Wednesday, 28 July 2010

gill & co

I was really sad to read about the closure of Gill's the Oxford ironmonger (founded 1530!), which is due to happen next month. In fact, I wondered if the paper had made a mistake. Sure enough, though, the 'to let' sign is up outside the shop.

I first went to Gill's in the summer of 1985. I was business managing a couple of theatre productions for Oxford Drama Programmes (which was to become the Oxford School of Drama). One of them involved the audience being bussed around Oxfordshire while watching the performance. The bus stopped occasionally and various events occurred. One such event was an actor hurtling across Shotover hill on a Honda trike. A Honda dealer lent us the machine and I tracked down a convenient shed behind a hedge where it could be stored. I needed a padlock--a big padlock--and was told to go to Gill's, which had everything.

I've been a regular there ever since, even after moving to Bampton.

True, the premises became a touch less old-fashioned a few years ago when it was refurbished but it remained special. Darting down the ancient wind off the High Street to get to it has always had an element of time travel about it. To a time that was less pre-packed and standardised than the present one.


  1. Almost unbelievable. I too have art student memories of visiting Gills, and little old men who knew exactly what size of nail you wanted just by description. It is completely shameful that it's just being allowed to close like this, I seem to remember it is Oxford's oldest shop?

  2. Ah - I shall miss Gill's too. I managed to padlock my motorcycle helmet and kit in my panniers when I was playing tennis at Merton last summer. Where on earth does one find bolt-croppers in Oxford on a Saturday? At Gill's of course, along with replacement padlocks and a bit of gentle ribbing for being so stupid.