Inside the Chichester shop where time stood still

There was once a jewellery shop in Chichester where time stood still. For 50 years, Allen remained unchanged, with neon lighting one of the few concessions to modernity.

Monday, 10th January 2022, 9:11 am
The huge clock was perhaps a surplus adornment in a shop where time did not really seem to matter
The huge clock was perhaps a surplus adornment in a shop where time did not really seem to matter

In South Street in the mid-1980s, you could step off the street and travel back in time to the 1930s just by going through the door of the jewellery shop.

Until 1986, little had changed in the shop in more than 50 years. It was lined with glass cabinets of dark wood and in front of the counter was a Bentwood seat upon which a customer could rest awhile and pass the time of day.

The proprietors were Mr Charles ‘Ronnie’ Allen and his sister Miss Mary ‘Maisie’ Allen, who retired to Fishbourne once the shop was sold. They displayed the leisurely courtesy of a bygone age and all the troubles of inhumane high-tech were unknown behind the curved glass shopfront.

Charles 'Ronnie' Allen and his sister Mary 'Maisie' Allen in their jewellery shop, where neon lighting was one of their few concessions to modernity

Records were penned in ledgers, loose papers were filed on hook-topped metal spikes and the slow procession of time ticked by on a mighty wall clock, bearing the name Allen of Chichester. The clock had been made for the founder of the business, Mr Charles Allen, who played a large part in the life of the city and gave many years of service to Chichester City Council, becoming mayor in 1934-35.

Do you know of sealing wax? No home or business was complete without it, until sticky tape was invented in the late 1930s. At Allens, a little gas jet above the counter was used to soften the red wax and purchases were carefully wrapped, then sealed with the wax.

It was thanks to members of Chichester Photographic Group that pictures of the interior of Allens were captured for posterity, because no sooner was the shop sold than it was all gone, due to redevelopment.

Charles Allen gave many years of service to Chichester City Council and was mayor in 1934-5
Records were penned in ledgers and loose papers were filed on hook-topped metal spikes