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Packing Up Gardners Market Sundriesmen

January 5, 2020
by the gentle author

All are welcome at a party to celebrate Paul Gardner and one hundred and fifty years of Gardners Market Sundriesmen – his family business through four generations – at his old shop at 149 Commercial St this Monday 6th January from 6:00pm – 9:00pm.

Gardners Market Sundriesmen is moving to 78 Ruckholt Rd, Leyton, E10 5NP. Phone 0208 558 1289

After 150 years, Paul closes up in Spitalfields for the last time

Each day since Christmas, Paul Gardner, his wife Jane, and their sons have been clearing up the shop opened by Paul’s great-grandfather James in 1870 as the first tenant of the newly-constructed Peabody Building in Commercial St. By seven o’ clock on Friday night, three van loads of paper bags had already gone to the new shop in Leyton, and the family were exhausted, when the gang of volunteers arrived to assist with packing up.

Although depleted of stock, the shop looked pretty much as it had always done, yet an hour later it was almost empty. Without waiting for instructions, the well-wishers set to work stowing all the contents into boxes and stacking everything outside on the pavement before forming a human chain and passing the boxes into the van. Paul and his wife Jane stood in weary amazement at the centre of the whirlwind as the counter was disassembled and the cellar was emptied.

In between carrying boxes, Contributing Photographer Sarah Ainslie managed to take enough photos to record the historic event. No-one complained about the dust of ages that was stirred up, coating Paul Gardner with a cobwebby layer which gave him the appearance of the old retainer who had been there for one hundred and fifty years, and rendering his face as grimy as a chimney sweep.

Once the van was full, Jane set off with the driver to supervise the unloading at the new shop in Leyton. In the meantime, we set to work on the final clear out. All kinds of old signs and mementos of past times were discovered, including Paul’s father’s receipt books dated up until the month in 1968 when he died. As the team of volunteers lifted the shop counter out onto the pavement, bank notes fluttered down Commercial St to the delight of passersby.

By then, the shop looked like an empty theatre after the scenery had been removed. Paul lay down on the floor to make one last phone call to his wife on the spot where he had stood behind the counter for the past forty-seven years. Before long, the van returned and we loaded the counter and the remaining scales, trolleys and other paraphernalia.

By now, Paul was so tired he could hardly stand up but he sent me down the road to the off licence for some beers and we drank a toast together. Then he locked up his shop for the last time and this was how one hundred and fifty years ended in Spitalfields.

Photographs copyright © Sarah Ainslie

You may like to read my other stories about Gardners Market Sundriesmen

At Gardners’ Market Sundriesmen

150 Years in Commercial St

Paul Gardner, Paper Bag Baron

Paul Gardner Goes To Downing St

Paul Gardner Returns to Downing St

Joan Rose at Gardners’ Market Sundriesmen

James Brown at Gardners’ Market Sundriesmen

Vigil at Gardners’ Market Sundriesmen

Christmas at Gardners’ Market Sundriesmen

14 Responses leave one →
  1. Jill Wilson permalink
    January 5, 2020

    Very happy to do my bit with my van to help with the move, and it was great to see so many other willing volunteers there to land a hand.

    But it is going to be another mammoth task to sort out all the stock now jammed in at Leyton, so good luck with that, Paul and family!

  2. Tony Taylor permalink
    January 5, 2020

    Would love to have been there to help, but I’m afraid I’m half a world away … in New Zealand.

    Good luck to Paul and his family, and here’s hoping it all turns out just as they would wish.

  3. January 5, 2020

    What an emotional wrench for Paul, but exciting new beginnings for him and his family.
    We wish him the very best, P &K

  4. Amanda permalink
    January 5, 2020

    Woe! sad to see the end of this era of the Paper Bag Baron of Spitalfields,
    but glad Paul & Jane look in good spirits in the photos. l wish you happiness & fulfillment in the future ahead.

    If only l had got off the bus passing your shop last month, not realising it would soon close, l could have got you to make me a souvenir paper ‘Napoleon’ hat.

    l clicked on the GA’s blog “Paul Gardner goes to Downing Street” where he made a fervent plea for small businesses and showcased his merchandise to the ministers.

    l couldn’t help thinking if it wasn’t for the astronomical increase in city business rates to £500 per week, Paul would not have had that momentous accolade in his proud personal history.

    And while dressed in his beautiful suit
    being photographed by and with the crowd outside, he was mistaken for a lord. Well they WERE correct of course.

  5. Su Mason permalink
    January 5, 2020

    I’m so glad to see this and to know that Paul had lots of help. A mammoth task!
    Wish I could come to the party but can’t do.
    I will be at the new shop soon though. It’s five minutes away from my daughters in Leyton.
    A new start to 2020 …

  6. Jane Gardner permalink
    January 5, 2020

    Reading this post was very emotional and difficult as the tears were rolling down my cheeks. Thankyou Gentle Author.

  7. January 5, 2020

    So sorry I could not get down there to help due to a last minute plumbing emergency. I wish Paul lots of luck in his new shop in Leyton !

  8. January 5, 2020

    GA, that was a great story about the community effort to help the Gardners clean up and move there shop from Spitalfields to Leyton.

    One detail caught my eye – the shop had been “opened by Paul’s great-grandfather James in 1870 as the first tenant of the newly-constructed Peabody Building in Commercial St.”

    I presume that this building was part of some “55,000 properties across London and the South East” built by the terms of the Peabody Trust founded in 1862 by American philanthropist George Peabody (1795-1869). Peabody had amassed a fortune in the textile and banking industries which he shared liberally on both sides of the Atlantic.

    Queen Victoria was so impressed with his largess that she offered to have him buried in Westminster Abbey. But Peabody had determined to return to his home in what is now Peabody, Massachusetts, about fifteen miles north of Boston. A royal contingent accompanied his remains.

    An impressive stature of George Peabody by American sculptor William Wetmore Story stands near the Royal Exchange in London.

  9. tanya reynolds permalink
    January 5, 2020

    It makes me so very sad to see to end of Paul trading in the Spitalfields area. Another legend gone! I wish Paul, Jane and the family the very best of luck in their new premises

  10. January 5, 2020

    As always, you and Sarah Ainslie have taken us exactly where we want to be. We’ve been privileged to meet Paul Gardner via your blog, and (as a paper fiend) I’ve been envious of those
    who could pop into his fascinating emporium and find “just the thing!” as well as endless
    impulse purchases. It’s always looked exactly like MY kind of place.
    Transitions can be so hard — emotionally and physically — and I’m glad the whole cheering section turned out to help. Oh that shot of Paul on the floor, with the telephone. Actually made my
    feet hurt, in solidarity.

    Onward and upward!

  11. Clare permalink
    January 5, 2020

    Last photograph, Paul looks like a chimney sweep and they bring good luck!
    All the best in the new location to Paul and family, from well wishers in Glasgow,
    Sconnie Botland.

  12. Annie S permalink
    January 5, 2020

    Well done to the hard working volunteers!

  13. Carol Himmelman-Christopher permalink
    January 8, 2020

    Beyond sad that he had to leave the historic old shop. But thrilled that he and his family had the support of the community he and his family have faithfully served. I have followed his story with interest since he first appeared on the pages of The Gentle Author. I look forward to celebrating the new life of this treasured family business.

  14. January 9, 2020

    The kindness of Community…

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