I'm rather late for Sepia Saturday #311 because we've been away relaxing at the beach over the Christmas/New Year week, but I would like to share these photographs taken by my late father-in-law Bob Featherston in Market Street in the city of Leicester. Bob was held as a prisoner of war for over two years from January 1943 until liberation in 1945, first in Stalag V111B in Lamsdorf and then in Stalag Luft 111 in Sagan. I'm not sure whether he took these photos while serving in the RAF before he was captured following an unsuccessful mission, or after his release when the war was officially over, but in the first image the Air Raid Shelter sign is clearly visible above the market stalls.
I've attempted to scan or photograph these images from Bob's large negatives, so they're not terribly clear, but nevertheless I think they convey the grim mood of the period, which is probably what struck Bob when he took them. The next image shows a large queue of customers lined up outside Folwells butcher shop in Market Place. Rationing would have been in force and of course meat was an essential food item, probably in short supply. In the next two photographs that I've cropped from the main photograph, you can see the signs for Pies and Sausages in one window and for Hams and Bacon in the other. Once they had made it to the head of the queue and had been served, the customers would have no doubt made sure they got what they were entitled to, like the lady seen checking her change in the second cropped shot.
I doubt whether these purposeful shoppers would have had time to stop for a coffee, but to the left of Folwells you can see the sign for the Mikado Cafe, which was located at 67 Market Place. According to an article published in the Leicestershire Historian, the Mikado "was owned by a London firm, Nelson & Co, and dated from the turn of the century. In spite of its name, the decor, with its murals of coloured tiles, was definitely Turkish. A common sight was a man in a chef's hat roasting coffee beans in the window, the aroma drifting across the Market Place. In its later years an attempt was made to modernize the downstairs part, which was in three sections, with the intrusion of plastic and formica, but the upstairs dining room, with its wicker furniture, remained unchanged. The Mikado Cafe was closed and the premises sold in 1966. It is described by William Cooper in his novel Scenes from Provincial Life, published in 1950."
Together with the first image, these next three photographs show customers buying fruit and vegetables at the market opposite the shops. You can see a sign for the milliners Gee Nephew & Co Ltd above their shop behind the cartload of produce. Again the sense of determination to get what they need is conveyed. There probably weren't too many of them who had gone out simply to buy hats at this time, but you never know - there are quite a few men and women wearing hats here.
Just click here to discover more Sepia Saturday contributions involving shops, shopping, markets and produce. Happy New Year to you all!