edward Waddington was the grocer, living there with his wife, Eliza, two children and Irish maid.”
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