Harry Houghtons of South Green

The paraffin and cycle man

As Young lad as far as I was concerned Harry Houghton’s shop was the most interesting shop in South Green. The Building in Grange Road that was a few yards from the old post office stores was originally the Plough Public House but it suffered war damage so the pub was moved. The building is now the Doctors Surgery. The shop was in the front two rooms of the building and you entered by the side door next to the yard entrance. In the first room was the shop counter.

Harry Houghton was a genial tallish medium built man with wire rim spectacles. The store was a general hardware shop that sold a great variety of household products ranging from Nuts and bolts and screws bleach light bulbs and the like.  The best time of year, was October when in his glass topped counter, he sold an displayed a large range of loose fireworks. In the 1960’s a ten shilling note would buy you a biscuit tin full.

Harry Houghton was also the man you went to see when you buckled the front wheel of your bicycle (I called it a push bike because I spent more time pushing mine than riding it as it always had a flat tyre or a buckled wheel). Harry was a good at repairing bikes and had a good supply of cycle spares for just a few shillings. Harry’s shop would be frowned on now days by health and safety as it sold paraffin, turpentine and methylated spirits loose. You just brought your own receptacle (an empty lemonade bottle would do) and he would fill it for you. When he sold these liquids he would take you through to the adjoining room where the storage tanks were.  Quite a fire hazard.

N.B. Aladdin Pink Paraffin for heating was also delivered in bulk to house holds in South Green by a Vendor from Wickford  who owned a bowser tanker.

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  • Just stumbled upon this article, interesting reading. I had the pleasure of spending all my childhood in that shop, Harry Outen and Grace his wife were my Grandparents. They did so much in that shop, like charging accumulators which my Nan used to deliver around Billericay on a 1934 Harley Davidson with a sidecar. I spent thousands of hours in the shop and the workshops out the back and that is probably where I get my engineering background. I used to watch him beat, bolt and solder just about everything back into a working condition. He even let me help with customers bikes, pushchairs, motorbikes and cars. When they finally closed down, they retired to an immaculately kept bungalow in Eastwood, where I continued to play with machinery in his double garage. I still have his headed paperwork, rubber stamps and even some if his tools. 

    My only regret is, I don’t have any photos of the shop from the front, only me in the yard etc. I’ve requested them on several forums without success. 

    A happy childhood 


    By Alan Nightingale (26/07/2017)
  • I believe that his name was Outen not Houghton.

    By Hilda Sherry (22/08/2014)

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