SHOPKEEPERS Alice and Ernest Martin ran a popular community shop in the Hythe in Colchester from the turn of the century right up to just after the Second World War.

And having featured in a set of vintage images from our archives recently their grand-daughter Jean Garrington has come forward with more information about the well-known couple and their lives.

She explains her grandparents both lived well into their late 70s.

“I was married and had had my first child, I was in my 30s so I remember them very well.

“I remember my dad would bring me to see them every Sunday, when I was a child, and that they ran the shop for a long time,” she explains.

Jean, who now lives in Pondfield Road in Colchester with her husband Jack, says Alice mostly ran the shop on her own at first because her husband had a job elsewhere.

Ernest worked at the gasworks, which was also based on nearby Hythe Quay, and then also had a business providing wood for customers.

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

  • Local - a 1970s image of where the shop once stood on Hythe Hill

The premises was previously a shop which had been opened by the Carey family in the late 1800s and was then taken over by the Martins in around 1914, the year the First World War began.

Jean explains : “When they were older they ran it together, until about 1946 I think and then the premises was an antiques shop and is now a private house.

“It was on the right hand side of Hythe Hill as you went down it, towards the bottom and was a general store really, selling all sorts of things.

People came up on the barges, to the Hythe, and then they would come up to the shop to buy their supplies so they made up the main bulk of their business really

“It mainly sold groceries and household goods and in those days you got to know the shopkeepers because there weren’t big supermarkets like there are now.”

The couple were known for their kindness, running the shop during difficult times of rationing brought in as a result of the Second World War.

“I know they would often let people have things and owe them too, or pay a bit at a time.

“It was difficult times and I don’t think they were particularly wealthy from running the shop.”

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

  • Memories - Jean grew up visiting her grandparents' Hythe Hill shop

She says Ernest had a “very dry sense of humour” and as indicated in the vintage image of him, was always very dapper and well-dressed.

My dad would take me to the shop every Sunday and on the way out Grandad would stop and unscrew the top off one of the jars of sweets and take out one for me and one for him

“When I was older we would go down there and play whist.”

An extra sweet a week would still have been a luxury since even sweets were rationed at that time along with milk, eggs, butter, sugar, tea, preserves and a number of other food stuffs.

Ernest and Alice lived in what had originally been a pair of cottages next to the shop they ran, and eventually moved back to Spurgeon Street where they had lived before working in the shop, adds Jean.

At the end of their lives they went to one of the Winsley Almshouses in Old Heath Road which were built by the charity in the 1700s.

Originally there were just 12 but eventually more than 80 were constructed where men, and later their wives as well, who had lived in Colchester for more than five years and “lived well” but perhaps needed a bit of help, were allowed to live.

“My grandfather joked with me ‘we are going to the elephant’s graveyard’ that was his sense of humour you see, very dry”

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

  • Family - Ernest and Alice Martin on their 50th wedding anniversary surrounded by their loved ones

Jean’s father, Leslie Ernest Martin, and the couple’s other children grew up in Spurgeon Street, however.

Leslie was always known throughout his life as Sonny, explains Jean.

“Alice and Ernest, my grandparents, had three sons altogether and two daughters although one of them died in childhood from diphtheria.

“And then I also remember two of my cousins lived with them after their parents died when they were only young, so it was always a busy house,” she adds.

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

  • Seafront - Ernest with one of Jean's children as a baby

Sonny would go on to work for Pertwee’s Corn Merchant, also at the Hythe and receive his long service award of a gold watch and Ernest and Martin would remain married for more than 50 years,.

They celebrated their Golden wedding with many of their family around them including Jean and her mum, Phyllis, and dad.

“It was really lovely to see their pictures in the paper because it did bring back all those memories of those days from my childhood,” says Jean who then had an opportunity to get out the family album and find pictures from Ernest and Alice’s latter years.

* If you remember similar shops from that era and have images and recall events from that time in Colchester please contact us on 01206 508186 to share them.