End of Victorian era in town shop

Charlie Collett in what was Wylie's and before that Dickinson's Period House Shop
Charlie Collett in what was Wylie's and before that Dickinson's Period House Shop
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A new tenant is said to have already been found for 
Warwick’s historic ironmongers’ shop - where little has changed since 1895.

Charlie Collett invested his savings in taking over the business, which he returned to its original name of Wylie’s, when he was faced with redundancy in November in 2012.

But on Christmas Eve he decided he could no longer continue.

He shut the doors of the Grade II-listed shop in Market Place where customers often felt they had stepped into a Dickensian timewarp.

Charlie, aged 48, who grew mutton-chop whiskers to help with the overall effect, said: “With the help of so many kind supporters in the town I gave it a good go - but in the end the rent and rates were too high for the number of new customers coming through the doors.

“On Christmas Eve I just thought this can’t go on. So I collected a few of the more decorative pieces from the high shelves - like the five tins of ballroom floor powder and some paint that must have been 100 years old - and headed home.

“I’ll return the paint and ballroom powder if whoever takes over the business retains the Victorian fixtures and fittings.”

As a listed building the shop does have considerable protection.

Any new tenant will have to obtain listed building consent if they want to tear down any of the interior shelving. Although all the old products and period advertising boards which gave it character will not be protected.

Warwick Town Clerk Derek Maudlin said: “It’s certainly a loss to the town that an obviously niche retailer was not able to maintain a market in the face of multi-national competition.

“The whole appearance of Wylie’s greatly contributed to the street scene in the town’s historic centre - but it was a visual rather than retail attraction.”

Shortly after taking over the business, Charlie, who lives in Gloucestershire, restored his late grandfather’s forge and began offering bespoke curtain rails and fireside companion sets.

He said: “I’ll carry on with that venture from home. I’m even thinking of calling myself ‘The Grumpy Blacksmith’.”

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Wylie’s hardware store dates back to at least 1895 and probably goes much further back.

Some 23 years ago a surviving niece of the Wylie family approached Simon Holloway, who runs Dickinson’s Period House Shops in Ludlow and Shrewsbury, to see if he was interested in buying any of the historic fixtures, fittings and goods, including items like Zebra paste grate polish and lion’s head door knockers.

Mr Holloway was so charmed by the Warwick shop he invested in it as a going concern and later took on Charlie Collett to manage it on his behalf.

But in November, 2012, Mr Holloway decided that Charlie would have to be made redundant and his part-time assistant Alan Wright would retire.

National newspapers and television channels picked up the Courier’s story about the closure of the Victorian shop. As a result Mr Collett invested his savings in trying to keep the business going, which he’s managed, with some difficulty, for more than two years. 
He kept the shop unchanged and reverted back to its original family name, Wylie’s.