newsletter: April 2016
F GROVER : shoe repairs
21 Clermont Road Brighton
F GROVER : shoe repairs remained in the same family from 1910, when Frank Grover married Alice Feaver from Kent and took over the shop.
Mrs Grover did not like the shop as it had a basement where they lived, but understood that it was only a temporary arrangement, though she spent the rest of her life there.
Frank Grover only repaired shoes, but worked long hours from 7am to 7pm in order to catch the passing trade to Preston Park station. The girls from the ‘Soft Water Laundry’ in Robertson Road would drop their shoes in before work and collect them at the end of the day.
Nora Grover said “Trade dropped off in recent years as many shoes cannot now be repaired. I will stay open until I cannot work any more, then the shop will no longer be a shoe repairers as there is no money in it”, but she continued to sell bedroom slippers, polish, laces, inside soles and even, occasionally, finger puppets.
Nora Grover died in a Nursing Home four or five years ago. Her shop has now been transformed into a fantastic house.
21 Clermont Road – transformation of Miss Grover’s shoe shop.
Anyone who has caught the train at Preston Park station will have passed 19- 21 Clermont Road, a small terrace of shops on the left just before the station. Built in the late 19the century, it included the clock shop at No. 19 and the shoe repairers at No.21, run by the Grover family since 1910. No.19 has the date 1893 on its fascia which was the date it was listed in the street directory as a watchmaker’s premises.
When we bought No.21 in 2013, the whole house was in need of restoration, but the shop front in particular was in such a poor condition that it would have to be completely rebuilt. It had been damaged by fire in 1906 and replaced by a ‘largely out of proportion and featureless shop front’ with a central door. The original shop front would have had a side door and would have displayed the same features as the front of No. 19 which is still in existence, ‘a fine example of architecture and detailing from the late 1800’s.’
The transformation of the old cobbler’s shop into a home was a lengthy one, but a journey that was worth making. The original architect played an important part in deciding how the house should look. The initial planning application included the removal of the shop front entirely, to be replaced by a period frontage similar to the residential properties in the surrounding area.
As the house is in a Conservation area, the plans were submitted to the Heritage team in the Council who took their time in considering the plans and then rejected them. In view of the state of the building, it was necessary to make a start on the other repair work needed so we decided to withdraw the shop front part of the application. The rest of our application was then approved and we were able to get on with the interior work.
We were still not happy with the shop front. Having a recessed outside door in the middle of a living room was not going to work – not only did it make the room an unusual shape but it provided no safe passage to the front of the building in the event of fire. In addition, the planning inspector, on the recommendation of the Heritage team, felt that the shop front had historical significance which they felt should be preserved. The Preston and Patcham Society supported this view.
At this point, the history books came out and after some research it was discovered that the interior had been rebuilt after the fire of 1906. It was clear from the blackened internal brickwork on the westerly elevation, that it had originally been protected by an internal wall, creating a passage to the original door at the side of the frontage. When looking at the 3 shops in a row it was clear that our shop front had been enlarged, along with the repositioning of the door.