End of an era as historic Shrewsbury shop to close its doors

For more than 100 years shoppers have been able to buy everything from a bucket to a doormat at Shrewsbury hardware shop C.R. Birch and Son.

End of an era – proprietor of C R Birch and Son Peter Birch with his mother Margaruite Birch outside the shop in Shrewsbury
End of an era – proprietor of C R Birch and Son Peter Birch with his mother Margaruite Birch outside the shop in Shrewsbury

But that will change at the end of this year when the shop, in Roushill, closes its doors for the final time.

Peter Birch, who runs the business with his mother Margaruite and brother Charlie said they had been debating closing for some time.

He said: “We have been here for sentimental value really for the last five years or so.

“It has taken us a long time for us to come to this decision and it is going to be difficult to tear ourselves away from it.

“But basically we are losing money. The boom in out of town shopping in Shrewsbury and the internet has had a big effect, but also it’s tough for people to park here these days.”

The shop, which opened in 1909, is famous for the flags and goods that hang from the outside walls.

Mr Birch said: “We are a bit quirky and old fashioned.

“Our customers have said never change – and we have kept the old look to be different from everybody else.

“At the moment we don’t have a date, and because we own the building there is no rush, but we are looking at the end of the year.

“It will be with a heavy heart, though, that we close the doors for good.” The business was started by Charles Birch, who rented the premises before buying them in 1922.

When Charles died in 1959 his son Gordon took on the running of the shop. And when he died his wife Margaruite and her two sons took over.

As well as selling a wide range of hardware goods and tools the business also delivered fuel and lubricating oil to farmers and central heating oil and paraffin to households across Shropshire.

Part of the old town wall runs right along the back of the shop.

Mr Birch said that when the shop does close the family will be looking to put the building up for sale.

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Comments for: "End of an era as historic Shrewsbury shop to close its doors"

glyn2000

I dont usually express much thought on this type of story, but this really did make me feel disappointed, maybe because it is a site I have know all my life pretty much.

Always interesting to see what was being hung up outside from week to week!

A shame.

Roger

It really is the end of an era. I have used the shop occasionally and always enjoyed the experience. When you want something odd it is place to go where a description turns into a search through draws and shelves because they remember something they have had on the shelf for years. Things you just can't buy in a DIY store or you want one and have to buy ten. Always friendly and keen to help.

I'm not surprised they don't make money, the service is is far too good.

What springs to mind though is some sort of preservation or museum? Could it be moved and reconstructed at Iron Bridge or the Black Country museum. It is the last of a line and we will never see the like of it again. I'm afraid it's fate will be the bulldozer to make way for another block of flats or the like. The building had character but is impractical for anything other than this quirky business left behind in benign time capsule. I shall miss it.

I agree with Roger. What a wonderful opportunity to preserve a wonderful bit of history. It should be saved and not lost forever. The service is great and its one of the only quirky businesses left in Shropshire. These out of town shopping alternatives are not in the same league! Anyone want to start a campaign to save it?

Rob H

I have only been in this shop twice, but both times I managed to find items that I could not find in larger DIY stores. Such a shame it is to close - a great little shop.

Terry

What a load of rubbish Roger.

There are still quite a few businesses like Birches around but they struggle against cheaper goods in a large town.

I think you've spent too much time playing Sims where you can create your own world in a video game. Fun but unrealistic.

There are many odd shaped premises in Shrewsbury, Stan's cycles for example was recently converted interestingly.

The oil depot and field in Oak Street Head, Belle Vue connected to this business finally got permission for houses after an expensive appeal to the Inspectorate where they won costs and I expect the family now want to move on.

If you want to live in a film set go to Ironbridge.

If you want to see genuinely interesting buildings go to Avoncroft.

This building will evolve. it's a natural process.

Roger

Terry

At times you are are a "Philistine". I am all for moving on and modernising but sometimes there is a price to pay for it. The demise of Birches is part of that. There is no way it can continue to trade but it is reflection of days gone by. That's why we have museums to remember how it once was.

Have you ever been inside the shop? Have you ever seen the Monty Python sketch? Do you wonder why the Shropshire Star publishes the old photos?

To the best of my knowledge this is the last of the old fashion hardware emporiums left in the area that still do the old way. We still have places like Abbey Hardware but they are just shops, Birches is a genuine throw back to days past. We should bottle it's essence and take it out now and then to remind us of how it was done once. Personal service at it's best.

thomas the tank

You are correct Roger, it is unlikely that Terri (is it Mr or Mrs Terri commenting here?) has ever been near the place. I have used in and found products that you could source elsewhere, usually because they were ordered decades ago, never collected and put on a shelf. The level of stock and helpfulness is something I have never found anywhere else....i expect Terri just goes to B and Q...a much nicer building in Terri's eyes no doubt.

thomas the tank

That should read, "couldn't source anywhere else"

Mad Jack Mytton

Whitecroft's in Oakengates

thomas the tank

If you mean Whitefoots, the old man died about a year ago and it's now shut....still didn't compare to Birch's though.

Terry

Wow Roger when are you putting your offer in to run a failing business? Let me know I'll definitely pop in!

James II

If that doesn't make you give up the idea, Roger, nothing will!

Terry

Perhaps the lord will perform a miracle James and it will start turning a prophet!

If you actually read what I said you would realise that I could not operate this business at a profit and neither could anyone else. Indeed the Birch's say so themselves.

What I am saying is that the shop is the last example of how we did things in the past. It is about the change from mend and make good to our disposable society. The change from buying only what you need rather than a packet of items that you only use half or less of before you lose them or throw them way in a clear out. The change from personal service to self service and all the other things we lost in modernity.

It is a little piece of history to be preserved least we lose it. Not keep in place as a loss making business for the sake it but perhaps moved to Blists Hill or the Black Country Museum to join other shops of the past so that our children can learn about how things used to be done in a living museum.

Sadly I can't see it happening because modernity has left us all poorer so we probably can't afford it, even collectively. What we see is just another part of the past disappearing, in this case personal service and the approach to mend and make good because nobody will ever facilitate it again. It's not good for business, our disposable limited life goods keep Chinese factories busy and UK retailers going. We pay more for it in the end and that is why we are all the poorer.

Terry

I am still very much a make &mend person roger but I don't look back with rose tinted spectacles.

I 've a photograph of my grandfather's ironmongers shop with horse and cart outside which is passed by on the credits of the very amusing Citizen Khan comedy.

This shop is not the last example of how we did things in the past there are still a few around and there is plenty of information and photographs of such businesses.

I 'd have thought the advances we have benefited from make life a lot richer in other ways today, you paint such a depressing picture.

Personal service used to involve standing for ages in lengthy queues, (always women) as I recall. I presume that's what you yearn for?

Cj

so sad for this excellent place , thank god we still have bunners of monty

SillySarah

The end of an era.....

I only ever visited this 'I bet they have one of those' shop when I both worked and lived in shrewsbury town centre, because I could walk to it. I guess it is only serving local people, and most of those would be repeat customers.

Terry

BTW my daughter works part time in a shop in Shrewsbury whilst studying for a degree where the majority of products are home made and the service includes gift packaging.

Personal and friendly service still exists!