I AM not a user of social media, but I do follow a few of the regular Facebook pages such as ‘Street Life - Wycombe and its people through my eyes’, which is hosted by Mark Page. As many readers will know Mark is an award-winning photographer who was born and bred in High Wycombe. He is perhaps best known for his book ‘High Wycombe and its people through my eyes – A scrapbook of growing up in Wycombe’.

A recent Facebook post by Mark really attracted my attention, and he has given permission for that to be reproduced on this Nostalgia page. He writes:

“Hold onto your hats, folks!

The tale which is about to unfold has been a great adventure which I have really enjoyed. I hope you do too!

Picture this: a typical afternoon in High Wycombe. I find myself nestled in the familiar warmth of the Mad Squirrel when suddenly, a rhythmic knock on the window steals my attention. Enter my mate, Steve, his face alive with excitement.

“Mark, I’ve got something to show you. Follow me.”

Intrigued, I couldn’t resist the call of adventure. Along White Hart Street and up Bull Lane we went until we reached an inconspicuous black metal door. Steve swung it open, revealing a world shrouded in darkness and filled with rubble. With the flicker of a couple of worksite lamps, he turned to me and asked, “So, what do you think of that?”

And there it was, on the wall — a magnificent stained glass window. Steve, in the process of clearing the shop, had uncovered it behind a false wall and a secondary plywood panel. In the centre, an entwined W & T, beckoning for a story to be unravelled. What could these initials mean? Racking my brain, I hazarded a guess that it might have been a shoe shop from my childhood, perhaps Timpsons shoes with the initials T, but the elusive W remained a mystery. A dive into the SWOP website led me to a photo of TIMPSONS shoe shop. But alas, the identical logo eluded me. On their website W.Timpson, however, had something eerily similar.

On a whim, I reached out to the company’s customer services, bombarding them with my image and a plea for identification. Initial responses were non-committal, but they promised to consult none other than Sir John Timpson CBE or a member of his esteemed family.

Lo and behold, within a mere couple of hours, an excited reply from Russ Sander, the company archivist, landed in my inbox. Confirming the window as an early William Timpsons design, Russ shared that it was a rarity, unseen even by the company themselves! A flurry of emails and texts ensued, and soon enough, Russ was on a train from Manchester, eager to lay eyes on this historical artifact.

As Russ delved into the history, it was revealed that Timpsons had owned the property since 1933, and the window was likely to have been handcrafted in their own factory. Apparently, the company ensured they photographed each and every store they owned. Soon a treasure trove of photos from the Timpsons’ archives about shop No.113 at No 2, Oxford Street, High Wycombe made its way to me, courtesy of Russ. The photos were all taken by Adams Studio or Sweetlands, studio photographers in High Wycombe.

This I’m sure is only the start of the story. What will happen next? Discussions are under way on the best way to preserve or restore this unique jewel, hidden from public view for decades. I will keep you updated.”

The history of No 2, Oxford St

A three-storey building, No. 2, Oxford St, is on the corner with Bull Lane. Built in the 18th century, it is now part of the Frogmoor Conservation Area. The ground floor premises are currently occupied by ‘Snowies’, an electronics store. The flat above was last sold in March this year for £430,000. Since June 1973 No. 2 has been a Grade II listed building.

For some 60 years from the late 1850s the building was occupied by three generations of the Barton family, who were prominent butchers in the town. Their first shop was at No. 82, Easton St, which they were occupying at the time of the earliest available census of 1841 and continued to do so until the early 1900s. They opened their second shop, at No. 2 Oxford St, in the late 1850s, the family moving there as well as their business.

In about 1915 the butcher’s business was transferred to R Hawes, who also had premises further west in Oxford Road. They vacated No. 2 in about 1930, and a year later William Timpson Ltd were the occupier’s, who then acquired the freehold of the property in 1933.

Timpson’s described their business at that time as ‘Boot & shoemakers & dealers’. In about 1983 the Timpson’s shop moved to No.17 The Arcade, in the Octagon Centre.

Timpson’s history

‘Timpson’ was founded in 1865 by shoemaker William Timpson and his brother-in-law Walter Joyce, selling shoes at 298 Oldham Road, Manchester. It expanded into shoe manufacturing in 1884 at factories in Kettering, and repairs in 1903. The company was listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1929. In 1973 it ceased being a family-owned business when acquired by United Drapery Stores, which soon became taken over by Hanson Trust.

In 1983 John Timpson, great grandson of the founder William and the current Chairman of the company, led a management buyout so that it returned to its family origins. John had remained with the parent company during 1973-83. In 1987 the company sold the loss-making shoe retail business to focus on building the shoe repairing business and diversifying into other services. These now include key-cutting, engraving, watch repairs, dry cleaning, and photo-printing. The diversification process has also included the purchasing of a number of other retail service businesses and strategic partnerships with the likes of Tesco, Asda, and Morrison supermarket chains.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the company temporarily closed its 2150 stores and was noted for paying its colleagues full pay throughout the closures. Today, Sir John Timpson (he was knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in April 2017 for Services to Business and Fostering [of children]) is perhaps best known amongst the general public for his regular column in the Daily Telegraph newspaper ‘Straight-talking common sense from the front line of management.’