Historian Stephen Nunn goes back to his childhood as he takes a nostalgic look at a long lost shop and post office on Fambridge Road

Do any of you remember the old shop-cum-post office that stood in Fambridge Road, not far from the junction with Cross Road?

I certainly do – it is one of my abiding childhood memories.

I lived with my parents in the family home almost opposite and, if I was really good, I was allowed to cross over the road to buy my sweets from Miss Marsh, who owned and ran the place.

It seemed to me, when I was aged around nine or ten, to be a massive adventure that carried with it trust, responsibility and the makings of independence.

Negotiating the road wasn’t a major problem in those days as there was very limited traffic.

The worst that could happen was the risk of being knocked down by a herd of cows being moved by Farmer Carr from Seeley Farm (now 191 Fambridge Road) up to the cattle market in today’s White Horse car park, or if you were really unlucky, being hit by Orth’s vintage Garrett Steam engine ‘Crimson Lady’ as it trundled down the road out of their garage (now replaced by ‘Lawrence Place’).

So with the words of the (then new) Green Cross Code going round in my head, I “looked and listened” and made my way to the shop.

It was a long, weather-boarded bungalow, bounded by iron railings and overgrown hedges.

Opening the door set off one of those bells on a spring and you then had to step down to bare floor boards.

Inside it was dark and damp, musty smelling, with sparsely stocked wooden shelves and there were random items hanging on pegs from overhead wires.

The counter was only small, with a separate grilled off area for the post office, and there was a till that seemed to behave like the one in ‘Open All Hours’.

The figure behind the counter was just as distinctive. Grey hair in a bun, wearing a threadbare burgundy house coat, Miss Marsh seemed to me to be very old (in fact I have since found out she was only in her mid-60s).

She had no fridge, didn’t believe in television and had no electricity (or if she did, she didn’t use it – favouring candles instead).

She made her own brown paper bags, avoided the use of a bank and undertook her own property maintenance – including painting the front fence in the snow one Christmas Eve.

Grace Eva Marsh was born in Maldon on October 15, 1903, the only child of Thomas and Laura (née Sharp, of Totham).

She grew up in Cross Road, at number 30.

Thomas Marsh was a second generation wheelwright, who worked at the Mill Road forge (where the Price almshouses now stand) firstly under his father, William, and then in his own right from 1910 to around 1919.

He then moved his business to Fambridge Road, where he applied to build a workshop in 1920.

Following that he then constructed the wooden bungalow in 1932 and by 1939 is listed there at 123 (later 131) Fambridge Road as a “general shopkeeper” who also ran a sub post office.

Grace was the "shop assistant" at that time. She never married, although there was rumour about a love affair cruelly ended by her parents.

Thomas Marsh died in 1946 and Grace then took over running the business. She carried on in that role, on her own and in that time-honoured place until her eventual death on December 4, 1973.

It wasn’t that long after that a notice of demolition went up.

A friend of mine, Ivan Whittaker, got the contract, but on the basis of salvage only.

I remember seeing his digger breaking down the building and the odd sweet jar, enamelled advertising sign and torn pages from a wartime newspaper scattered across the site.

Once everything had been swept away, two modern houses (numbers 131 and 131a) sprang up in its stead.

Today, you would never know that Miss Marsh’s shop had ever been there. But I certainly won’t forget it, or her.

After all, if it wasn’t for that place where else would I have cut my teeth on Curly Wurly and Anglo Bubbly.