Friday, 11 June 2010

G. Smith, family grocer; Worthing

Once upon a time, shortly before entering Worthing station, passengers on the eastbound trains could catch a glimpse of four neatly-framed signs. Sadly only one remains and it isn't in a very good state.

Canton House
.1 & .. Montague St. [ * ]
G. Smith
Family Grocer
Provision ...r [Dealer ?]

*: this is a bit of a guess but Montague is the only street in Worthing whose name includes the letters "TAG". Also, following the opening of the first shops c. 1820, Montague Street became one of the area's main shopping streets.

Looking at the design of the sign, we can assume that G. Smith was providing food to the people of Worthing during the Victorian period. Could searching the net tell us more about him and his business? Unfortunately not. Only three results could be relevant, and the first one is even a bit of a long shot.
The 1823 Pigot's Directory of Sussex mentions one Jas. Smith, grocer and tea dealer of Worthing (the unusual name 'Jas.' may be the result of a failure by the text recognistion software used when the pages were scanned). Could this be the father of G. Smith?
The second result could get us closer to G. Smith, provided 'G' stands for George that is. Indeed such a name appears on the register of baptisms of Heene church. On April 2, 1874, Frederick George, son of George and Jane Smith, Grocer from Worthing, was baptised in this former civil parish just outside Worthing.
Finally an article on the Worthing Herald's website about "The Changing Face of the High Street" mentions that among the many department stores and shops found in this seaside town one century ago
In George Smith Junior’s window were “extremely pretty tea cosies, as well as a selection of dainty aprons and pinafores for tiny children”.
Could it be that G. Smith's son had expanded the family business beyond comestibles?

In Montague Street, G. Smith would have faced competition from Feest & Sons, a leading fruiterer and greengrocer with branches in other parts of town. Maybe somewhere in Worthing is a ghost sign for the latter as well?

Location: Cross Street, Worthing, West Sussex / Picture taken on: 30/05/2010

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