Birch and Birch Grocers
In May of 1979, whilst collecting a carriage from the Cotswolds to add to the Victorian Village, the team stumbled upon an antique shop front. It was being stored in a large farm building and was shakily propped together. The team immediately fell in love with it and bought what remained of ‘Birch, Birch & Co.’ there and then. Along with the shop front and door were marble and mahogany display shelves, lined with canisters, scales, and cheese cutters. Some of the containers still had oats, rice, and coffee beans inside!
Before being purchased by Flambards, ‘Birch, Birch & Co.’ had spent a considerable amount of time moving from one antique dealer to another, and its history had become lost along the way. That was until a Flambards visitor identified it as a shop he’d previously visited in Angel Court in the City of London, up until the 1970’s.
The company began trading from a shop in Cornhill, which was opened in 1690 by a Mr. Horton and a Mr. Birch. Horton left the shop in 1740, and it was taken over by the Birch family who extended the business and began serving meals. The company went on to provide the food at events which Queen Victoria and Prince Albert attended.
The vast ovens of the premises were located underground, and were in such constant use that the roadway above them was said to stay dry even in the heaviest rain.
Perhaps the most famous of the Birch family was Samuel Birch (1757 – 1841) who was not only appointed as Sheriff of London, but also later became the city’s Lord Mayor. After Samuel’s death, the shop went to his nephew, whose name was Ring, but continued to trade under the existing name.
The second premises on Angel Court, which is now housed at Flambards, was purchased as an expansion of the business. The original Cornhill store was demolished in 1926 to make way for a large bank, followed by the demolition of the Angel Court store in 1973.
With the discovery of ‘Birch, Birch & Co.’ it became clear to the Flambards team that this shop would serve as a centre piece to what was becoming a small village!
Mr Birch, the Grocer, would wait upon his customers twice daily; once to collect their order and again to deliver it. However, the types of customer that he would prefer would be the ones that visit the shop themselves, and once inside, are tempted to buy far more then they need. Luckily this Grocers also employs an errand boy to carry your goods home for you.