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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 April, 2003, 15:39 GMT 16:39 UK
Arthur the Hardware calls it a day
Arthur Bickerton
Arthur Bickerton, 89, is selling up

The steady stream of customers entering the cluttered Arthur's DIY hardware shop tells its own story - not everyone can find what they are looking for at giant out-of-town stores.

Now the famous shop - which inspired the comedy series Open All Hours - is up for sale after its 89-year-old owner decided to call it a day.

Arthur Bickerton took on the store in Taffs Well, south Wales, in the 1960s and preserved the character of the place, with some stock items reportedly dating back to the 1940s.

He recalled the time when a BBC props man "discovered" the DIY Aladdin's Cave and reported enthusiastically about the shop back to his producer.

Arthur's went on to become the inspiration for Open All Hours, starring Ronnie Barker as mean-minded Albert Arkwright and David Jason as his hapless nephew, Granville.

As news of Arthur's decision to sell up emerged, the man himself was busy out the back of the shop.

Stand-in assistant and friend Lyn Pearce, 81, was busy dealing with requests for three-pin light bulbs, 16-inch drill bits and a host of other demands from customers.

"I only walked over to talk to Arthur about something and that was hours ago!" Lyn joked.

Tin baths, Arthur's, Taffs Well
The shop has a timeless feel to it

The shop feels like time has passed it by and it is so packed, that it appears each item is holding up the next.

It takes 20 minutes to hang all the tin baths, coal scuttles and broomsticks outside the store.

Arthur's is where you can find - among bottles and tins with fading labels - scarce rollers for old-fashioned lawnmowers, soldering burners, soap flakes, gutter bolts and teak oil - who uses teak oil these days?

Arthur - known for his trademark bow tie and waistcoat - used to be assisted by Arthur Field, known as "Young Arthur", before he passed away a few years ago.

I am lucky that I have had marvellous customers here and this shop has an atmosphere of its own
Arthur Bickerton

"It is difficult to get staff, you know," bemoaned Arthur, who is now contemplating selling up and moving to a flat in Cardiff.

"I am not half the man I was and I feel I have been forced into this move."

A spritely figure well into his 80s, Arthur has never fully recovered from accident a few years ago when he was knocked down by a car.

"I was very fit, but now I am afflicted by old age," he said

"I am lucky that I have had marvellous customers here and this shop has an atmosphere of its own and people seem to be happy to come here.

"Hopefully, you can make a name for yourself. Dante said 'you only pass this way but once'."

Lyn Pearce, shop assistant
Lyn Pearce, 81, fixes a mattock in the shop

Arthur possesses a shrewd business mind and is highly resourceful when it comes to tracking down elusive items.

Over the years he has supplied goods to grateful construction firms working on the A470 and M4 and one of the weirdest requests was for a full diving suit - which he found.

His living room behind the shop - complete with A Land of Arthur poster and sleeping cat Sam - provides only a temporary reprieve from the next request: "Arthur there's a lady who wants a..."

Institution

David Jason was the partner of Myfanwy Talog, who owned a house in the village, and Jason was a regular visitor at Arthur's on weekends.

Many in the village say they would be sad to see Arthur sell up.

"The shop has not changed in the 54 years I have lived here," said Diane Monger.

"Arthur does not know a lot about the village because he has only been here 40 years.

"It will be a sad day when he goes. He has been an excellent neighbour."




SEE ALSO:
Tiny cinema opens in shop
27 Sep 02  |  England
Shoe trader hangs up gloves
24 Apr 03  |  North East Wales


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