Owen Owen

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Owen Owen

After the demolition of Butcher Row in 1935 [the oldest part of Coventry dating back 700 years], the Liverpool based Owen Owen department store planned a new venture in Coventry.

After several delays, the store opened 11an 17th September 1937 to coincide with the opening of Trinity Street. Employing over 400 staff, the store sold almost everything. Like many of Coventry’s 1930s grand designs, it was completely destroyed on the 14th November 1940.    

Owen Owen - Artists Impression 1936

Owen Owen Ltd and their associated company J. P. Hughes Ltd possess two large stores in Liverpool, which have now reached a stage of demanding further developments. Coventry with its population of 200,000 and a further 100,000 in towns immediately adjacent was considered large enough to support a store of this statue, the first venture for the company outside of Liverpool.

Owen Owen Ltd a family owned business was originally founded in 1868 and caters in the main for the family with incomes of between £200 and £600 a year [Today’s money £10,000 – £30,000]

Alderman Flinn

“The scheme would make a revolutionary change in the appearance of the centre of the city, a fine building appearing in the place of the dilapidated and undesirable property.

We believe that part of the money that goes out of the city can be saved if a ladies’ store is built here”. The project will mean employment for 200, 300 people”.

Mr Duncan Norman – Managing Director of Owen Owen Cambridge University graduate –

“A dozen suitable young ladies from Coventry will be selected for service in our Liverpool store, where they will ‘get on to our wavelength’ and then come back to form the nucleus of our Coventry staff of saleswomen.

We recruit most of our assistants from Cambridge University. We have enough young men with high academic qualifications on our staff to from a university board of examiners. Yet the Varsity men do not hold the really big jobs in Owen Owen.

The responsible official in the firm’s large associated concern is a young man still in his twenties who was selling shirts behind one of the store counters a few years ago. He is the son of a miner. Another key man was looking for a job when he first joined Owen Owen’s staff quite a short time ago.

These men work hand-in-hand with the ‘varsity graduates and the whole secret of their successful co-operation is team work, based on a “happy family” spirit.”

Mr Duncan Norman & Mr H. Abel general manager of the Owen Owen will tour American Stores for three weeks to collect ideas. 

Triangular building -1,900 square yards [1588 square meters] Frontages: 226 ft Cheaping, 117 ft Ironmonger Row, 32ft Broadgate. Maximum height 90ft. The total estimated cost of £70,000. Planned to Open in time for Christmas 1936.

Cantilevered Steel Framework Frame (1,700 tons) reducing the number of internal columns leaving a large uninterrupted floor space. Fitting will have a maximum height of 3ft 3inches adding to the sense of space. Initial design including cladding in Portland Stone. The plan for Portland Stone was later altered to a rustic brick façade due to cost.

Air Conditioning – A a cost of £10,000, air exchanged six times every hour – four and five million cubic feet an hour. 62 degrees F humidity 55%. Three fans each 8ft in diameter.

Three Lifts – including one service lift serving every floor, the two others were for sales floors serving customers. Stairs to every floor. 

Two escalators between the basement and the ground floor and the first floor. American idea – instead of being tucked away they will be fitted in the centre of the floor. Operated by light ray control, the first of its type in the kingdom – When not being used the apparatus will be running very slowly, as soon as a passenger breaks the invisible ray the rate will gradually accelerate. At the closing hour each day the motion will be reversed.

Boilers capable of producing 2,000 gallons of hot water within the space of ten minutes and an electricity substation & transformers. Water sprinkler tank 10,000 gallons  – largest in the West Midlands [capsule 33 ft long 8 ft wide] lowed into position by hand.

3rd Floor – Staff Offices

2nd Floor & Roof Garden – Toys, Carpets, Rugs, Linos,  mattress & bedsteads, Furniture and restaurant adjoining the roof garden.  The fully equipped kitchen for the restaurant will be fully electric with odour extraction and a pressure griller – A chop or steak is clamped between two hot plates and is cooked from both directions at the same time perfectly in two minutes. 

1st Floor – Hats, Frocks, Children’s shoes, Coats, Baby & Infant Clothes, Nightwear, Knitwear, Dress Fabric,

Ground Floor – Women’s Clothes – Blouses, Pyjamas, Gloves, Smocks, women’s underwear, Handbags, Shoes, Perfume, Stockings, Children’s Clothes, Men’s Clothes

Luxuriously arranged ladies hairdressing department with eleven cubicles fitted with the very latest devices and a twelfth is to be devoted to beauty culture.

Lower Ground – Curtains, Sheets, Bedding/sheets/blankets, Hardware, Drapery, China. 

Basement Library, Café for a quick-lunch service including a soda fountain.

Sub-Basement – Reception and Despatch connected to a tunnel to Palmer Lane, a turntable will allow electric trucks to exist after entering. The tunnel removes the need for a road level delivery bay, allowing for an uninterrupted line of windows at street level on all sides.

Mr. Eli Pearson of Coventry undertakes the excavation work. 

Excavation to a depth of 23 feet near Ironmonger Row – 30 feet near Broadgate. 30,000 tons to be excavated including about 10,000 tons of very hard sandstone [Enough to build the Cathedral which weighs 6,226 tons].

About 40 men required along with a battery of mechanical excavators & pneumatic drills over 8 – 10 weeks. Later, a night shift had to be brought in to help excavate the stone – At dusk flood lights surround the “quarry”. Hundreds of people have made excursions to the spot after dark to see the spectacle

Excavation of the stone is slow and expensive – Owen Owen wish to use explosives to hasten the work – the authorities deny permission.

As the work progresses, Mr E. Carey Hill president of the Coventry Archeology Society is given permission for the society to carry out a survey – Mr Shelton finds the following.

Earliest finds are from the 14th Century. Pottery, coins, boots and stonework

Two pillars of the gatehouse which are through to have led to the precincts of the old monastery or to the priory. The gatehouse was demolished in 1704

The area of Owen Owen was used as the quarry for the stone to build the priory/cathedral. Evidence of the quarry includes wooden wedges used to split the rock.

About 10 feet deep –

Remains of a shed and the foundations of a building of some size.

Blackened and broken hazel sticks which were used for roofing.

Four wells have been found so far and the bottom of one of them was reached at depth of 20 feet. The others were once far deeper than 20 feet.

One well had been sunk and bricked around for a depth of 17 feet and had then been bored through the solid rock for another 17 feet at least.

At 17feet deep –

Piles for a cattle shed that once stood against the side of the old quarry. Smoke stains on the rock along with sheep/goat bones suggest an ancient cooking place.  

Mr W Jones manager for W Tomkinson and sons of Liverpool. The general contractors engaged to construct the new store.

Work is delayed – Only eight workers on site – should be about 150 due to the national shortage of steel – The Government has first call on steel for defence purposes. Mr Jones Said

“This is one of the biggest problems of the building industry today. The primary cause was of course the great activity in the manufacture of munitions, warships, aeroplanes and other things in which steel was used for defence purposes. The Government had first call on the steel reserves. It would not be an exaggeration to say that nine out of ten large buildings in the course of the construction were being held up.” 

1936 November – Steel delivered, and work starts once more from Messrs Redpath Brown of Manchester. 

Two big electric cranes with masts that extends 110 feet are used.

1937 May – Bucket fell on to the head of a labourer, Alfred Clarke – taken to Hospital with a concussion and cuts to the head.

Mr. Duncan Norman – Managing Director of Owen Owen & T.J. Hughes. 

Mr G. S. Conway – General Manager of the Owen Owen (Coventry) Store 

He was once a well known professional Ruby Player during the 1920s read more here & here).

Total Staff 450

From many staff adverts here is a summary of the workforce:

270 will be on the sales floors of which at least 150 will be saleswomen/girls.

Senior and Junior Selling Staff for –

Haberdashery, Ribbons, Lace, Handkerchiefs, Scarves, Jewellery, Bags, Umbrellas, Perfumery, Stationery, Art Needlework, wools, Stockings, Gloves, Ladies’ Outfitting, Corsets, Woven Underwear, Overalls, Baby Linen, Coats, Gowns, Outsizes, Juvenile Wear, School Wear, Mackintoshes, Costumes, Knitwear, Blouses, Furs, Millinery, Men’s Wear, Boy’s Wear, Ladies’ Shoes, Children’s Shoes, Fabrics, Fancy Linens, Drapery, Blankets, Soft Furnishings, Cabinets, Bedsteads, Carpets and Linos, Hardware, Lampshades & Library.

25th May 1936 Female Clerks aged 18 to 23 to train in Liverpool for clerical positions in the Coventry Store. Call at the Labour Exchange Cheylesmore between 2 pm and 4 pm.

Experienced Window Display Men – Must be used to all types of departmental store display. Shorthand Typist aged 22 to 25 as Staff Office Clerk. Knowledge of dealing with personnel preferred. Juniors Aged 14-15 will also be required for these sections. Girls will be employed as despatch Clerks and Boys as Despatch Sorters and Store Porters. Junior Buyer’s Clerks aged 18 to 20 slight previous clerical knowledge an advantage. Despatch: Van Drivers, Van Porters (Age 18-20) Packers (Male). Receiving Room Male & Female Checkers (Age 18-20). Maintenance Door Men, Duty-Men, Night Watchmen, Female Cleaners. Fully Experienced Hairdressers and Beauty Culture Experts (Female). Experienced Waitresses, cooks luncheonette hands, soda fountain girls, and kitchen staff. Experienced Coat and Gown Fitters and Alteration Hands & Typists. Upholsteress fully experienced in Pelmets and loose covers.

Mrs. Elsie Thomson former Mayoress of Coventry becomes the librarian at Owen Owen. Previously she was chair of the Public Libraries Committee.  

The staff also had a successful football team which played against other local company teams on a regular basis. Along with an amateur dramatics society, company dances and many other social events.

1936 September 14th– Appointments now being taken for Hairdressing and Beauty Culture – Please phone Coventry 5566

September 16th 200 prominent figures in Coventry’s civic and business life will be the guests at a dinner to be given in the store restaurant. Jack Wilson and his boys were invited to perform, unfortunately, they had a prior engagement at the Birmingham Empire Theatre.

The toast by Alderman Vincent Wyles

“Shopping Future of Coventry”

He was proud of the Trinity Street scheme he brought forward 27 years ago which had provided the forerunner of the scheme.

“ I may say this store has meant using our credit to the uttermost. We have responded to Coventry’s invitation by the most supreme act of faith in a material way that any business firms could possibly undertake. We have indeed sunk our eggs in the Coventry basket”.

Mr C. P. Russel who is Chairman of the Retail Distributors Association said

“Far from hurting the small trader, a departmental store of this size and attraction makes shopping centre where none existed previously or only in a small way.”

He recalls the shopping of Coventry of half a century ago (1880s) with all its shuttered windows and could trace the extraordinary evolution in the shopping system that had taken place since then.

Grand Opening 1937

17th September 11 am

Opening Ceremony by the Mayor Alderman A.H. Barnacle at Broadgate Entrance to coinciding with the Opening of Trinity Street. A huge crowd gathers –  Women who were unable to get a glimpse of the ceremony used the makeup mirrors from their handbags as periscopes.

Mayor Barnacle

“People should now dispel forever the old bogey of Coventry’s Backwardness it was now their duty of the citizens of Coventry to spend their money in the city. The citizens of Coventry had a direct interest in the Company’s prosperity inasmuch as the Corporation was the owner of the site.

When the lease of 99 years ended, he hoped the history of the store will have been such that the Corporation of 2036 would have no hesitation in granting a renewal of the lease. To Messrs Owen Owen and to all tradesman in the city the Mayor said he wished good luck and prosperity in the developments that so obviously lie ahead in Coventry.”

Presented with a gold key, he unlocks the doors. The Mayoress was presented with a bouquet of flowers and then they tour the store and were the first to sign the visitor’s book.

Soon after the doors opened and mainly women who hoped to be among the first customers rushed in.

Theft – Winifred Foster and a 14-year-old girl stole two woollen jumpers and cutlery. The woman was fined £5 and the girl was ordered to be sent to an Approved School Mr Davile Superintendent School Attendance Officer for Coventry, said the girl had not a bad school record but she was easily brought under discipline. She had a history of a fall on the head which was said to cause her to commit actions of which she was not aware of.

Expert in modern fabrics from the Lux Washability Bureau of Messrs Lever Brothers is this week advising shoppers at Owen Owen store Coventry upon care and treatment of all modern fabrics.

“Tell me why do my socks so beautiful and soft and sufficient in length to clothe my calf, become so hard and so short that they will not meet the suspender after the wash?”

Apparently, that sock’s walnut shell look was merely due to rubbing in the wash. Hard rubbing and hot water applied to wool so takes up the texture that if continued it would eventually produce felt.

I made a mental note to give instructions upon how the job should be done at home in the future to my wife.

Next, a young woman asked about what was once a nice blue costume, now prettily shaded in odd places with pink.

“Mother used to tell me that a dash of red ink in rinsing water would brighten up colours, but something has gone wrong this time.”

In a few minutes, I was discussing with the best of them the most successful way of performing the weekly wash, with help from the expert. I know a lot now, but please don’t ask me questions – the expert knows best. And anyway, I am only interested in socks!

The P. & O. liner S.S. Strathmore due in at the opening of the Toy Fair at Owen Owen Second Floor.

Theft – Jean Morris (21) Bridge Street Rugby charged with stealing.

First staff dance of Owen Owen held at the Gaumont Ballroom, attended by some 300 dancers. Music supplied by Jim Wanley’s band and Mr. H. Harfield was Master of Ceremonies

Theft – Alice May Scothern fined for stealing silk handkerchiefs & playing cards.

Late Night Opening – Wednesday, December 22nd 7:30 pm, Thursday 23rd 8 pm Friday Christmas Eve 9 pm. Re-opening Wednesday 29th at 9:30 am.

In accordance with tradition at Owen Owen five years ago – employees at the stores are to have three days spring holiday with full pay during the next few weeks.

Over 420 members of staff and their friends attended the carnival dance at the Rialto Casino. Mr H Harfield (secretary of the social club) was master of ceremonies. Music Rialto Cassinians Band.

March 1938

Mechanical man Monsieur Patou visits for three weeks!

Don’t fail to see his demonstrations, they’re mysterious, baffling! See if you can answer the question that everyone in Coventry will be asking:

Is he man or machine?

Coventry shoppers rubbed their eyes in amazement yesterday afternoon when a car pulled up outside Messrs Owen Owen Store in Broadgate and from it a alighted a man wearing a silk topper, silver-knobbed cane and immaculate evening coat.

But it was not so much the manner in which he was attired as the way in which he walked from the car to the main doors of the store that made the people stare. His gait was of no ordinary human being but more than anything it resembled that of some mechanical man. Actually, they were witnessing the arrival of Monsieur Patou the mechanical man.

Monsieur Patou will demonstrate in the store every day at 11:30 and 3:00. With a show of Magic in the second-floor restaurant at 4:30.

The newly formed Owen Owen plays [Amature Dramatics Society] will perform “9.45” at the Sibree Hall in aid of the Coventry and Warwickshire hospital.

“Admittedly there was wooden acting, but it was almost confined to the minor roles, and the work of most of the principals was distinctly encouraging. A mystery play by Colin Sewell and Owen Davies “9:45” contains four confessions of a murder, and calls for a powerful portrayal of a succession of melodramatic situations.

The heaviest role, that of a baffled, cross-questioning police inspector was given adequate expression by Edward Neighbour. His best support on the “serious” side of the play came from Mary Williams, Eric Rose, Nicholas James and Eric Giles. But the gem of the show was a comedy characterisation contributed by Flora Pollock as an irrepressible maid.

Also in the cast were George Saunders, Fredrick Hartfield, Peggy Mackett, Albert Hutton, Eileen Shaw, Marjorie Brewer, Eric Smith, Clifford Harrop, Barbra Finlay and George Wilkinson.

Although the timing of entrances and exits were often faulty, the work of the producer Mr Smith was accomplished neatly. With amateur drama having a rather lean time in Coventry it is heartening to find a new society making such a praiseworthy debut. The society donated a total of £7 7s to the hospital.

For lasting natural beauty, why not try a Eugene Wave by Owen Owen. We are registered Eugene Wavers

(Phone 5566 department, first floor).

Owen Owen, the national Eugene Hairdressing window display competition winners!

Theft – Mr John Henry Davies (61) – 93 Fir Tre Avenue fined for stealing a case of eye black He had no previous convictions. Since he had a motor accident five years ago, he had been subject to attacks during which he was quite unable to control himself. At the time he took the eye black not know what he was doing.

Miss Constance Annie Bonner (assistant at Owen Owen) marries Lieutenant Jack Nowell Richards R.N.R. Merchant Navy. Their future residence will be Calcutta, India where Lieutenant Richards is stationed.

Mr D. C. Hodge General Manager of Owen Owen addresses the Coventry Round Table meeting –

“He who whispers down a well, about all the goods he has to sell, never makes as many dollars. As he who climbs a tree and hollers!”

It is the feminine section of the public whom this “hollering” is chiefly designed. For if a woman is not wondering what she is going to wear, she is probably thinking how nice a new carpet will look in the dinning room. But it is the men who are to blame. As they go to work all day and leave the woman at home to wonder and to fall easy prey to the art of the advertising manager.”

7th June 4:30 The B.B.C. artist Carroll Levis and his Discoveries appear at Owen Owen to introduce the “Tea Time Trio” who will be playing at the Hippodrome. 

[Film staring Carroll Levis can be found on the BFI player – click here]

Hundreds of holidaymakers mobbed Carroll Levis when he appeared. The opening programme was relayed to the ground and first floors where many people unable to find accommodation in the Café listened to the artists. Outside the stores, a solid block of people waited to have a glimpse of one of radio’s most popular personalities.

Fred Hill and Alfred Russell of no fixed abode were charged with using obscene language in Cross Cheaping. P.C. Horton said the men were shouting outside of Owen Owen and threatened to break windows. They went to the milk bar but were turned away, again using bad language. They were both fined £1 which they were unable to pay so were imprisoned for 14 days.

Power Cut to the city between 1:23 – 1:45 causing a complete blackout in the basement Snack Bar of Owen Owen. Customers had to finish their lunch by candlelight.

Giant Cake on display to mark Owen Owen’s 1st Birthday. At 3 pm Friday 15th September the cake will be cut by Phil Taylor (world skating champion)   and Elsie Heathecote (Britain’s loveliest skating champion) both starting in the great ice show “Winder Sparks” at the Hippodrome. The ceremony to be broadcast throughout the store. 

Mr Duncan Norman Director of Owen Owen

“From the moment of our decision to build and open the store, he said we have received nothing but help, encouragement and consideration from all those with whom we have come into contact – from the Corporation – through its members and its first class body of officials and from the press and from the general public. Also, thanks to our fellow traders of Coventry. We look forward to the future development and progress of the city of Coventry as a shopping centre”.

Apparently, the firm had made mistakes at the start of their career in the city. An instance was not realising how great were the numbers of young people in the city, but they now felt they could supply the young folk with their requirements at the prices they wished to pay.

 National promotion of physical fitness. Exhibitions of the health, sport and fitness to be held at Owen Owen, attended by over 8,000 visitors. Lord Leigh Opens the week-long exhibit with the speech –

“During the last month people had been shaken out of the apathy into which they had fallen after the war, the crisis had made them wonder whether they had not become a little soft and comfortable. We have to shake ourselves out of this comfort. The situation in Europe was such that they would have to tackle in the near future problems which would call for a clear mind and sound bodies.”

The exhibition will include a number of models, the largest of which, a great municipal sports and recreation centre is over 15 feet long. Hundreds of photographs will be on display covering every phase of the subject.

Miss Evelyne Laye (who is appearing this week at the New Hippodrome) inspected some home and kitchen bargains including a saucepan.

“I am a keen housewife myself and I am having a cottage built near London. I am personally supervising all the furnishing and equipping of my new residence. So pots and pans are specially interesting to me at the present time!”.

Theft – The same women who stole black clothing from Marks and Spencer also steal from Owen Owen. The items were for a funeral.  

“Why be dull in the winter time?”

Fashion parade at Owen Owen displaying all manner of gaily coloured tartan woolly frocks

Owen Owen Players in “Baa Baa Black Sheep” is probably the least successful of the produced stage works of Ian Hay and P.G. Woodhouse, but the Owen Owen Players captured its spirit of fun at the Sibree Hall, raising money for the Purley Schools.

The play was the polished work of Edward Neighbour, who blessed with an enviable stage presence took every situation easily in his stride. His frolics as a pseudo-clergyman made his elementary farce acceptable and he revelled in the tangle of misrepresentation and misunderstandings.

He was by far the outstanding performer but under the direction of Eric Smith, most of the other players reached a high level of acting. For instance, the village sergeant, portrayed by Winder Williams, was more believable than most versions that I have seen on the professional stage.

Eric Giles as a supposedly Puritanical magistrate made brief but convincing appearances. Villager characterisations by James Hopner, Jennie Bamber, Gladys Ramsay and Daphne Dickson were amusing, and Barbra Finlay worked hard to make her leading role of the masquerade effective. The Owen Owen players with their initial production early this year proved themselves strong contributors to Coventry’s amateur stage.

But I prefer to see them handling material more serious than “Baa Baa Blacksheep”!

See fee father Christmas & the Silver Jubilee Express, Second Floor Owen Owen.

Did you know as many as 20 children are lost and found again every day in Coventry during the Christmas shopping rush? At Owen Owen it is the practice for lost children to be taken to the inquiry bureau, where they can content themselves with a storybook until their mothers arrive to collect them.

While in some cases the children have been returned to their parents after being lost for only a few minutes, several hours have elapsed before others could be happily restored.

1938 December – Sanforized-shrunk shirting measuring 129ft was hung on the front of the store for 7 days and 7 nights. It was then washed 7 times by the London laundry to show its non-shrinking qualities.

IT DID NOT SHRINK

A FRACTION OF AN INCH!

Theft  – Mrs Phyllis Margery Tomkinson stole several articles. She said she went to the store to get some hot milk for her child. She felt hot and ill. Her husband informed the bench that his wife had been very ill. When told the fine was £2 the woman fainted and had to be carried out of court.

Dance – Over 420 staff and friends of Owen Owen attended the carnival dance by the stores social club in the Rialto Casino last night.

Fire 9.30 smoke was seen coming from the top floor of Messr Owen Owen’s store. The fire was in a tallboy (or Wardrobe) in the furniture department on the third floor. Another package was found placed behind a book in the library. The fire was started on purpose – similar to a spate of fires in the city including one at the Burtons, Marks and Spencer, Woolworths Store an hour and a half later that same day. An envelope containing nitric acid in a toy balloon and magnesium power started the fires. Links to the I.R.A. have been suggested.

Theft – Frances Newell (17) from Rugby fined for stealing a neckless, along with a nine year old girl who also stole a number of items.

Theft – Violet Sillito (32) housewife Lower Ford street & Frances Elizabeth Thomas (25), Tallants Road fined for stealing. At the end of the case Mrs Sillito fainted and had to be carried out of court.

Lost –ladies black fur glove in or near Owen Owen, Will finder please return 4 Wright Street Coventry – Reward!

We won’t labour the point. It’s obvious that the fit of a corset can make or mar the most carefully modelled frock or costume. We have a private fitting room where your Twilfit corset can be fitted with the assistance and advice of our experienced corsetier.

Private Fitting Room First Floor.

Theft – Husband and Wife Benjamin Harry and Elizabeth Harry charged with stealing a child’s Mackintosh & cape for their daughter. Both fined. 

Chairman Mr Duncan Norman announces the company had not expected to make a net profit in the first full year working – but they had done so well there was a small profit.

“We are quite certain that we can anticipate a happy future for this Coventry business”.

Owen Owen Players present “A Bill of Divorcement” by Clemence Dane at Sibree Hall in aid of the Coventry Nursing Association.

Although it was an ambitious production for an amateur society the players initially and collectively were convincing. An outstanding performance was given by Eric Smith as Hillary Fairfield a man who having been certified insane recovers his senses and returns home to find that his wife well played by Jennie Bamber has divorced him to marry Gray Meredith played by Edward Neighbour.

Hilary is left in the care of his daughter, Sydney who has given up her fiancé, Kit Pumphrey when she knows there is hereditary insanity in the family. Marjorie Brewer gave an excellent interpretation of the irresponsible and outspoken Sydney and was well supported by Clifford Harrop as kit. Eric Giles (The Reverend C. Pumphrey) and Nicholas James (Dr. Elliott) acquitted themselves well, while Flora Pollock gave a praiseworthy study of a puritanical maiden aunt.

In conjunction with Courtaulds, Owen Owen present the Rayon Fashion Show.

Theft – Edna Park (17) telephone operator and a 14-year-old stole three pairs of ladies hose, a pair of socks and two art silk dresses. Probation 12 months.

Swill – Owen Owen have 20 bins (approx.) of café swill per week. This is an excellent opportunity for any stockbreeder who requires good weight producing food at an economical price.

Dangerous Driving – Stanley Wells (37) charged with driving without due care and attention. He drove down Trinity Street crashing into a Taxi and mounted the pavement heading toward the shop window of Owen Owen but was stopped by a Bus queue barrier missing the window by only 3ft. Charged £5 10s. 

W.V.S. Display – A National Service display arranged by the National Service Committee and manned by members of the Women’s Voluntary Staffed by women in the attractive and practical uniforms. An official of the A.R. P headquarters said – 

“ We are ready to start our general scheme immediately the code message to do so is received. The telephone here is being manned throughout the 24 hours of the day”.

People were again flocking to A.R.P. offices with inquiries to be fitted with respirators. Shopping activity for window darkening materials, candles and preserved foodstuffs, continues.

Recruitment stand for National Service was opened on Friday 1st September at Owen Owen.

Relief fund for the Broadgate I.R.A. bombing – Owen Owen Ltd contribute £20 Staff of Owen Owen contribute £5 6s & 4 1/2 pence

Theft – Margaret Gibson (28) seen by Detective constable Dickens acting suspiciously. When followed she threw herself down the escalator which was coming up from the basement. Picking herself up and made her escape, but later arrested by P.C. Tansley. She was to have been drunk. Fined.

Theft – Myra Irene Shanks (32) stole hats, stockings, a vest, a toy panda and a pot of cream. Fined £5.

Lost in Owen Owen – Scarab Ring, sentimental value reward Stage Door, Hippodrome.

1939 November

350 Women Wardens needed but only 60 have so far enrolled.  The primary objective of the wardens is to keep the populace calm during the course of an air raid. The supervisor, Miss Betty Winslow said –

“Homely sort of women is what we want. They must be level headed, in fact, the sort of women the neighbours would run to if they were in trouble at any time.”

Applicants must be between 35 and 50 years of age. When an air raid warning sounds they would be allocated to the shelters in the city centre, which include those at Owen Owen, British Home Stores, Smarts, Mills and Mills the Cathedral crypt and others in Cox Street, White Friars Street, Bishop Street, Bayley Lane, West Orchard, High Street, Hay Lane, Much Park Street, Broadgate, the Market Hall Cellars and at the Gas and Electricity Showrooms in Corporation Street.

Enrol at Owen Owen today!

Theft – Ronald Barham (40) stole a pair of gloves and a woollen scarf. Due to previous offences, he was sentenced to three months hard labour.

Appeal – Norway appeals for Wool for their armed forces to fight in the depths of winter, many stores including Owen Owen donate.

Attempted Theft – Housewife Edith Avery (23) 22 Birchfield Road charged with the theft of a handbag. Miss Sarah Roderick said she observed the women handling several bags in the handbag department. The woman dragged a bag towards her surreptitiously and after looking round her walked away and then began to run. The store detective followed –

the defendant turned around and said

“You are following me”

The detective replied

“Yes I am. I am the store detective and you have taken a bag without paying for it”.

The police arrested the defendant – used the defence said she picked up several handbags, put one down and did not realise she had the shop handbag in her hand. The charge was dismissed.

Theft – Margaret Watson stole items along with Jemima Gibb Noble (38) a well-dressed mother of five, the eldest is 21, stole a dress and various other articles. Due to prior convictions, she was sentenced to 28 days imprisonment with hard labour. With her husband in employment, she had no reason to thieve. When the sentence was announced the prisoner wept and another woman was carried screaming from the court. Margaret Watson received a fine.  

Theft – Florence Plummer (31) stole hats, bottles of perfume and other articles. Her husband was in France and she had four children and only 42 s a week with which to keep them [about £80 in today’s money]. Probation.

Theft – Mary Cronin (30) maid of no fixed abode from Killarney stole a pair of gloves and razors. Fined.

Theft – Elsie Mansell (36) and Isobella Scott (26) both married and apparently living together stole various articles. Both received a fine. 

Mrs Griffiths who announced the Coventry Police Court decision said –

“The magistrates have got to stop you women going around pilfering from shops. This kind of thing becomes a positive menace”

Half day opening – Discussion on Half day opening. Coventry Half Day is Thursday the same day most of Coventry workers are paid, forcing people to travel to Birmingham. 

Mr Duncan Norman managing director talks to the Coventry Psychology Group at the Geisha Café on the topic “Psychology in Business”. He stressed the importance of giving subordinates free rein in the suggestion of ideas. Members of office staffs, he said, should never be afraid of going to their immediate chief with suggestions for improvement.

Theft – 12-year-old girl stole several items. Her mother said she had run wild since the schools had been closed. She also said her husband was in the hospital and not expected to live. Probation 12 months.

1940 February Injury – Thomas Donnelly (28) walked into a plate glass window at Messrs Owen Owen on Wednesday night during the blackout. He cut his head and was taken to the hospital.

Hair – Owen Owen won a diploma in the Eugene 21st anniversary window display competition for which Sir William Crawford K.B.E. was chairman of judges.  The competition was open to hairdressers and stores throughout Great Britain.

“Despite the grievous loss of selling space caused by the talking over of a great part of one of the principal selling floors as a public air raid shelter the business continues to go right ahead”

Lost – Upstairs Ladies toilet – will the person who found Wallet Purse (belonging to a soldier’s wife) containing notes and silver, kindly return to 86 Beanfield Avenue. 

Colour – At the outbreak of the war women suddenly became practical. During those first few weeks, they brought plain, serviceable clothes, tailored frocks, and warm overcoats, and imagined that their choice was going to see them through for the duration.

Now with the first burst of Spring sunshine, all these good resolutions seem to have been thrown to the wind. The fact that women are still interested in new fashions was evident.

It is a well-known fact that colours have a psychological effect upon the wearer and in order to keep up the spirits of the “home front” the new Spring shades are to be brighter and gayer than ever this year. With a three-day display of all the latest Courtaulds’ “Tested-Quality” fabrics.

Opening Hours – Customers had become accustomed to black-out hours of opening hours. Now it is Spring, and the evenings are getting lighter there is a discussion about later opening hours, but concern that comes autumn, change to the hours will become  

Theft – Lydia Tasker & Doris Hickey stole a powder puff, two pairs of stockings & handkerchiefs – Fined.

Theft – William Edward Randall (55) sole a clock. He had been drinking and was seen to take the clock and put it in his pocket. He had 10 previous convictions. Randall who said he suffered from his nerves was sent to prison for three months with hard labour.

Theft – Edna Partridge (32) housewife stole lady’s wearing apparel and a bottle of perfume. Fined.

Madam Kusharney Psycho-Analyst – Direct from her B.B.C. audition is to carries out readings for two weeks. Free sessions will be given in the restaurant 2nd floor between 10.00 and 11.30 am and 3.00 and 4.00 

Theft – Mrs Elizabeth Blackett (42) stole gloves & socks. Fined.

Required – Lift girls – tall and of good appearance. ​

Theft – Phyllis Parry (34) stole various items. Fined.

Protect yourself from flying glass – An anti-splinter protection for your windows can be quickly and simply applied by the fixing of curtain net inside the glass – available at Owen Owen.

Missing – Sergeant Henry Lewes Price (36) Royal Warwickshire regiment married and lived at 17 Grove Street Coventry – bandsman in the territorials for a number of years and former employee of Owen Owen – Missing in action. 

Theft – Phyllis Dora Cassell stealing a mackintosh – case dismissed for lack of evidence. 

Theft – Renee Kate Golspink (25) stole a necktie and belt – fined.

Wedding Reception – Mr Geoffrey Victor Dipple and Miss Dorothy Butler hold their wedding reception at the Owen Owen Café.

Theft – Mary Colquhoun & Isabel McPheators, Mary Ann Waugh and Jane Agnew stole dresses, Slippers and woollen goods. All fined. 

Theft – John Edward Still  & Mary Ellen Still stole items several items. Both fined.

Shopping hours changed store will open at 10.30 each morning for the next two weeks.  

Domestic Science Lecture-demonstrations will be given at Owen Owen from by the domestic science staff of the makers of Bird’s Custard, Jellies and other fine food products. Miss Clare demonstrates Cottage Garden Casserole along with explaining the benefits of healthy foods sourced from an allotment, wasting no leaves is the answer.

With the increased tax of luxury goods, women will also have to cut down on cosmetics or find substitutes. Good cold cream can be made out of lard mixed with a little milk and witch hazel.

War Weapons Week organised by Coventry Local Savings Committee will have a display of pictures depicting the activities of the Army, Navy and Air Force, scale models of aeroplanes (including German fighters and bombers) will be on display at a number of bureaux across the city, including Owen Owen.

Theft – Nora Connolly (29) tempted by impulse stole three pairs of silk stockings. Fined.

1940

15th October – Owen Owen suffers bomb damage

16th October Will all staff please report at the staff entrance tomorrow (Thursday 17th October) in the following order

Café – 9:30 am, Ground Floor Staff 10.00am Lower Ground Floor and First Floor 10.30am Office and Service Staff 11.00am.

17th October – Owen Owen are proud to announce that owing to the loyalty and industry of their staff, they are able to open the store tomorrow, Friday at 2.30 pm.

1940 - 14th November: Last Advert of Owen Owen...

No child saw the winter wonderland - like much of Coventry, it was destroyed on the night of the 14th November 1940

November 19th – Owen Owen (Coventry) Ltd NOTICE TO ALL STAFF – All instructions to staff will be published through the columns of this paper. A staff office to deal with queries will be opened in the city as soon as possible. All wage clerks are asked to report to Miss Arthwison, Linden House, 4 Spencer Road Coventry.

November 21st – Notice to all staff – Temporary offices have been opened at 2 Queen’s Road Coventry. All staff are asked to call there on Friday or Saturday next for their wages and further instructions. If possible please call at the following times – Selling Staff: Friday from 10 am to 1 pm, Café Staff Friday 2 pm to 4 pm Non-Selling Staff Saturday 10 am – 1 pm.

November 26th – Owen Owen wishes to announce that they will shortly Reopen in smaller premise on the opposite side of Trinity Street –

The opening date will be announced later.