As a child, my mother and father would always take me to the same shop to buy my school uniform. Now, this shop was not like an average clothes shop because the process of purchase involved a series of rituals, which seemed to stem from the business’s long history in clothes fitting. Simply picking up a garment, going to the counter and then paying for it, was almost impossible. Instead, I had to collect a ticket; wait to be served; be measured; have a range of different choices laid in front of me (or rather my parents, while I took this rare opportunity to explore the shop), and then, finally, a selection would be made and the purchase completed.
While I am a fan of customer service, I am not sure that this method of shopping suits my current lifestyle, or many people’s for that matter, and this is sadly due to time constraints – it is rare that I have a spare hour or two to devote to buying one thing. It is incredible to think then that a shop in Hastings sustained this high level of customer service for just over a hundred years, and only recently closed down. Arthur Green’s was a quality gentleman’s outfitters, located on Hastings Sea Front, opposite the old ice rink. After the shops closure, it was briefly taken over by The Hastings Pier and White Rock Trust and used as an information centre. It is now an antiques centre, filled with every possible trinket.
As I walked around the space, I instantly realised why a colleague had recommended that I visit. Not only is the structure filled with many objects, but the shop fittings themselves are an ultimate use of capacity. Running along each wall, are two mahogany shelving units, each with different sections designed to contain a specific type of garment. Beautifully carved signs tell me that one unit used to contain silk and felt hats, while another, located just behind the Art Nouveau counter, reveals that this was the place to find hosiery. These fascinating original details can be found everywhere. For example, brass light fittings hide behind a twisted wooden support, a simple curved clock hangs over an aged mirror, and the old fitting room’s letters remain on a wooden door at the back of the shop.
To find an original early twentieth century shop interior, perfectly intact, is a magical experience. As is discovering fascinating antiques displayed in such a unique manner. The use of open drawers as miniature cabinets of curiosity, for instance, is just captivating. I am looking forward to going back to find more hidden treasures.