ON THE left-hand side of this photograph, just beyond the plain white walls of the Temperance Hall, are three very narrow shops, all of which in size and structure, still remain much the same today.

The site was once the garden of the Temperance Hall, until developed as a motor garage after World War I.

Andover Advertiser: The bottom of London Street in Andover, c1966The bottom of London Street in Andover, c1966 (Image: possibly John Marchment)

However, increased traffic by the 1930s made the site unsuitable for such a location and it was then that the three shops were constructed.

Furthest from the photographer is the antiques shop, run by Adeline Hesketh-Gibson during the 1960s and ‘70s, called ‘Antiques and Other Things’.

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A narrow showcase occupied one wall outside the shop itself, while the two-sided window and glass-panelled door provided a good view of the inside.

To a shy youngster, Mrs Hesketh-Gibson was daunting, with her upper-crust accent and self-assurance which together could wither all comers from 20 paces.

Fascinating though were the rows of old English coins hanging in plastic packets from strings across the inside of the shop door and I knew from a first visit (after daring to enter) that there was a locked mahogany box of more coins at the other end of the shop near where the proprietress emerged from her hidden office.

This she did whenever the tinkling of the shop bell forewarned her that a potential customer had arrived.

Twelve-year-old boys were not very welcome and the look on her face was as if to say, ‘Oh, a child! Time-wasting or trying to steal something. Or worse, trying to sell something that is already stolen’.

The shop was so narrow that it was impossible to walk around; it was either go forward in a straight line or go back. Such was the formality of the place that when leaving it seemed correct form to walk backwards, so as not to turn away from Mrs H-G, standing at the far end.

The shop was always exceptionally clean and the smell of Antiquax furniture polish, sold there in blue circular tins, was all around.

Brass and copper kettles, scuttles and saucepans all gleamed and were laid out to perfection as far as the shop dimensions allowed.

There were high shelves to the right holding ceramic jugs and jardineres, tall vases or wide-bellied pots.

Lining the walls was white painted pegboard on which were hung a multitude of ceramic plates and dishes, while figurines and china cottages rested on the furniture or were placed in cabinets.

Some of it was not so old as it might have appeared and modern copies of Staffordshire pottery and horsebrasses - evidently bought in from a warehouse - were dotted around here and there.

Two people in the shop made it crowded, with each having to navigate the other.

All the while Mrs Hesketh-Gibson would stand with her hands on her coin-filled mahogany box, surveying the scene and making sale-encouraging remarks.

I remember going in once and asking if she had any old silver sixpences.

The lid of the box was unlocked and she diligently rummaged among the coins inside.

After a few moments of searching and rejecting, she held up an example of 1902 and thrust it towards me for my inspection.

How I should have loved to have had a good look in the box myself but no, it was not for public inspection and least of all by somebody who was not even an adult.

‘It’s 50p; can you afford that?’

‘Yes, I’ve got just over a pound.’

‘Thank-you’, she said as I handed over my 50p. She looked closely at the sixpence I was buying and then remarked ‘Ah, 1902, long before you and I were born.’

I thought but dared not say, ‘It can’t be too long before you were born’ and hastened out of the shop as she said good-bye in her lofty way.

Years later, I got to know both Mrs Hesketh-Gibson and her husband Bill rather better and they were both extremely kind and helpful to me.

But I could never really expel those feelings of foreboding that entering the shop in my ‘salad days’ conjured up.

Many times, I looked into that shop window with mixed feelings of temptation and nervousness.

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Sometimes, the sight of something interesting quickened the spirit and sufficiently dispelled any fears - or at least some of them.

The door was pushed open, the shop bell rang and the shopkeeper emerged from the back once more; a business-like smile and a ‘Good morning’.

But with successive visits there was a slight thawing of the wintry look and a gradual melting into the first signs of spring.

If you are interested in local history, why not join Andover History and Archaeology Society? Details can be found at www.andoverlocalhistoryarchaeology.uk