Mike Edwards Photography

Home About [ Shelf Life E4: E11: E18: ] Work Rest Play London in Between Projects

W.D.CHAPMAN. BUTCHERS. WOODFORD GREEN SINCE 1890.

PARTNERS RICHARD AND PETER CHAPMAN AND SISTER, SUE.

The story by Sue: I've traced the family business back three generations to at least 1890. The business has always been in and around Woodford, and we moved to these premises before the 2nd World War. We used to have a slaughter house nearby, but because of the regulations around rationing at that time, it had to close, so now we buy in our meat as whole or half carcasses, and butcher it ourselves.

It still comes from the local area, and we make sure it's all free range, so at least we know the animal has had a happy life outdoors. In fact, in the days when carcasses used to hang outside the front of the shop, we could even give our customers the history of the animal, like where it was grazed.

That practice is frowned upon now, as the general public can't cope with the sight of the carcass, I think as a result of the packaging of small pieces of rather anonymous looking meat on supermarket shelves. However, in this shop, we are busy with a new generation of customers, who do want to know the origin and care taken with the meat they are buying. It's turning full circle, it seems, but we don't have any plans to hang carcasses outside again!

I came into the business thirty years ago to help out Auntie Ivy, my Dad's sister, who used to be in this cashier's booth. She was very popular as she always gave out Polo mints to customers, but bless her, in later years, she also gave out too much change, so to help protect our profits, she retired, and I have been Cashier and Bookkeeper ever since. Away from work, I've always loved horses, and have owned five over the years. In fact,Mick O'Dwyer, the Farrier in this book, looked after my horses hooves for me! I took the horses to local show competition standard, but no more for me, as I ended up on my back in the dirt too many times for my own good! It still hurts me sometimes!

My brother Richard has been here for about fifty years, and Peter has been making all our sausages and burgers by hand for something like forty five years! We have another brother, David, who keeps a few cattle, and helps us with the odd order or two. Unfortunately, none of our children show any desire to keep the business going when we retire.

We've had a few funny experiences over the years, like the elderly lady who didn't pay too much attention to her personal hygiene. It was before the days of aerosol air fresheners, so we used to singe chicken feathers in the shop when she left, to improve the aroma! An ex-army chap still shops here for his 'desert chicken,' otherwise known as corned beef. Not sure which name I prefer!

But the funniest story was when I hadn't been working here for very long. A very elderly man came into the shop and wanted to make a confession! He told us that when he was a young lad, he used to deliver meat for us by bike. Do you remember, those bikes with the big basket on the front. This was in the days when Whitehall Road was a dirt track, so it's going back a long, long time. Anyway, in those days, the meat for delivery wasn't wrapped, and he told us he hit a pothole one day, and all the meat ended up in the dirt. He'd kept it secret for all those years that he picked it all up, washed it in the horse trough, and then delivered it!

I'd like to think we've improved our Health and Hygiene standards since then!