The Earles Of Ewell

Earles Stores c.1987
Earles Stores c.1987
Image courtesy of Epsom and Ewell Local and Family History Centre © 2013

Frederick John Earle, son of Thomas Earle (1860-1911), a blacksmith, was born in Eton in 1886. His wife Harriet Elizabeth "Liz" (nee Darling), was born in Eton in 1885 (the fifth of seven children), and they married at Christ Church, Southwark on 30 May 1909, and returned to the Buckinghamshire/Berkshire border to live in Colnbrook.

In April 1919 Frederick Earle and his wife Harriet Elizabeth, left their home at Rose Cottages, Colnbrook in Buckinghamshire, and moved to The Nook, (later number 88), High Street, Ewell in Surrey. They brought with them their five children Frederick William Noel (born 1910), Amelia Doris (born 1913), Violet Mary (born 1914), Rose Elizabeth (born 1916), and the baby, six-week old Eileen Patricia.

Subsequent additions to the Earle family were Florence Gertrude (born 1921), William John (born 1922), Victor (born 1923), and Peter (born 1926).

In Colnbrook, Fred Earle has worked as a carter, transporting produce from the farms around the West Middlesex and Buckinghamshire borders to the markets in London. In Ewell, he continued to work with his horse and cart. His horses were stabled in the High Street behind the King William, and were also used to pull the village fire fighting truck that was kept opposite. At one time he had twenty horses under his care, and was contracted to the local council to do refuse collection in Ewell. Fred also did removals, and at one time had a stall in Epsom Market.

Fred later graduated to lorries. Pre-war he kept his lorries at the back of the King William in the High Street, by the 1950s the removals and storage firm of F. J. Earle and Sons had five Heavy Goods Vehicles. The lorries were now kept in the yard adjoining the shop; a warehouse for storage was also built, and the stables at North Looe, Reigate Road were also used for storage. Fred's sons Freddie and Victor ran the removals company at this time.

Earle of Ewell lorries carrying out a removal 1950s.
Earle of Ewell lorries carrying out a removal 1950s.

Mrs. Earle, with the help of her children combined running the shop with raising her family. The front room adjoining the shop was used as a lounge; in the middle was a dining/sitting room, at the back a kitchen (which also served as a bathroom, storeroom, and staff room), and an outside toilet. Below the middle room was a cellar, used for storage. Baths were taken in a zinc tub in the kitchen. Upstairs the children used the large bedroom; the small bedroom used by young Freddie, and off that room was a bedroom for the parents.

The nine children grew up here with their parents; and at various times, Mrs Earle's mother Sarah Darling (1851-1935), her brother Phillip (Jack) Darling, and the occasional lodger, also stayed at 88, High Street, Ewell.

July 1926: Left to right Eileen, Rose, Victor, Mrs. Earle with Peter, Bill, Violet, Millie, Florence. Eldest son Freddie was out working with his father.
July 1926: Left to right Eileen, Rose, Victor, Mrs. Earle with Peter, Bill, Violet, Millie, Florence.
Eldest son Freddie was out working with his father.

Derby Day 1931
Derby Day 1931. Earle's Stores is next to the dairy, with the blinds pulled down.
Adjoining are the cottages that were destroyed in the war, and beyond the cottages,
The Lord Nelson Public House.

During the war, Mrs. Earle's sons Freddie and Victor joined the East Surrey Regiment. Freddie was captured by the Japanese at Singapore; there was no news of him for eighteen months until suddenly a postcard arrived reporting that his health was "excellent", and that he was a Japanese prisoner of war.

Freddie's Postcard
Freddie's Postcard
Freddie's Postcard

Youngest son Peter joined the Royal Navy and was on the submarine that travelled to Japan to record the damage done at Hiroshima.

By this time, son Bill, and daughter Eileen were the only two left at home, with Eileen working with her mother in the shop. Mrs Earle was a well-known and popular village character. A regular churchgoer, industrious, kind hearted and thrifty, and her children were always impeccably turned out. Her husband was "a man of the people"; well known around the local public houses, a "character" who had nicknames for everybody he came into regular contact with.

Eileen's wedding reception
Old Fred Earle did not attend his children's weddings;
on this occasion he attended Eileen's wedding reception (1947).
One of the few photographs of the entire family.
Front: Florence (bridesmaid) and Eileen.
Standing left to right: Millie, Victor, Old Fred, Mrs. Earle, Peter,
Freddie (who gave the bride away), Violet, Bill and Rose.

A bomb had hit the three cottages in the same terrace as 88 High Street during World War II. The three cottages were destroyed, and the shop was the only part of the terrace left standing. The remainder of the site became "the yard". The heavy hardcore was removed, and the lighter masonry plus the domestic debris of a bombing, (smashed china, bits of furniture etc.), was gradually flattened by the vehicles coming in and out. The bomb also destroyed an old blacksmith's workshop, the old cinders added to the surface, and numerous nails were scattered and embedded in the yard. Uncle Fred paid the children 6d. for every jam jar of nails collected. Despite the efforts of the Luftwaffe, and the constant traffic, some alyssum, marigolds and buddleia from the gardens survived, and poked through the debris. In 1952, the bombed site, was covered in concrete and served as a yard for the Earle's Stores vans, the F. J. Earle and Sons Removal lorries, and various boxing rings, boxes, cars etc.

A small area of grass was laid, with a swing in the corner flanked by The Grove, and Ewell Girl's School.

c. 1954.  An advertising hoarding has been erected to shield the bombed area
c. 1954. An advertising hoarding has been erected to shield the bombed area,
this remained until c. 1958, with a small garden in front, where the
grandchildren played and had "picnics."

After the war, Mrs Earle took a lower profile in running the shop. Peter, Violet, Amelia, Eileen and Florence took over. Mrs Earle's house was a still a hive of activity. She boiled ham and beetroots for the shop in her kitchen, made teas for all the family, working in the shop, and the drivers and men working with the HGVs, and cooked a dinner everyday for all of her children who were working. By now, her daughters all had families of their own, and she looked after her grandchildren while their mothers worked in the shops. Still as industrious as ever, she would combine all these tasks with decorating the home, (a quick coat of paint straight over door handles, light switches, and plug sockets), while the ham boiled, and the dinner cooked.

During the 1950s Mrs Earle had a family tea every Sunday afternoon. In addition to her children and grandchildren, her brother, sisters and cousins were all occasional visitors. If the weather was fine, the men would adjourn to the yard for a game of cricket or football. The cricket ball was fashioned out of string wrapped round a ball of newspaper, a piece of an orange box was used as a bat, and an upturned crate was used as the wicket. (There was never any shortage of boxes in the yard.) During the school holidays Mrs Earle would usually have five or six grandchildren under her care, and they amused themselves in the yard, building dens out of the boxes and giving the dens imaginative names, e.g. The Silver Ball Club, which was "built" behind the advertising hoarding.

Earle's Stores led the way on home deliveries forty years ahead of the Internet. "To your door daily" was the motto. Customers would telephone, dictating their requirements to one of Mrs. Earle's daughters who would write down the list, and then "get up the order". On busy days the boxes with the orders would stretch through the sitting room into the kitchen, and if the weather was fine out into the yard. When it was time to load, the grandchildren would ask, "Can we come out on the "orders"? Uncle Peter drove the delivery van, entertaining the children with songs, monologues and rhymes.

Old Fred's routine after he had retired was to sit in his chair next to the fire reading his paper in the morning. His daughters would be walking back and forward from the shop to the kitchen, outside toilet or storeroom. The telephone was just inside the middle room, and the girls would be in and out taking "orders" from customers. At 11.00 he would wash and shave and go out for a drink. He would return mid-afternoon, eat the dinner that Mrs Earle had kept in the oven for him, then adjourn to bed.

c. 1953. The shop now extended to incorporate the front room
c. 1953. The shop now extended to incorporate the "front room"(right of main door).
Adverts for the cinema are on remaining wall of bombed cottage.
The advertising showcase often carried boxing posters"

In the early 1950s, with only son Bill Earle, left at home, the tiny cottage became, for the first time ever, too big. The wall dividing the shop from the front sitting room was knocked down, and the main bedroom upstairs became the sitting room. (This extension in shop floor space more than doubled the capacity, but the original retail space was probably about 150 square feet).

The shop continued to prosper after the extension in 1952. Mrs Earle, had by now bought several residential properties locally, plus a railway carriage "holiday home" at Pagham, and the shop at 63, High Street, Ewell.

Eldest son Freddie and his wife, Winnie lived in the flat above 63, High Street, and youngest son Peter and his wife Vera in the ground floor flat. The shop was used as a gift/antiques shop, and also as an office for bookings for the removals and boxing ring business. After Fred and Win, and Peter and Vera had moved out of the flats, Peter Golding and his wife Jennifer were resident there. Mrs Earle developed a taste for foreign travel and visited much of Europe, often bringing back gifts for her grandchildren, and sending them post cards from exotic places. In the shop during the 1950s, biscuits came loose in large tins, and were weighed out in paper bags. Sorting the broken biscuits into one tin for sale at a reduced price was another valued job for the grandchildren. Similarly, sultanas and raisins were packed tight in large wooden boxes; they stuck together and were "knocked out" with a large metal scoop and weighed out into special blue paper bags.

Cheese was cut from a large block to the customer's specific requirement; bacon and ham were sliced in similar fashion. "Customer service" was invented in shops like this. The customer would stand with a list reading out requirements, and the girls would scurry round getting the items. Cheese, bacon, ham would always be shown to the customer first, "Does this look alright Mrs….?"

By the 1960s trade had outgrown the shop, and self -service was coming into vogue. The plan was to build a bigger shop in the yard behind the old shop with two flats above. Service would be continuous, once the "New" shop was completed, the stock would be transferred; the old shop knocked down, bulldozed into the cellar, flattened and covered in tarmac, with the front providing parking space. Earle's Stores could thus provide self-service (new motto "The Self-service store with the personal touch"), and cater for the growing trend of people driving to do their shopping.

The shop did not open on Sundays, (also at that time Wednesday was early closing i.e. 1.00 in Ewell); so the transfer was done on Saturday night and the "old shop" demolished and concreted over on Sunday. With trade as normal on Monday.

Earle's Stores October 1959
Earle's Stores October 1959, one sister is leaning across to reach some apples,
another talking to some customers. The shop is now clearly double fronted, the "new" shop,
(now part of Coral) is being built behind.
Image by Haiselden and held by the Epsom and Ewell Local and Family History Centre © 2013

Fred and Mrs Earle moved down to Dorset for the summer while the building work was done. Peter Earle and his family occupied the first floor flat, and Fred, Mrs Earle and Bill occupied the Top Floor flat, when the new building was completed. Fred Earle Senior died on 29 June 1962.

Earles Stores c.1961
Earles Stores c.1961
Image by Witkowska and held by the Epsom and Ewell Local and Family History Centre © 2013

The "new" shop is now the lower section of Coral's; and the site of the old cottage is the parking area in front. Mrs Earle died on 5 February 1965.

Earles Stores April 1968
Earles Stores April 1968
Image by L. R. James and held by the Epsom and Ewell Local and Family History Centre © 2013

By the end of the 1960s the removals business was winding up. The shop was extended once again, covering the area of the "yard" and the removals warehouse. This shop extension is now the Co-operative Stores, most of Coral next door is part of the 1959/1960 extension.

In 1984, Eileen died after a long illness; and shortly after the family put the shop and property up for sale. Finally leaving in 1987, after 68 years in business in Ewell.

Earle of Ewell Boxing Ring Hire Service lorry is outside Cheam Baths
In Everyman's Magazine, February 1957, it says that Freddie Earle,
"can be seen at about 200 tournaments a year, at points as far apart as Brighton and Birmingham."
This was nearer home, the Earle of Ewell Boxing Ring Hire Service lorry is outside Cheam Baths.

Fred and "Liz" Earle's Children and Grandchildren:

Frederick William Noel Earle (1910-1978) married Win Taylor, daughter Patsy (1939-1950)

Freddie married Win, and his sisters Millie, Violet and Rose were bridesmaids. Win and Fred lived in the flat above 63, High Street, Ewell. Taken prisoner by the Japanese at Singapore, he returned to Ewell in 1946, and took over the running of the removals and storage business in partnership with his brother Victor, and also worked as a boxing promoter and ring erector, providing the boxing rings for all the main bouts in Southern England.

The boxing promotions were usually a family effort with Freddie's sisters taking the money on the door, and his brothers-in-law helping with the preparation of the seating and the ring. His friend the former world light heavyweight champion Freddie Mills, wrote of him in the Sunday Dispatch 1956:
"He never quite realised his ambition to be a boxer, but as a Jap prisoner of war Fred Earle had time to think up many angles on how to gatecrash the fight game. In 1946 he paid Don Cockell the handsome prize of £12 10s for beating Harry O' Grady on points at Epsom. Today, despite the fact that he no longer promotes fights, he spends more time in and around boxing rings than anyone else, for Fred Earle is a boxing ring erector. "
At that time Fred was contracted to six different promoters, providing the ring, and everything down to sawdust. He also provided the rings for wrestling matches, notably at Epsom Baths Hall. Freddie Mills recalled one night in a theatre at Croydon there was nowhere to secure the cables to hold the ring, so Freddie Earle, brother Victor and two others held a cable each to hold the ring in place.

Freddie was always in a hurry, always on the move; and on one occasion even went under the ring and started to dismantle it when there were still two rounds to go.

When Henry Cooper was preparing for his bout with Cassius Clay (later Muhammad Ali), Fred had the contract to supply Cooper's sparring ring and training equipment at the Thomas A. Beckett gym in south London.

Freddie and Win's daughter Patsy died in 1950 aged ten.

Amelia "Milly" Doris Earle (1913-2009), married Bert Golding (1915-1972) in 1936, children Peter (b.1937), Robert (b.1940), and Christine (b.1947)

Eldest daughter Milly, married Bert Golding, whose family lived at Ernest Cottages in Kingston Road, Ewell.

Millie and Bert lived at 22, Kingston Road, and then in Portway, Ewell. Bert served in the Eighth Army during the war, in North Africa, Italy and Germany. Eldest son Peter served in the Royal Engineers in Malaya, and on return worked in Earle's removals and storage business. When the removals business was sold he worked in Earle's Stores and his father Bert Golding later joined, working as the shop's butcher. Son Robert was born during the war, and daughter Christine in 1947. Like her mother and her sisters, Milly was a regular attendee at St. Mary's Church, Ewell. Always closely involved in Ewell village life, Millie died in 2009; she had lived in Ewell for ninety years.

Violet Mary Earle (1914-2011) married Len Graham (1909-1985) on 10 August 1938, daughter Sandra (b.1943)

Len Graham, came to Epsom from Mitcham to work in Nightingall's stables in Burgh Heath Road. He was an enthusiastic boxer, briefly turning professional for three bouts in 1937. Len served in the Metropolitan Police from 1939 to 1944 when he was released to join the armed forces. Len and Violet lived at Middle Lane, Epsom later moving to Firswood Avenue, Ewell. Len later worked as window cleaner, and was very successful in the pigeon-racing world, notably with 'Early To Rise' who won the 1st Open British National Barcelona 696 miles, and the 300th International Barcelona race. Daughter Sandra married the jockey Brian Jago.

Rose Earle (1916-2016), married Bert Lenham (1913-1987) at Epsom Registry Office on January 1st. 1936, children, Ann (b.1936), Robin (b.1939), Eileen (b.1942) and David (b.1946). Rose died four months after her 100th Birthday

Bert Lenham was a milkman at the time of his wedding to Rose, and later worked in Barclay's Bank, Sutton; he was also a proficient clock maker. Bert and Rose lived in Sutton, their house was bomb damaged during the war. Bert was serving with the RAF, and Rose and her two elder children were moved to Scotland where Bert was stationed. In 1943 Rose moved back to Sutton with her children, then in 1944 they were evacuated to Devon. After the war they lived in Sutton, and later in Lightwater, and Elstead.

Eileen Earle (1919-1984) married Charlie Eacott (1916-1979), children Bill (b.1949) and Susan (b.1953)

Charlie Eacott was born in East London, and worked as a calculating machine mechanic. He got to know the Earles when his parents were renting a house at North Cheam from Mrs. Earle. He served in the Royal Marines, after being injured at Sicily he transferred to the Royal Navy. Eileen served in the local fire service, and worked with her mother in the shop during the war. The family lived in Mrs. Earle's houses at Walton Avenue, North Cheam; and 17, Staneway, Ewell, before buying 13, Staneway.

Eileen later moved to Portway, living next to her sister Millie.

Florence Gertrude Earle (1921-2015) married Archie Skinner (1910-1980) in 1941, son Stephen (b.1949)

Archie Skinner was born in Devonport, and met Florence when they worked in Hudson's shop in Epsom pre-war. Florence was in the Land Army based at Mizen's Farm Woking during the war, later moving to Beckenham where she took up nursing and Archie served with the Military Police. After the war, Archie worked for the Railway Police. They lived at Middle Lane with Len and Violet Graham, later moving to 17, Staneway, and finally Chelwood Close.

William John "Badger" Earle (1922-2002)

Bill Earle was injured in a motor accident as a young boy. He sustained life-threatening injuries when run over by a motorcycle, but made a miraculous recovery under the care of Great Ormond Street Hospital. He lived at home with his mother until her death, and after that his five sisters took it in turns to look after him. He worked for Mizen's farm in Reigate Road, (now Hilliard's, Downs Farm), and then for the Council Parks Department.

Victor Earle (1923-2008) married Lilian Collier (1924-2017) in 1943, children Victor (b.1944), Theresa (b.1946) and Linda (b.1947)

Vic served with the East Surrey Regiment, the Paras, and the Veterinary Corps. He worked with his brother Fred in the removals and boxing business. The family lived at Ruxley Lane, and Gibraltar Crescent in Ewell, Vic later had a shop, Lindens' Stores in Central Road, Morden, before moving to Kent and the Sussex coast.

Peter Earle (1926-2017) married Vera Clinnick (1929-2015) in 1948, children Mandy (b.1950), Peter (b.1956), Sarah (b.1961) and Debbie (b.1967).

Peter was called up in 1944 to the Royal Navy, and served on the submarines. After the war Peter took over the running of the shop from his mother, assisted by Violet, Amelia, Eileen and Florence. Peter and family lived above 63, High Street, Ewell, then, after the new shop was built, in the bottom flat at 88, High Street, Ewell, with Mrs. Earle and son Bill in the top flat. Peter and Vera later moved to West Street, then Ashtead.

Bill Eacott
Christine Golding
Sandra Jago
© December 2013
Unless otherwise indicated all images courtesy of the authors © 2013

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