End of an era as doors close at Shrewsbury smoke shop for the stars

A shop once frequented by some of the biggest names in showbusiness has closed its doors after 77 years.

Charlie Adlard outside Adlards Tobacconists which has closed its doors for good
Charlie Adlard outside Adlards Tobacconists which has closed its doors for good

In its heyday, actors George C Scott, George Cole, Robert Hardy and Billy Connolly were among the customers at Adlard tobacconist in Shrewsbury. But a decline in the tobacco trade, coupled with the growth in online shopping and the coronavirus meant that the business in Shoplatch has finally closed.

The business was started in 1943 by the grandmother of celebrity comic-book artist Charlie Adlard, best known for his work on the Walking Dead and Judge Dredd series, and it was taken over by Charlie's father John Adlard on his return from National Service in 1949.

Charlie, 54, said he had very fond memories of the shop as a child, where he showed an early glimpse of his artistic talents by drawing the posters for the windows.

John Adlard pictured in 1949, the year he took over the shop

"I remember when I had toys I had grown out of, my dad would put them in the window with a 'for sale' sign on them, and he would get good money from them," he said.

"He used to tell me about the famous people he had in the shop. George C Scott came when they were filming A Christmas Carol in the town. He shook him by the hand, I think he was quite a cigar connoisseur."

"I think he had a bit of a chat with Billy Connolly when he came in once, I think he was filming a movie in Ellesmere, it would probably have been in the 1980s."

George C Scott called in while filming A Christmas Carol in 1984

Robert Hardy, probably best known for the role of vet Siegfried Farnon in All Creatures Great and Small, was another customer.

In 1987, John took on teenage assistant Graham Price, who remained at the shop until it closed last month, taking over as manager following John's retirement.

One of Graham's early customers was Minder star George Cole, who at the time was at the height of his fame as the camel-coated, cigar-puffing wide-boy Arthur Daley.

"When I came in I took a double take at him, thinking 'is it, isn't it?, he looks just like George Cole'. So I asked him and he said he was."

Adlard's is opposite the Market Hall in Shrewsbury town centre

But while the actor clearly also had a taste for cigars, he said he was very different from his character's brash cockney persona.

"He didn't sound like that at all, he was very softly spoken," said Graham.

Graham, who is 51, said he was sad the shop had to close, but said it followed a general decline in the fortunes of the traditional tobacconist.

"The ones that have survived are the ones which became cigar-and-whisky shops, the pipe-smoking trade has been in decline for some time.

"Most of our customers were for cigarettes and hand-rolling tobacco, but not as many people smoke these days. The margins on cigarettes and hand-rolling tobacco are very small anyway, and I'm not sure that Shrewsbury is big enough for a cigar shop."

John, who is now 93, lives in a nursing home.

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