(Please note that the three illustrations are not in Oliver Ratcliff’s book.)
Messrs J W & E Sowman, Ironmongers, Olney’
The business under their direction has gone up by leaps and bounds, and finding the old shop inadequate to carry on their growing business they erected their imposing new shop, with warehouses, store-rooms, and well appointed workshops. In short, from time to time improvements have been made, which have resulted in the formation of one of the best and most conveniently appointed business premises within a radius of many miles. The shop is well built on three storeys.

An early view of the interior of Sowmans warehouse
Sited behind No. 33, the ironmongery shop

The ground floor is utilised as a retail shop and well fitted for showing customers samples of their various requirements in all branches of ironmongery, fancy goods, hardware, cutlery, electro-plated wares including tea and coffee services, cruets, etc, of all sorts, copper and brass goods, sporting guns and games of all sorts, gramophones, and everything appertaining to an up-to-date store. We notice that there is also a very useful lift for sending stoves and heavy goods to the first and second floors, also spacious offices well arranged for light and comfort.

On the first floor the visitor’s attention is attracted by the fine selection of ranges and cooking stoves, mantel pieces with pretty designs in tiled grates, hearths, and accessories such as kerbs, fire brasses, etc, assortment of baths, lamps, gas fittings, gas stoves, and an endless variety of brackets, gasoliers, fancy shades which have pleasing effects; also furniture, bedsteads, etc. The second floor is devoted to storing the vast number of every day wants that are called for in the wholesale and retail trades. Fine views can be obtained of the surrounding country from the windows here. We now descend and find ourselves in the shop again; from thence we inspect the new workshops fitted with the most modem appliances for making work a pleasure with gas engine, lathe, grinder, etc; also the cycle repairing shop which is roomy and light.

No’s 32, 33 & 34 Market Place and the Parish Pump – c. 1910
Note the display of agricultural implements on the Market Place itself

We passed through the large galvanised iron stores where we noticed all kinds of implements, mills, etc, and then to the seed and furniture warehouse. Lace pillows and all things necessary for making the far-famed Buckinghamshire lace are stored to be sent to all parts of the world as required, viz, thread, pins, pillows, horses, bobbins, bobbin winders etc. The firm has a separate bicycle and motor shop and stores at the other extremity of the town. They are agricultural machinists, seedsmen, gas and hot water fitters, tin smiths, copper smiths, motor car and cycle repairers and each department of their business receives that practical personal superintendence without which success cannot be obtained. We notice the firm delivers its goods by its own vehicles for a radius of fifteen to twenty miles by road, which customers find a great convenience.’



Sowmans new building at No. 33 – c. 1910
It clearly dominates the south side of the Market Place
Photograph kindly provided by Alan Richardson

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