Peter Smith: 'The holes in the fabric of our town'

Peter Smith, from Cromer.

Peter Smith, from Cromer. - Credit: Supplied by Peter Smith

Our streets are forever changing, and not always for the better. In his latest column, Cromer resident Peter Smith, 88, talks about the 'holes' he sees in the fabric of town centres. 

Every time I go to Norwich on the bus I hope to see that someone has bought Debenham’s and that it’s open for business again. Empty shops seem to me to be holes in the fabric of a community. When that community is as small as Cromer every hole is gaping.

The former Norfolk Food and Drink Company branch in Tucker Street, Cromer. 

The former Norfolk Food and Drink Company branch in Tucker Street, Cromer. - Credit: Supplied by Peter Smith

A have taken a photo of a former shopfront on Tucker Street, which is now vacant, and so is one of the holes in the town's fabric.

It has been unoccupied for months. But there are two more holes, one of them - where Postle’s appliance shop used to be - is very big (1,2OO square feet) and it’s on Church Street and therefore unmissable.

The former JB Postle electronics retailer in Garden Street, Cromer. 

The former JB Postle electronics retailer in Garden Street, Cromer. - Credit: Supplied by Peter Smith

On the other hand (in the spirit of the half-full and half-empty glass idea) every empty shop is an opportunity.  

The travel agent’s that was a Covid casualty is soon to reopen as a nail salon.  

The site of the former Hays Travel branch in High Street, Cromer. 

The site of the former Hays Travel branch in High Street, Cromer. - Credit: Supplied by Peter Smith

And where K Hardware used to be there is now a fine delicatessen and (an odd combination) an establishment serving the needs of surfers.

Most Read

Cromer - like all small towns that emerged long before there was such a thing as town and country planning - is essentially organic, the streets in its centre having originally been cowpaths centuries ago.  

The town is also beautifully self-contained. The retirement of Mr and Mrs Kirkham from K Hardware late last year means that we no longer have a place where we can go and buy a few cup-hooks when we need them.

And Postle’s consolidating in Sheringham means that if we need a new oven or television we shall need to go out of town.

But for the most part someone like me - an 88-year-old pensioner without a car - can satisfy all his shopping needs easily.  

Indeed when my son came over from the United States on a visit recently he was very impressed by how I could satisfy all my needs.

On one day, this included picking up both some shoes from the repairer and some new specs from the optician, which I was able to do by walking less than a hundred yards from the cottage I rent on Garden Street.

I don’t know if Cromer’s compactness has anything to do with its friendliness but it strikes me that it may.

A couple of weeks ago I took a tumble as I was heading home and within moments someone had brought a chair, someone else a blanket and a third person some bandages from Boots the chemist while someone called for an ambulance.

As I write those words I realise that such attentions would be forthcoming in most places, but what may not be so common is the follow-up that came from my the staff of neighbourhood shops. 

As mentioned, the shop I mentioned at the start of this piece is on Tucker Street, which is a kind of 'Cinderella' thoroughfare.

Indeed there is a rather forlorn street sign on Church Sreet that tries to draw attention to its existence - because it 'doesn’t go anywhere'.  

The street has three charity establishments already but its bakery proves that it’s viable if the right combination of enterprise and purpose can be found. But I have to admit that the large empty space where Postle’s used to be worries me most - I miss its hustle and bustle.