Issue 46— May 2000
A cobbler's farewell to Walton Street
June 24 marks the end of an era in Walton Street. After 38 years, Anthony Woodward and his wife Mary Jane are retiring from their cobbler's shop. Before that, they also had a shop for 15 years in Little Clarendon Street. Anthony says he has been repairing at least 200 shoes a week which means that, over the years, around half a million could have passed through his hands.
He will be sorely missed. "Many people have come recently saying they don't want me to go", he says. His customers come from all over the country - and from overseas. "All the lords and ladies have come here. Whenever they were in Oxford they would come to get their shoes repaired." Despite the expansion of the instant heel bars, he was never short of customers.
Now 'over-80', he is retiring in the face of rising rents in Walton Street. "We're contented. We've had some good laughs. I'm bound to miss it for a little while, but I'm not doing any more leather work. I want to get my hands clean - get the blisters off."
"One of the biggest changes along here", he says, "has been the arrival of all these cafés. Once, you could never find a cup of tea in Walton Street, now you could get 50. I used to send people across the road to the Radcliffe Infirmary where you can get a cheap cup of tea and a sandwich." He also points out that his is one of the few shops that offers a chair. Many older people used to pop in just to sit down.
Anthony leases the shop from OUP, which previously used it as offices. But the Co-op have long had their eye on the premises as a way of extending their grocery shop. They recently gained planning permission to see if they would be allowed to extend the premises at the back, and they are probably also thinking of removing the walls between the two shops. By the end of April, however, it seems they had still not bought the property.