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Wolverhmapton family's surprise at finding Willenhall great-grandparent's shop in Dudley Museum

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: August 15, 2014

  • The entire Adey family visit the museum to view the newly-restored greengrocer's for the first time

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A FAMILY, who thought their Great-Grandparents' First World War shop had long since been demolished, were delighted to find it was fully restored with costumed guides in the Black Country Living museum.

Gertrude Adey transformed the living room of their two up two down building at 39 Lower Lichfield Street, Willenhall, into a greengrocer's in 1916 when husband William Adey went off to war in France.

She and her two children ran the shop until her husband returned from military duties and then the family continued the business for a total of 16 years until 1932.

The building stayed there until 1995 when it was taken down brick by brick and rebuilt at the Dudley tourist attraction.

A public appeal for more information earlier this year led to a surprising phone call for Gertrude's great grandson Andrew Adey, who had no knowledge of the building at the museum or its restoration into a 1916 greengrocer shop.

Clare Weston, a curator at the museum, said they had done little with the building for the last 18 years but decided last year to restore it and began researching its past.

"I've been researching my family tree on and off for 30 or so years," said Andrew, who is now living in Wolverhampton and working as a dentist.

Three generations of the Adey family took a step back in time to 100 years ago when they saw the shop for the very first time on Saturday, July 26, and officially opened it at the museum.

The party included Jim Adey, aged 81, who remembers the shop in its later years, Andrew Adey, 51, and his daughter Melanie, 22.

Costumed characters playing William and Gertrude were there to greet the family.

Gertrude Adey will be manning the shop, selling fruit and veg as well as teaching visitors about the life of the couple as they made their living and survived the war.

The shop, having been restored to its original state as of 1916, will sell only fruit and vegetables that were available in the early part of the 20th century, such as apples, beetroot, cabbage, currants, cauliflower, damson, leeks, lemons, lettuce, marrow, onions, parsnips, plums, radishes, raspberries, red cabbage, rhubarb, runner beans, sprouts, strawberries, tomatoes and turnips.

But there will be no modern favourites such as kiwis, avocados or courgettes.

To be truly historically accurate, the Museum will look at using leftovers to make pickles, preserves and chutneys which visitors will be able to buy.

Back in 1916 workers' hours were long with many shops opening from 7.30am until 10pm daily, though they might close on Sunday afternoon to attend church or chapel.

Food prices rose during the war, particularly from 1917, and there was a demand nationally to grow more fruit and veg.

In the Midland Counties of England Trade Directory for 1918 Lower Lichfield Street in Willenhall supported two bakers, one boot and shoe maker, five butchers, one chemist, two china/hardware dealers, two confectioners, one cycle maker/agent, two drapers, two fishmongers, five fruiterers/greengrocers, one furniture dealer, five general dealers one of whom was also a confectioner and tobacconist, one hairdresser, one music dealer, five pubs, one iron founder, one lock manufacturer, one iron merchant, one newsagent, one pawnbroker, two tailors/clothiers, one tobacconist and one watch and clock maker and jeweller.

Gertrude Illidge, who was born in Willenhall in 1876, married William Adey, born in 1875 also in Willenhall, on September 24, 1899.

They had two children according to the 1911 census, William Alexander who was then aged 10, and Gertrude Maria, 8.

William served in the Boer War in the 4th South Staffs Militia and when the Great War broke out in 1914 he signed up as a 39-year-old as part ofK2 (Kitchener's Second New Army), the 8th South Staffordshire Battalion, seeing action in France and Flanders. William was wounded at least twice and remained a private throughout the war.

William, who was from a family of 11, also had three brothers serving in World War One.

At the shop's official opening great-grandson Andrew said: "To learn that the Black Country Living Museum has recreated a part of my family past is very exciting."

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