The proprietor of Oldham's, Rodney Oldham, gives us his story...

My Dad, Bill, was still in the Army when I came along in November 1944. At the time my brother Derek and I were living in Leyton, East London being looked after by our lovely Mum, Lillian. When Dad came home from the Army we hade very little, but what Dad did have was £70 surety bond, which he put together with some money his brother, Albert, had. This started them off with a horse and cart, which they used to sell fresh fish. Remember this was during the time of rationing, so they used the cart to sell whatever they could lay their hands on come rain or shine.

All that hard work paid off and they were able to set up shop in Ashfield Road, Leytonstone, open from 7am till 11pm Monday to Saturday, selling wet fish, smoked fish and fish and chips. On top of that, they had to find time to get to Billingsgate Market everyday, as there was no fridges or freezers at that time. And if that wasn't enough, they would load up a cart on Sunday and go round the pubs of the East End. This added up to five carts run by Dad, my brother Derek, Uncle Albert and two other uncles. This is where I come in, I helped Dad with his cart from the age of nine.

We were living above the shop where Mum kept everything going, how she looked after me, Derek and our sister Valerie, who did all the cooking, cleaning as well as working in the shop with Dad. We ate a LOT of fish in those days! Things did get a little easier when Dad got his own shop in Cann Hall Road, Leytonstone. It was very run down, but we all chipped in (excuse the pun!) to get it right and we all worked in the shop with Sundays and Mondays off.

In 1959 we all moved to Pitsea, but were still going back and forth to London to run the shop and to go to market. Derek and I were running a egg and potato business on a Monday, which was going really well until Derek crashed the van! In 1961, Dad sold the London shop and bought Supreme Fish Bar in East Street, Prittlewell. Once again we were all helping out there as well.

Mum and Dad wanted to set us all up with our own shops, Dad bought the Clarks Fish shop in West Road, Westcliff for me - this was 1967 when I was 23. That first week was just me and my Mum and we took £186.10. Later that year I met my future wife, Joan, who would help out after finishing her day job, we were married in 1968. It was a great partnership as I didn't mind long hours and hard work and she had the business brains; without her Oldham's wouldn't have been the success it is today.

Dad's East Street shop was bought under a compulsory purchase order by Southend council and he heard that the biggest fish and chip shop on the seafront was up for sale. Derek sold his London shop to work with Dad and Quality Fayre was a major success. Once Dad started to take it a bit easier he bought a small shop near the Foresters pub to keep his hand in. Quality Fayre was enough of a success for Derek to expand and he bought another shop/restaurant in Queens Road, Southend.

Derek and I started to work together again in the early 1970's setting up a wholesale fish business, suppling our shops and others, then by buying the shop at The Elms in Leigh. Another very busy shop, how we found time in the day to run all this I don't know and this is before mobile phones!

The Middleton was a closed down pub in Southend High street, it came up for sale, so between Derek and I we raised the money to refurbish it and opened as The Dickens in 1980. What a great success! The pub was very popular, we had a great carvery and sold out music nights, one of which was a charity event that Suzy Quatro had agreed to play, what we didn't know is that she would bring Eric Clapton with her!

However this was getting to be too much, so we sold The Elms in 1982, Derek sold Quality Fayre in 1984, then we got a great offer for The Dickens in 1986. So I went back to having just the one shop in Westcliff, which was fine by me.

In 2000, my eldest son Bradley came back from his travels around the world and started to work with me. He now runs the whole business and I have been able to pass the business onto the next generation of Oldham's. All in all I am very happy and proud of the way things have turned out.

"Nothing is a problem at Oldham’s"!

 

RESTAURANT
Monday - Saturday 11.30am to 9.30pm

Sunday - 12.00 noon to 9.00pm

TAKEAWAY
Monday - Saturday 11.30am to 9.45pm

Sunday - 12.00 noon to 9.15pm

OPENING TIMES

13 West Road Westcliff-On-Sea, Essex SS0 9AU
Tel: 01702 346736