Christys Shop 1829 - 1940
It is uncertain how long a shop has been in existence on this site, the front of the property dates from the 1400’s with later additions i.e. warehouse dates from the late 1700’s which would indicate that some type of commercial business has been in operation for over two hundred years and probably a lot longer.
The property is Grade II Listed, the front door porch of Parade House and a horseshoe beam in one of the bedrooms being of particular interest.
The Christy family is recorded as living in Ashwell as far back as 1642 – farmers and brewers and the Museum have a record of:
Robert Christy – 1758
William Christy – 1758-65
Thomas Christy – 1762-64
John Christy – 1768
James Christy – 1771-78 all butchers
In the 1800s the shop was known as ‘Christys’, involving at least five generations of the Christy family over 160 years:
1798 : Robert Christy – first record
found (Land Tax Redemption 1798 mentions shop)
1829-1874 : George W Christy (Robert’s
nephew) and Matilda (Hart) – George was the first Postmaster (1851).
1856-1921 : John Hart Christy (son of George and Matilda) and Annie – The shop was known as J & A Christy (John and Abram) later becoming J H Christy & Son.
1860-1909 : Abraham H Christy (son of George and Matilda and brother of John Hart Christy) and Susan (Thorne) – Grocer and Postmaster (1881), daughters Ellen Matilda, Gertrude Susan Ethel, Mary and sons Charles Alexander, Percy William, Francis and Augustus
1909 -1924 : Harry Oakley Christy (son of
John Hart and Annie) and Louisa (Patey) (later Edlin).
1924-1957 : Louisa owned the property
until she died when it passed to her son John (Jack) Christy.
1930-1958 : John (Jack) Christy (son of
Harry Oakley and Louisa) and Myra W (Anderson). When Jack took on the business it was still known as J H Christy & Son.
On the 13th January 1939 J H Christy & Son was registered by Louisa Christy as J H Christy & Son Limited. The documentation was drawn up by Messrs Balderston, Warren & Co., of Baldock for the sum of £45.17.10d., and legal fees of £6.13.0d.
In the 1940s it was leased by Anna (English) Day and Kit (English) Rooke. From 1951 it was leased by Mr S G Sackett, the name changed in 1954 to S G Sackett. Jack finally sold the shop and Parade House to Mr S G Sackett in 1958.
Lily Waldock 1926-1934. Lily started full-time employment with Christys at the age of 14 and continued until she married in 1934. Lily died 2014 at the great age of 102 she lived in Hitchin and was the aunt of Brenda Fitzgerald (Waldock) who also worked at Ashwell Stores from 1964 – 1990.
Albert George Covington – Albert probably started working at Christys from school, he became responsible for the grocery department. He worked with Lily his second cousin and Brenda his third cousin followed in his footsteps.
Dolly Berry (Grey)
From 1851 besides being a general grocery and drapery store it was also Ashwell’s first Post Office; George W Christy was the first Postmaster.
The date of the first Ashwell Post Office is recorded at the Post Office Museum in London as 5 August 1851 at that time it was just for mail. On 11 July 1857 it was licensed for Money Order Services, on the 9 August 1861 it was licensed as a Savings Bank and in 1870 as a Telegraph Office.
In the 1851 Post Office Directory it is noted: Post Office – Geo. Wm. Christy, Postmaster. Letters from Baldock arrive ½ past 8 a.m.; dispatched ½ past 5 p.m. Box closes ¼ past 5, but letters may be posted up to ½ past 5, on paying a fee of 1d.
In the 1866 Post Office Directory it is noted: Post and Money Order Office and Post Office Savings Bank – George William Christy, Postmaster. Letters arrive from Baldock at 7.15 a.m.; dispatched at 6 p.m.
George William Christy was also listed as an Insurance Agent for The Royal and for the Royal Farmers’ Fire, Life & Hailstorm.
There is a record of a Postman in Ashwell in the 1871 census – Wilfred Clark of Lime Kiln Lane (Kingsland Way).
In the 1881 census Abram H Christy is listed as Grocer and Postmaster.
In the 1886 Kelly’s Directory it is noted that: Post, Money Order and Telegraph Office and Savings Bank – Abraham Hart Christy, Postmaster. Letters arrive from Baldock at 7.10 and 11.40 a.m.; dispatched at 8.10 a.m. and 6 p.m.; Sundays 10 a.m. It is also noted that J & A Christy are listed as Insurance Agents for the Royal Farmers.
About 1900 the Post Office moved to Kirby Manor across the road where the first Ashwell telephone exchange was also located, together with a coal merchant’s office, coal yard; a mineral water bottling factory was located where the current BT building stands in Back Street. The business was known as A & C (Abraham and son *Charles) Christy, to distinguish it from the Grocery Shop; Ellen Christy was also a partner.
In the 1901 census, *Charles is listed as a salesman at Whiteleys Store London.
In the 1911 census, *Charles Christy is listed as a ‘Buyer of Antiques’ living in Barnes, London, with his wife Catherine, son Alexander and daughter Beatrice. Beatrice became an accomplished artist specialising in woodcuts exhibiting at the Royal Academy of Arts; she sold two woodcuts to the Royal Family before the second World War, these are listed in the Royal Collection:
Creator: Beatrice Christy (active 1837-9) (wood engraver) Creation Date: RCIN 703028 Description: A pair of woodcut prints of White Lodge, Richmond Park.
Ellen (Nellie) Christy (daughter of Abram H Christy) was Post Office Clerk later taking over from her father as Postmistress; her sister Ethel was Telephone Clerk and Mary Radford a relative also worked in the Post Office.
Tony Christy’s mother Evelyn Kate Christy (Pack) and his Auntie Ethel Christy later became sub-postmistresses in London. In those days the telegraph was used to transmit telegrams which were hand-written in Ashwell. Postmistresses then had to be proficient in Morse code and Tony’s Auntie Ethel, a great joker, used the code =/= (mim) after a joke in her written letters to Olive, Tony’s wife, instead of !
1908 Lilian (Lil) Mary Pack (sister of Tony Christy’s mother) worked as a Post Office Clerk before becoming a sub-postmistress in London.
1937 – Tony Christy was paid 1/-d each to deliver telegrams during school holidays and weekends.
When Nellie Christy retired in 1939 the Post Office moved to 17/19 High Street where it is located today.
There are Christy family members still living in Ashwell, Guilden Morden and Steeple Morden.
This document was researched and written by Jackie Embury with the help of: