Her shop subsisted in its corner by reason of the conservatism of poor neighbourhoods. She sold penny yellow and black tea mugs that came from a pottery down Bristol way — tea mugs of a pattern one hundred and fifty years old. She sold brown moist sugar that was nearly black, and had something the flavour of liquorice, such as none of the new stores sold or would have known where to buy.
She sold red herrings from a factory on the east coast that had been established two hundred and fifty years, and that had only three or four customers. She sold medicinal herbs in packets and cooked pig’s-trotters — which she boiled herself — as well as penny broad-sheet ballads that were hung up all over the shop, and onions from Brittany that depended in long ropes all down the window.
Her profits from the establishment, except at Christmas and about the fifth of November, when she sold fireworks, were seldom more than seventeen and six, and never less than nine shillings a week. In return she was the dictatress of opinions and the wise woman of Henry Street, James Street, and Charles and Augusta Mews, Westminster.
Ford Madox Ford – Mr Fleight (1913)
We may deplore the ubiquity of supermarkets and the consequent change in our high streets, but the alternatives were not always quite so quaint as popular sentiment would have us believe. The pig’s trotters and red herrings might have been tasty though.