LOOKING BACK - March 26 edition

Albert Street, 1936
Albert Street, 1936

Shop collapse in 1936

This fascinating story comes from Memory Lane regular contributor George Faulkner, who is now 96.

The incident happened on July 9, 1936, quite early in his apprenticeship with J Parnell and Son. He recalls the first Sam Robbins building was built by Parnell’s, on the corner of Henry Street and Albert Street. But by the mid -1930s it wasn’t big enough for the expanding business so Parnells were asked to demolish it in order to build a replacement.

As you can see from the picture above, no one had realised that the neighbouring business - which he remembers stocked, among other things, haberdashery, ladies’ underwear and sewing materials, - had been built against it.

Jack Batchelor from Parnell’s was the foreman in charge of the demolition and as the Sam Robbins building started to fall, Maggott’s crashed down too. The stock was blowing along the street and Mr Batchelor was thrown into panic!

Mr Faulkner remembers Parnell’s had a large workshop, specially for constructing staircases, so the stock from the shop was safely stored there until the new shop, which still stands, was rebuilt.

There was extensive coverage in the Advertiser the next day from a reporter at the scene who must have noted down every last detail. It tells how a crowd numbering several hundreds stood in Albert Street for several hours, excitedly awaiting the collapse of a house and shop.

The 11 workmen as well as the wife of the owner of the house and shop, had narrow escapes when the first fall occurred at 8.30am. The house was too dangerous to salvage so the workmen then used various means, often in teeming rain, to complete the demolition, which did not occur until eight hours later .

It says the premises were owned by Mr T Moss, the printer, who with his wife, occupied the top two floors. They had the heartbreaking experience of watching their home fall to pieces. On the ground floor was a ladies’ clothing business carried on by Miss D Mag’gott.

Mrs Moss was trapped in the kitchen and fainted when the workmen released her. Luckily Miss Mag’gott was late arriving at the shop that morning. Her cash-box was rescued and workmen also saved her budgerigars, kept in the back of the building, and account books. A policeman using long poles, also rescued a sparsely clad ginger-haired doll.

Along with stock and furniture, the total damage was estimated in the region of £4,000.