Friday, 16 September 2016 14:02

Barnet’s two oldest shops

Written by
Peter Wanders is celebrating thirty years trading at his shoe shop Peter Wanders is celebrating thirty years trading at his shoe shop
Years of friendly rivalry over which shop in Barnet High Street has the longest record of continuous service seems to have been finally resolved.

Documents unearthed by Peter Wanders suggest his shoe shop has been in business for longer than Victoria Bakery. Both shops can boast well over 130 years of continuous trade in the same premises.

James Freeman is a fifth generation baker at Victoria BakeryEarly records show that Wanders, at 180 High Street, specialists in footwear and bags, was trading as shoe maker from at least 1870, a decade or more before the Victoria Bakery, at 83 High Street, where bread has been baked since at least 1884.

But the records are not definitive, as Victoria Bakery was a shop until 1867 and then traded as an alehouse until 1884.

Several years after Charles Dickens wrote Oliver Twist in 1837 he was walking through Barnet with a friend, and was said to have pointed to what is now the Victoria Bakery and said that was the doorway where he envisaged Oliver met the Artful Dodger.

Oliver Twist in 1837 pointed to what is now the Victoria Bakery and said that was the doorway where he envisaged Oliver met the Artful Dodger

Mr Wanders, who is celebrating the 30th anniversary of opening his shoe shop (17.9.1986) can point to an equally interesting back history of shoe making at his premises.

“There is evidence to suggest this has been the shop of a shoe maker and shoe repairer for over 200 years, although 1870 is the earliest recorded date I can find in official records.

“When I took over the shop in 1986, a customer in her 90s told me she remembered having her shoes made here as a child, and she said her parents had been regular customers for many years.

“She remembers the shop as a two-up and two-down, and in the yard they cured hams.”Peter Wanders’ shop is to the right of the pony and trap. This is mid-1880s, before the Corn Exchange, at the corner of High Street and St Albans Road was rebuilt in 1891

Mr Wanders has done all he can to preserve the original features of the shop, including a Victorian cast-iron fire grate and exposed brickwork, which sets off his collection of shoe lasts and trees.

He put down his success as an independent trader to his ability to react faster than the mass-market suppliers and sell products right for his customers.

He imports classic shoes from Italy, Austria and Spain. 

“My father moved from the Netherlands to the UK and I was born here.

The Wanders family can be traced back in Holland to 1506, but I am the first to run a shoe shop and shoe repair business.”

Further along the High Street at the Victoria Bakery, James Freeman is a fifth generation baker.

“My father took over the shop in 1986, but it had been a long-established business and my family had been in baking for generations.

“In 1820 the Freemans had a bakery on Highgate Hill.  We then moved to Kentish Town, and later Enfield, before coming to Barnet.”


  • Comment Link Sunday, 18 September 2016 11:37 posted by Carolyn Gyseman

    Superb shops great shoes and great bakery, best there are around.

  • Comment Link Sunday, 18 September 2016 11:38 posted by Elizabeth Burling

    The two oldest and the two best! :)

  • Comment Link Sunday, 18 September 2016 11:38 posted by Emma Hone

    My 1st Saturday job was in Victoria Bakery! 1984

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 02 January 2019 11:19 posted by Gareth Mountford

    I wonder if Mountford Chemists are one of the oldest Chemists in the area? A 1932 trade directory revealed my Great Uncle, Harry Mountford, was running his Chemist shop at 16 Station Road, New Barnet. It had been a Chemist before that after finding a picture from the early 1900's. My Great Uncle retired from the business in the early 1960's but the business remained in that location with the same name until the late 80's before relocating to East Barnet Road (complete with the name) and is still there today. He also had another shop at Greenhill Parade, Great North Road which I believe is also still there!

  • Comment Link Sunday, 06 January 2019 17:54 posted by Museum gremlin

    Whilst Mountford chemists is a contender for 'oldest chemist in the area' Parry-Jones in Barnet high street was there in 1917, and appears to have been a pharmaceutical chemist named 'J T Sambrook' before that

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 20 May 2020 09:00 posted by Linda Johnston

    I have required a black and white photo of East Barnet village and would like to date it. The photo has the Essoldo cinema which I know closed in the 60’s, Boots the chemist, Lasts, Carter’s. The zebra crossing is down by the war memorial. Many Thanks


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