Another trader was often to be found too, and that was the local coal company. These have now disappeared but often their trading posts are still in place. At St Albans City Station, when the station and its forecourt was off Ridgmont Road, Charrington's had a little brick building at the foot of the steps leading from the bridge down into the space where taxis pulled in and buses sometimes turned. The delightful building is still there, but, as with many other coal merchants their businesses have burned out with the universal arrival of gas and oil central heating, and better insulated homes.
Charrington's, however, was not the only coal merchant in St Albans. Until the 1960s Kendall's was based at the Fleetville Siding, and clustered around the City Station there were several other firms, generally arriving in the 1930s. Previously they might have each had their own section of the station goods yard, with their ordering counters in various of the town's shops.
Shops with flats above had climbed Victoria Street from Beaconsfield Road towards the railway bridge by the turn of the twentieth century, but in the space between them and the edge of the railway cutting, someone decided to add yet more. This was probably, though I can't confirm it, railway land. Two flat-roofed single storey shops, the left one being occupied first by an optician and then by an enterprising estate agent called Graham Barnes. The right shop was rather better known after its first occupier, a jeweller, left, because it became Tominey's Chocolate Box shop, where later the family owned its Vaudeville Cafe.
Next to this pair was a "flat-packed" chalet with a pitched-roof, wedged into the remaining space before the edge of the almost vertical drop down to platform one (today number four). This was for coal merchant Brentnall and Cleland. Today it is an estate agency.
Across the road and at the top of the steps referred to above is a small chalet perched on stilts, such is the lack of solid level ground. From memory this tiny shop was the home of Lockhart coal merchant, and later became the home of a local driving school and later still was Yeoman Antiques.
Fortunately these little former coal merchant chalets are still standing. Not so the third building, having been removed when the station was rebuilt, in the 1970s, to the other side of the tracks, and the former coal yard access road opened up to make Station Road. Right on the curved corner was a chalet used for a time by Martell coal merchants and Hichcliffe's. As with the others, this chalet arrived in the 1930s, and I can recall calling in to pay for the previous delivery of coal and, because it was often possible to gauge how long five hundredweight would last, order the next five sacks. There were times when coal could not be delivered when we wanted. Harsh winters, miners' strikes and shortages caused by priorities being given to power stations and hospitals, all formed part of the logistics of timing we might expect something to keep us warm.
! We will see how long it takes before it turns up on this blog, or on the website. The clock is ticking!