Remembering Woking’s Skeet & Jeffes

BUILDERS’ Merchants and ironmongers Skeet & Jeffes was, for many years, one of Woking’s most well known businesses.

It was based on the corner of Chobham Road and Church Street in a somewhat landmark building. Regular reader Maurice Wakeham came across several interesting items relating to the firm while, during lockdown, delving into some boxes he hadn’t opened for some time.

LANDMARK: The Skeet & Jeffes building from a 1950 catalogue supplied by the firm

Maurice recalled that one of the teachers at his school must have had contact with Skeet & Jeffes because he asked one morning in assembly if anyone was interested in a Saturday job. Maurice was one of a small group who went along after school one day and, although he doesn’t remember having any sort of formal interview, a couple of days later he was one of three offered a job.

“We would work from 8am to 1pm on Saturdays and possibly extra hours if staff were required during holidays,” he said.

“The starting pay was three shillings an hour paid in cash, fortnightly, in a little brown envelope. I’m not sure when I started but it was almost certainly by 1967 and I finished (I think) in 1971.”

BAGGED UP: Loose nails and screws were sold by weight and supplied in plastic bags

Skeet & Jeffes was a family firm and the bosses were descended from the founders of the company, said Maurice. The firm had been in the building since 1907.

 “It was very grand looking from outside but inside some parts looked very old fashioned,” he said.

“My memory is of well-worn bare wooden floors and shelving especially around the entrance and on the upper floors. I was allocated to the paint and wallpaper department which they called Oil and Colour – and, at least in the public areas, was more modern and had its own entrance.

“We also sold a range of decorating and waterproofing materials including polystyrene tiles, plaster coving and ladders. Adjacent to Oil and Colour was a separate house and garden type of area which sold domestic household goods.

“The paint department manager was Harry Carter (known to some as George) who had worked there for many years and who lived in Chobham. Over the years there were several deputy managers. I don’t remember many of their names but there was one whose first name was Owen, who I think had previously run a nearby fishmongers, another came from the nearby Manders paint shop, and another who was delivered to work every morning in a chauffeur-driven car.”

NEWSTIME: Cover of a 1970 edition of the Essay Echo in-house social club’s magazine

Skeet & Jeffes’ social club published an in-house magazine called the Essay Echo, and Maurice has found two copies. He said: “Eric Theobald, one of the editors of the Essjay Echo, also worked in the Oil and Colour department for a while.

“My job initially meant sweeping the floors, tidying the dozens of wallpaper books and the tins on the shelves and serving behind the counter.

“Prices were written in pencil in a loose-leaf binder. There was a cost price, a trade price and a retail price. Receipts were written on a paper form on a hand-operated till. The main paint brand sold was Carson Paripan.

In 1950 Skeet & Jeffes produced a catalogue of over 750 pages of products sold, and Maurice recalls that large glossy magazine sized booklets were still produced in the 1960s.

He says the copies he has of the Essjay Echo show the company was quite a friendly place to work. The magazine carried information about the Essjay football club, the darts club, the angling club as well as the social club, which concerned itself with general welfare and organised theatre and sporting trips.

In about 1968 a large open plan building was opened in Church Street, next to where the multi-storey car park was built, said Maurice: “Which for me was an opportunity for a bit of overtime in the movement of stock from one site to the other. Although parking was plentiful, this site was a bit out on a limb of the Woking of the time.

“In the last few weeks I have had the first opportunity for several decades to wander around Woking. The site of the old Skeet & Jeffes store seems to have a Martian outside it now. Like the Chobham Road building, the replacement in Church Street has also gone without trace.”

In 1988, Skeet & Jeffes moved to Monument Way East, on the edge of Sheerwater. The firm closed in 1998.

If you have some memories or old pictures relating to the Woking and its people, call David Rose on 01483 838960, or drop a line to the News & Mail.

David Rose is a local historian and writer who specialises in what he calls “the history within living memory” of people, places and events in the west Surrey area covering towns such as Woking and Guildford. He collects old photos and memorabilia relating to the area and the subject, and regularly gives illustrated local history talks to groups and societies. For enquiries and bookings please phone or email him at: davidrosemedia@gmail.com

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