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Exeter folk and friends in their own words - 1890's to the 1990's │ << Previous storyNext story >>  │

Sylvia Hart - Grandmother Eliza Jane's business -  1890's to 1920's


"My Grandmother lived in Sun Street and originally the house that she lived in used to be the policemans' lodging house and she brought up five children and she was widow either the day my mother was born or her first birthday - never knew which."

There was no help in those days as regards money for people who are left like that so what she did, she bought herself a barrow and went to Milfords the fruiterers, bought veg and things like that - she used to push her barrow around the Cathedral Yard and the deanery and she sold her vegetables to keep her family. My mother was born in 1896 so it would have been the late 1890s - 1900s wouldn't it."

   "Was that in the west front of the cathedral?"

"No the old houses as you come in from Southernhay where those nice houses are - and all around the people there she used to sell them her vegetables. Well what they did, she pushed the barrow around and people that knew her used to buy her vegetables and that, and some of them used to give her clothes as well. It was mostly church people who lived in those houses in those days and they all helped one another.....She was the only woman thatt went around with the barrow......It wasn't a market - she just went and knocked on doors and sold her vegetables. Can't think of when she started the shop - I can only remember (her) only having the shop"

"And then she opened up the front of the house and had a shop and it was scrubbed tops, the wooden tops were absolutely scrubbed and the brass scales used to be shiny and she had all these old fashioned adverts - Colmans mustard and others."

   "And where was the shop?"

"Sun Street - 18 Sun Street, which doesn't exist now opposite the Catholic Church - Bear Street which used to be a street going in through there and yes, as a little girl we used to go and see her and her backroom - there were no comfortable armchairs like you get today there was just hard wooden chairs. She brought up five children - the eldest girl never went to school because she had to stay at home to look after the others.......The barrow was always at the back of the shop behind the counter and she always kept her potatoes on it and sweets in the jar but you were never given sweets - in those days if you sold vegetables you sold vegetables but she would do a few sweets for the kids - you didn't do anything else. Next door was another little shop and they used to sell paraffin there and then you came up there was an alleyway there and there was a pub at the top, because my mother used to go up on a Saturday night and (spend) sixpence for a tot of whisky for her and she always had a tot of whisky on a Saturday night - and behind that was Casalucci's ice cream (factory) because their place backed on to my grandmother's yard."

"She met up with a farmer from Nadderwater and as soon as she got married, he thought she was going to put the four daughters into a home - (he) wanted to keep my mother, but she wouldn't do it, and he turned really nasty and he beat her, and one day he ripped the blouse off her back so what she did - she put the blouse between two plates and when he came home from dinner that was what was between the plates (for dinner) and she had gone to a friends house to stay."

"One night it was snowing - the policeman in those days used to go around in pairs. And he threw her out in the snow with the children, two policemen came along and said 'what are you doing here Mrs Coleman' and she said 'my husbands thrown me out' and he said 'well he can't do that' - and he (her husband) had stacked potatoes, sacks of potatoes behind the door so that then she couldn't get in - but they (the policemen) made him let her in - and after that, she left him because in those days you could rent a place and she got into rooms and eventually they found him under a hedge at Natterwater so that was the end of him as well. So she had a very hard life and she lived until she was 84 - marvellous old lady - and she tripped over a mat and she went to bed and that was the finish of her - a lot of character - wouldn't stand for any nonesense"


Grandmother Eliza Jane was originally from Lostwithiel and could read and write which was unusual for her generation.

Sylvia's mother, Grandmother's daughter Violet, moved to Tudor Street, Exe Island in the 1920's to marry. Sylvia's grandparents on her father's side lived in the Bonhay Lodge, where her Grandfather was a park keeper for the City Council.

Casalucci's icecream factory was owned by brothers Johnny and Alec Casalucci. Alec used to trundle around the streets of Exeter on his three wheeler "Stop Me and Buy one" icecream bicycle. There was a second icecream factory in Preston Street, run by the Forte family. The two factories were rivals, although the families were related by marriage. See the 1920's for a photo of a Forte icecream cart.

Eliza Coleman Eliza Coleman Cathedral Close Cottages at Cathedral Close Charabanc at Exe Island A charabanc in 1925, at Exe island, waiting to leave on a trip to Exmouth. Sylvias' sister is the little girl in front of the driver and her Grandmother is behind with the black hat. Bonhay Lodge Sylvias grandparents on her father's side, outside the Bonhay Lodge, Bonhay Road - it served the long forgotten Bonhay Play Park.

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