Challans Hardware is an interesting shop in that it is the only one that was there at the time of the Second World War which is still there now. In both 1928 and 1941, John T Challans was described as an ironmonger. So, this ties in with the 1969 advert which stated that they had been in business for over 40 years. He does not appear in the1898 Kelly’s Directory. Unsurprisingly, Challans Ironmonger appears on Jacques’ List of Station Street retailers circa 1920-1940.
Memories of Challans
A Treasure Trove
Mark Ashfield describes this shop as a treasure trove in “Christmas Pigs and a Summer Donkey” (p19). He explains, “those were not the days of refined D.I.Y. with laminated board, quick-to-assemble furniture, non-drip paint but the needs of the time were met, and for a bob or two one could emerge into the busy street with a diverse selection of ironmongery.
There was an unhurried calm about the place, and one of its features was shelf upon shelf of wooden pigeon-holes all filled with small cardboard boxed of nails, cup-hooks, brackets and the like. Much was on display, but some things had to be found, and often a long ladder was placed painstakingly against the shelves so that Mr Challans, with an air of resignation could climb laboriously towards the high ceiling to reach a dozen required screws and hand them over for a few old pence. a multiplicity of such transactions was the foundation on which the business prospered.
There was an all-pervading smell of paraffin from the large drum in the corner. A comfort, no doubt, to Mr Challans, who served you in winter wearing a pair of woollen mittens, but who looked far from warm even in summer. The cry was often heard ‘I should try Challans. Ten to one he’ll have it;’ It was true of the shop then, as it is, greatly refurbished, now, and one remembers watching at home the hole in an iron saucepan being repaired with a metal patch (purchased from Challans) that ensured the utensil remained in service“.
Charles Reynard, in a comment on Kirkby Living Memory Facebook Group, recalled an incident at Challans, “I had a rather roguish school pal a year older than me and l tagged along with him when he went into Challans hardware shop. He needed a smallish piece of wire netting for a rabbit hutch. The lady in the shop carefully cut a short section from a large roll and announced that it was going to cost him eleven and a half old pennies. My pal then replied he had no money, could she put it aside and he’d call back later? He never did return and that piece of wire netting is probably still gathering dust in the shop! I didn’t dare go in the shop again for years.“
In another comment on Kirkby Living Memory Facebook Group, Ellen Flint noted, “Loved the shops. I was a machinist and got my scissors sharpened at the hardware my husband used to get his rubbing oils from there too in his football years they were the best.” Doris Shirley noted that she loves Challans “but loved it better when it wasn’t so well organised. You could buy one screw or a nut, bolt . They had a wooden display on the counter to choose from . It was like an aladins cave to me.” Like Mark Ashfield, she recalled that it smelled of paraffin. Charlie Klapkowski recalled buying fireworks there. In a comment on Kirkby-in-Ashfield People Facebook Group, Steph Barks simply noted, “I loved Challans“.
Perhaps the most humorous story comes from Michelle Nilhgoulcm who noted, “Oh my gosh I remember them. so embarrassed, My husband sent me in there for some Square headed tartan carpet tacks and like a Muppet off I went to ask. 15 mins they was looking and laughing. Young and naive I was back then.”
In June 2023, Samantha Arrowsmith started a discussion on Challans saying, “I haven’t been in Challans at Kirkby for years, I’d forgotten what a little gem it is. That shop has everything and prices are fantastic. Chap behind counter is lovely. I’m going make sure I go in there often now. It reminded me we should all shop locally when we can or can’t complain when Kirkby has no shops left.” In response, many people agreed with the comment. Clare Torbett commented that it was the only place she could find a rope washing line and metal poles. Samantha Arrowsmith also noted that it had not changed much over the years and had great wooden yard brushes.
In her book(let) “I Also Remember“ (p20), Edith Searson seems to imply that there were two shops with the Challans name. She noted that there was a Challans gift shop which had previously been a wallpaper and paint business. She noted that Gillian Lowe owned the business. “Nearby” was a busy ironmongery and hardware store which she noted was founded by a Mr Henfrey before being taken on by Mr and Mrs Challans. Later, she said Arthur and Barbara Machin became the owners.
In a comment on Kirkby Living Memory Facebook Group, Heather Mulholland also noted that Challans Gift Shop had been a wallpaper/decorating shop previously.
Challans Gift Shop and Gillian Lowe
Initially, I could not find any details of Gillian Lowe or Challans Gift Shop. I wondered if it might have been located at 25 Station Street, next door to Challans. I wondered if there could be a link to George and Mary Lowe who were living at number 25 in 1939. However, they had no children at that point and I could not find any Gillian connected to them.
I am grateful to Gill Crisp, in a comment on Kirkby Living Memory Facebook Group, for explaining that Challans Gift Shop was in the left hand side of what is now Domino’s at 21 Station Street. She noted that the gift shop was “run by the same family that had a hardware shop a bit further up. Mr Machin in the hardware shop and his daughter Gillian, along with her partner Cyril in the gift shop“. The gift shop was there until the early eighties when the lease ran out and the Nat West extended into the whole building.
The Gift Shop Was Established as an Extension of the Hardware Shop
The Gift Shop Moved Along Station Street
When Nat West extended into the entirety of 21 and 21a Station Street, Challans Gift Shop moved further along Station Street. Based on a post on Kirkby-in-Ashfield People Facebook Group, it appears that this move was to 31 Station Street. This seems to be confirmed by the comment by Christine Evans below which notes that what was once Challans Gift Shop is now a bookmakers. This was also confirmed by others, including Gill Crisp.
Recollections of Challans Gift Shop
In comments on Kirkby-in-Ashfield People Facebook Group, Loraine Prewett simply noted that she “loved that shop“. Linda Harvey noted that she “bought some glasses from challens when bottom drawing. Been married for 40 years in 2 weeks and yes I still have some of them.”
In a comment on Kirkby Living Memory Facebook Group, Christine Evans noted, “Challans gift shop was wonderful I used to buy lots of things from there and was always the place to go when looking for a gift for someone, it was a double fronted shop with window displays filled to the brim of lots of beautiful ornaments, glass wear, brass, handbags, purses, gloves and so much more and the property now houses the bookies.” Delm Gillbee added that every time she visited her sister, Janet, she would take her there to pick out something nice. Jan Quigley and Megan Finney recalled Challans ‘chances‘ which were a type of gift voucher. Jan recalled buying David Winter Cottages and a Royal Doulton dinner service with them. Megan used them to buy birthday and Christmas presents. Christine Evans also recalled these vouchers and that Challans had a Christmas club. Ellen Flint and Jane White recalled this gift club too and paying into it each week. Donna Elliott noted that she loved Challans Gift Club. Mandy Colledge noted that Arthur Machin was her great uncle and that she “used to love going in both shops when I was younger“. Carol Jones also bought things regularly at the gift shop. She noted that she still has canvas pictures on her wall that she bought from there. Jayne O’Carroll remarked, “when we first moved here 21 years ago we decorated our house and bought loads of bits from there for our living room and kitchen. Was a great shop.“
Cyril and Gillian Lowe
It turns out that Gillian Lowe had been Gillian Machin. Armed with this information, I found out that Cyril J Lowe and Gillian Machin married in 1982.
In a comment on Kirkby-in-Ashfield People Facebook Group, Ann Hill recalled that she went to school with Gillian Machin and that it had been her initiative to turn part of the DIY shop into a gift shop in the seventies and eighties.
I am very grateful to Steve Mcgough for letting us know in a comment on Kirkby Living Memory Facebook Group that he attended Jill’s funeral about three years ago and that Cyril passed away about three months ago.
Arthur Machin married Barbara Walker in Basford in 1944. Their daughter Gillian was born in 1946. They may have had two other children, Jennifer A (b1947) and Grahame (b1950).
Based on an article in the Notts Free Press in May 1973, it seems that Arthur Machin started working for Mr and Mrs Challans on 31 January 1948 when he was 31 years old. He later became owner of the premises and business. Following the death of Mrs Challans, Mr Challans sold the business to Arthur Machin prior to his own death in 1961.
The article also noted that Arthur was the fifth of eight children born to Mr and Mrs Charlie Machin of Low Moor Road. Arthur’s father was a haulage contractor. In a comment on Kirkby Living Memory Facebook Group, Frank Ball recalled four Machin brothers. In addition to Arthur, Vin had an off licence on Station Street, Charlie had coal delivery on Low Moor Road while another helped with coal delivery and furniture removal. Jane Burchell also recalled that it was Vin who had the “beer off” and she noted that it was George and Charlie who worked together. She also noted that Neil Machin had been in her class at infant school. Dot Clarke recalled that she used to play badminton with Neil Machin.
Based on this information, I found the family in the 1939 Register, at 120 Low Moor Road. Charles E and Hannah Machin were listed with five children – Charles N (b1909), George A (b1914), Kitty (b1919), Vincent E (b1922) and Colin (b.1925). The transcription has Charles E as a casting contactor but the original appears to read carting. He was also a funeral and carriage proprietor. Charles N and George A had the same occupation. Kitty was a ledger clerk, Vincent E was an assistant baker, bread and confectionery and Colin was a junior clerk in the Gas Department of KUDC. I am assuming that George A was in fact Arthur Machin.
According to Edith Searson, the ironmongery and hardware store at 27 Station Street was founded by a Mr Henfrey. We have already encountered Nelson Orson Henfrey at 25 Station Street. He and his family were recorded as living there in the 1901 and 1911 censuses. However, by 1921, they were living at 27 Station Street and I wonder if the properties were renumbered between 1911 and 2921. He was described as a painter and decorator but I wonder if he may also have run an ironmongery and hardware shop.
Residents of 27 Station Street
In the 1939 Register, John Challans was living at 27 Station Street with his wife Margaret and their son John D (b1915) who was a tool draughtsman on aircraft. He was also working as an auxiliary fireman.
As noted above, Nelson Orson and Elizabeth Henfrey were living here in 1921 with their grandaughter Olive (b1911). He was described as a retired painter and decorator.
In 1911, James and Blanche Buckley were living here. He was described as a draper shop-keeper.
In 1901, Sam and Minnie Field were living here with their daughter Rosemond (b1900). At that time, he was an assistant colliery manager.
Notts Free Press Article of 18 May 1973
In March 2017, the Kirkby-in-Ashfield People Facebook Group featured an article from the Notts Free Press in May 1973 focused on Challans.