Monday, 14 March 2011

The Only Way is Upminster

Does nothing change in Upminster? Not only does it still have the Essex Yeoman pub by the station (where a welcome pint was often had after returning home from a West Ham game under the lights) and a proper old Wimpy bar, but Roomes Department Store is still there. The very place where my mate Gav once saw Martin Peters out shopping.

Gav also saw Hurstie there, "plus Bobby Ferguson in the park (my mum got his autograph cos I was too shy). Jimmy Greaves also lived in Upminster as a younger man - he gave my grandad's car a push."

It’s good to see a department store that isn’t a chain — it’s been run by the Roome family for five generations — and Roomes has a definite air of Are You Being Served? about it, complete with white-bloused Miss Brahms and Mr Lucas-style assistants with Essex accents saying, “The sun’s come out for yer… invoice it with them last ones…” And here comes Young Mr Roome…

Roomes was established in 1888 at Green Street, Upton Park (it closed in 1935, the owners realising that commuters were moving out to Essex). The Upminster shop was built in 1927 and still has its stylish art deco exterior.

You can find everything here amid its black and white interiors, from Fred Perry shirts to toys (I’m sure my late uncle David bought me a Dalek 45rpm record here back in the sixties) and bedding. And on the top floor there’s a sleepy cafĂ© serving various chip concoctions and coffee.

Who knows what items Ian Dury, who grew up in Waldegrave Gardens, Upminster, (where Gav's mum knew his mum) might have nicked here as a youngster, before going on to South Street, Romford, shopping arcade in search of a pilfered Razzle magazine?

Who needs Selfridges? It's good to know there’s still Roomes at the top of the district line.

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