History of a former Shoreham butcher

There will be few people in Shoreham today who remember a little butcher’s business in East Street called Ulph & Sons.

Ulph & Sons butchers shop, in East Street, Shoreham
Ulph & Sons butchers shop, in East Street, Shoreham

But it’s very much a part of my family history and the reason why I am able to call Shoreham my home town.

The shop’s founder, Alfred Henry Robert Ulph, was my grandfather.

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I never knew him, as he died five years before I was born, but I’ve always been interested in how he and his family came to live and set up business here in the 1920s.

Alfred Henry Robert Ulph

Alf was a Londoner with ancestral origins in Norfolk.

He was born in Islington in 1889 and followed in the steps of his father and grandfather by serving his apprenticeship in the meat trade before gaining employment in Smithfield Market.

He married in 1911 and fathered two sons before being called in 1916 to serve his country for the rest of the Great War.

He was posted to Catterick Camp for training as a gunner in the Royal Garrison Artillery.

Ulph & Sons delivery van

Although only 26, he was already a big man, described on his enlistment papers as ‘obese’, weighing more than 15 and-a-half stone and having a chest measurement of 46 inches. Unsurprisingly, he soon began to suffer chronic heart problems during training in the army.

He was soon posted to ‘light duties’, but was discharged on medical grounds around the time the war ended.

Being unfit for the heavy work involved at Smithfield, Alf moved out of central London with his family in 1923 and became manager of a butcher’s shop in Southend -on-Sea.

The owner of the shop was a Mr Blewett, who happened to also own a similar business in Riverside Road, Shoreham Beach.

In 1925, Alf and his family, now augmented by the arrival of daughter Doris, moved to ‘Bungalow Town’, where he served as manager of the Riverside Road shop (now Doveleys Court) until 1929. After a brief return to London, the call of the sea air at Shoreham proved irresistible, and the family returned to Shoreham permanently in 1930, when Alf opened his own business in East Street, supported by his two teenage sons, Frank and Stanley.

Alf was a popular figure in Shoreham, belonging to the local Chamber of Commerce and the British Legion, and the little butchers shop quickly built up a brisk trade.

As well as assisting in the shop, the boys delivered meat around the district in the firm’s own van.

At first they had to overcome suspicion from some local people unfamiliar with the English origins of our name, who thought they might be Germans. Then, in 1934, tragedy struck, when Alf became suddenly ill with appendicitis.

He was rushed to Southlands Hospital where surgeons operated immediately.

But it was all too much for Alf’s weak heart and he died even before the dressing could be applied.

He was then aged only 45 and was said to weigh 19 stone.

The Herald’s account of his funeral at St Mary’s Church lists more than 50 floral tributes, mostly from customers and fellow traders in Shoreham.

Alf’s widow, Queenie, tried to carry on the business with her sons, but sold it within a year.

By then, however, our family was firmly established in Shoreham.

Frank and Stan soon married local girls.

Frank took employment at J H Dewhurst butcher’s in Shoreham High Street (now Ian & John Cuss), and Stan went to work for Jack Shepherd in his butcher’s shop in St Mary’s Road (now KJ Caffyn building services).

The little shop in the recently pedestrianised part of East Street is now the southern portion of La Galleria Italian restaurant, and it is a delight for me to enjoy a vegetarian pizza in the window of my grandfather’s butcher’s shop.

Yes, despite – or perhaps because of – coming from four generations of butchers, meat is definitely not part of my diet!

• If you would like to share your memories and photos of old local family businesses, please send them to James Connaughton, via email to [email protected], send them by post or pop into Cannon House, Chatsworth Road, Worthing, BN11 1NA. Telephone 01903 282351.